Skip to main content

Institute for Pastoral Initiatives News

Finding your purpose in life

By Laura Gillespie Toomb

University of Dayton Communication professor Laura Gillespie Toomb ('88) shares how she kept her faith and was guided by the Holy Spirit following the death of her son in her new book, SONflowers from Heaven.

If you have recently experienced a tragic loss, you have a couple of decisions to make. One is to stay in bed, crawl under the covers and choose not to face the everyday grind of life. Or, you can get out of bed, breathe, and try (and sometimes fail) to go on with your life.

The book is driven by the Holy Spirit, who sent me inspirational ideas that I felt needed to be written. My story is from my heart, about faith and grief, after losing my son in 2020 to a very sudden death.

Jack was an amazing son, brother and friend. Jack never met a stranger and had an infectious smile that made others smile, too. He was idolized by his sisters and parents and was always willing to lend a helping hand. Many peers talked about the impact Jack had on their lives with his wonderful attitude and strong work ethic. Jack attended Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh where he was a member of the lacrosse team.

About two weeks after his untimely death, I wrote the title for 10 chapters of the book. I did not look at those again for about eight months, during which time the Holy Spirit intervened. Literally, thoughts would come into my mind from out of the blue. An example would be, "you need to talk about the only thing we can control in our lives, that is our attitude." Also, I was driving to an appointment and again, out of the blue, the thought came to me that the subtitle of my book needed to be "the unbearable loss of a child; a journey of grief.'  I literally only wrote when thoughts came to me from a beautiful spirit or one of my angels here on earth (another grieving mother). Each chapter of the book starts with a poem, with pictures and quotes at the end of each chapter all coming from those who share deep grief. 

When my mother passed in June 2022, her story was added to my book, and I finally knew the book was finished. My mother was 95 at the time of her passing (and sharp as a tack). I had a sign for her to send to me when she hugged Jack in heaven. She was going to find a way to get me sunflowers. We told no one about this sign, and it was only known between the two of us.  A couple of days after she passed, my oldest daughter Megan drove me home from the cemetery after we buried my mother. She turned to me as I was sitting in the passenger seat and said, “Oh shoot, the flowers that my co-workers gave me when Nana passed fell over and the water spilled. Will you hold these?” She then handed me a bouquet of sunflowers. I literally screamed out loud because I knew my mother had hugged Jack in heaven. This is why the title of the book is "SONflowers from Heaven."   

In terms of my faith journey, I received this quote from a friend. and it sums up my feelings. This is a motto I live by:

"The deepest level of worship is praising God through the pain, thanking God during the trials, trusting Him when we are tempted to lose hope and loving Him even when He seems distant. At my lowest, God is my hope. At my darkest, God is my light. At my weakest, God is my strength, and, at my saddest, God is my comforter."

I have been fortunate to be a member of two women's grief groups who provide such unconditional love and support. We share poems and inspiring quotes with each other, and my faith guides me through this horrible journey of losing Jack. There are some days all I can do is cry, but I have received the most beautiful letters and messages from people on how this book has touched their lives. If I can help one grieving person, then I do have a purpose.

Laura G. Toomb, MSC, grew up a cradle Catholic in Louisville, Ky. After graduating from the University of Dayton in 1988, Laura received her Master of Science in Communication from Northwestern University in 1992, and worked for LexisNexis in Chicago. After meeting her husband Rob and getting married, she was blessed with four beautiful children, Megan, Jack, Kate and Claire. Laura absolutely loves speaking about Jack and the huge impact his short life had on this earth. SONflowers from Heaven was released Nov. 30 and immediately became a bestseller on Amazon.

To start your faith journey, check out online classes beginning Jan. 9 through the Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation.

Previous Post

UD Connections: Faith in the land down under

University's VLCFF online format allows participants from across the globe to join a virtual community of learners.
Read More
Next Post

All about Mary, online

New UD classes provide deeper appreciation, understanding and devotion to Mary.
Read More