It was just like any other day as a family was cleaning out their garage, but then tragedy struck.
In a new video by The Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints, Troy and Deedra Russell share their experiences of struggling with the loss of their 9-year-old son, Austin. As the family finished cleaning their garage, Russell put his truck into drive. He felt the truck roll over what he thought was something that had fallen out of the back.
Then he realized it was Austin. They called 911, but all efforts to revive their son were unsuccessful, leaving a hole in the Russells’ daily life.
“For me and Deedra there was absolutely no joy in life, in anything,” Russell said in the video. “It felt as though a house landed on top of us and we couldn’t budge it, we couldn’t move it.”
John Manning had been assigned to minister to this struggling family and had already established a bond with them. While the Russells were going through their own struggles, Manning said he prayed for the family as he struggled to know what to do. He noticed there were many to help with temporal needs but felt there was something more.
“When I would go over there I couldn’t see anything I could do,” Manning said. “And I tried several different things, and basketball was one of them.”
Manning thought he would invite Russell to play basketball again in the mornings, something his 9-year-old son loved to do. John got in his car and, with some encouragement, got Russell to the church building to play basketball at 5 a.m.
“We thought ‘Let’s let him know how much we love him and get him back out to some version of normal,'” Manning said.
While Russell was unexcited at first about going back to play early morning basketball, over time the small and simple act of someone taking notice of him had a profound impact on his life. Russell and Manning would talk on the drive to the church to play basketball, and that meant something to Russell.
“There wasn’t anything he said,” Russell said. “It was him just being there, listening to me.”
Over time, the Russell family has overcome their struggle with the help of those ministering to them and through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
“The Savior always ministered one-on-one, to each individual according to their needs,” Russel said. “I felt Christ reach out through John and others to lift this heavy weight off me helping me get to a point where I once again had joy, laughter, and I could be the husband and father I needed to be.”