Lives Intersect after Tragedy

Post a Comment » Written on August 17th, 2007     
Filed under: News
LAFAYETTE, IN (August 17, 2007) – While researching a four-part series about the death of Jeremy Doyle, and how Jeremy’s parents found new life, Covenant news writer Stan Friedman met with other people whose lives were changed by Jeremy. Today, he shares their stories.


From left to right are Mary Dillman, Brian Dillman, Scott Hodson, Richard Doyle, Sandy Doyle.

Deputy Scott Hodson was the first law enforcement officer on the scene when Jeremy Doyle died. Mary Dillman did not know Jeremy but answered an altar call at his funeral. Her husband, Brian, later would give his life to Christ as a result. All three have been to Haiti as part of Lafayette Covenant Church’s Haiti Mission project.

They recently met together (see photo) to recount how their lives intersected and were permanently changed because of the head-on collision that killed the high school senior in December 1998.

“I wasn’t even supposed to be working that night,” recalls Scott, a member of the Tippecanoe Sheriff’s Department. He was filling in for the shift of a friend who needed the time off.

Scott has served 22 years with the department, and he has seen a lot of tragedy. They can run together, but Jeremy’s death is one of three he vividly remembers. Jeremy was still in the car, and an EMT was holding the young man’s head while talking to him. (It turned out that the EMT was a volunteer firefighter who had given Jeremy his first job)

Scott interrupts his story to compose himself as the memories return. He continues and tells of going to the hospital emergency room, where he handed Jeremy’s wallet to the teenager’s father, Richard.

“I didn’t know that was you,” Richard says, surprised at how details of that evening continue to unfold. “I remember getting it but I didn’t remember it was you.”

“We were in such shock,” says Jeremy’s mother, Sandy. She, too, is hearing the story for the first time.

It would be several years before Scott would meet the family again. “I had accepted Christ, but I didn’t go to church,” he says. “It just wasn’t me at the time.”

Years later, when Scott did return, it was to the Covenant Church. He saw Richard in the hallway. “I knew instantly who he was,” Scott says. But the two never spoke about the accident until they traveled together to Haiti last year.

Scott says the experience in Haiti continues to change him. He fell in love with the people of LaMare. “You can go to a mall here and hold a door open for somebody, and they growl at you. There, the people are filled with joy. I knew right away that I wanted to go back again.”

“I think about Jeremy all the time,” says Mary Dillman. “I thank God for him and how he lived his life because my whole family is going to heaven because of him.”

Mary never knew the teenager who would have such an impact on her life. She attended Jeremy’s funeral at the request of a friend who needed her presence.

Mary attended church as a child but that had been years before. Religion was fine, but she didn’t want to be anything like the woman she had met the week before who was talking about her son’s faith during a conversation. “I thought she was a religious fanatic,” she explains, smiling as she thinks about the path her own journey has taken. The woman was Sandy Doyle.

Mary sat in the sanctuary during the service on that December day, and the stories of Jeremy and his faith commitment prompted a reconsideration of her own life. “I heard the gospel in a way I had never heard it before,” she says.

When then-youth pastor Jon Black gave an altar call as requested by Richard and Sandy, Mary knew she had to answer. “I called Sandy the next week to see if she knew of some good Christian music I could listen to,” Mary says. The two women are now neighbors.

Mary’s husband, Brian, would attend church with her over the next one and a half years but never made a commitment of faith. That changed while attending a membership class. He serves on the church’s pastoral search committee.

Four-part series

“Losing Jeremy‘That Was God Preparing Us for the Girls’”

“Lafayette Church ‘Adopts’ Village”

“Lives intersect after tragedy”

Brian, who says he is project-oriented by nature, has traveled to Haiti, where he helped build school desks. His purpose for the trip changed after he arrived, however. “It was no longer about the project,” he explains. “It was about being brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Connections among people continue to be made internationally and locally. “We still have people come up to us and say they gave their life to the Lord because of Jeremy,” Sandy says.

Sandy is amazed at her own connection with the Covenant that would one day lead to the changes in so many lives following Jeremy’s death. When she was 12 years old and attending a Baptist congregation, the youth of the church attended a Covenant camp, she says. “I gave my life to Jesus Christ at Covenant Harbor.”

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