“losing a child is an unspeakable pain”

A father grieves the loss of his son on New Year’s Day 2017

By: Greg Estep Wise, Virginia

 

At approximately 2:20am on January 1, 2017, my 21-year old son, Thomas Estep became a victim. At the same time, I became a victim. His mother, Cheryl, became a victim. All the rest of his family and his friends became victims. All these victims were created by the actions of one selfish and irresponsible individual.

For my family, 2016 had been a good year. New Year’s Eve, which is also my wife, Elizabeth’s birthday, had been a great day. Then on January 1st, life reached up and grabbed us by the throat. Losing a child is an unspeakable pain that few people can understand. There are days when I wonder how the sun rises, how people can even sing, buy groceries, or pay bills. In other words, how can life go on in the face of such sadness. My tears are right there behind everything I am doing. I will repeat, all this was created by one selfish and irresponsible individual who made the choice to drink and then drive.

Thomas wore a lot of hats with me. He was my loving son, farming partner, my confidant, my buddy, and my chauffer to name a few. He picked up a guitar and taught himself how to play. In 2015, he joined our church praise band as the lead guitarist. In 2016, he began playing for an up and coming country singer, Kaitlyn Baker. She and her band played in numerous venues in several states. In 2016, to promote her new music, Kaitlyn and Thomas embarked on three radio tours in 13 states covering more than 10,000 miles.

Thomas and I lived on the same farm, about a mile apart. As I visited with him on New Year’s Eve, we discussed our farm work for the coming week. He told me he and some friends were getting together that night as they had done for several years on New Year’s Eve. I asked him if he would be spending the night away from home and he said no that he wanted to sleep in his own bed. I cautioned him to be careful. His reply, the last words he ever spoke to me was, “yes there will be nuts on the road tonight”.

The next morning, New Year’s Day, I was watching YouTube videos of Kaitlyn and Thomas when Elizabeth said there was a police car pulling into the driveway. It was a Virginia State Trooper bringing the horrible news that would change our lives forever.

At the age of 21, Thomas had life figured out. He was right with God and proud to be an American. He did not believe in material things and was very modest. He was giving with his money and time to many people. He knew to be truly happy in life, you had to enjoy your vocation. He loved farming and music and knew his hard work would provide for him. His legacy and love of music will live on forever.

When someone plans their holiday outings or at any other time, I am begging them to please be responsible if they drink. I do not want anyone else to be a victim of this 100% preventable violent crime. We should all be thankful for MADD’s hard work to eliminate drunk and impaired driving so there are no more victims!

I am not alone in my work to help with this mission. God and Thomas are with me every step of the way. I would like to close with Thomas’ favorite Bible verse. John 15:13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”. Thomas did that very thing. Thank you for listening to his story.

Editor’s note:

The attached link will take you to a short PSA video produced by MADD Virginia the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles highlighting Thomas Estep’s story.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1ycmBJC1Tg