JOPLIN, Mo. —
A quote by Martin Luther King is a particular favorite of Ginger Reppond.
“As my sufferings mounted, I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.”
Her daughter, Megan Reppond, died on Dec. 28, 2010, in an accidental shooting. She was 14.
A freshman at Joplin High School, Reppond was spending the night on Dec. 27 with three of her girlfriends at a Neosho home when one of the friends picked up a .38 caliber handgun that had been left out and pointed it in a joking manner.
It discharged, striking the youth in the head. She later died in a Springfield hospital.
In the 18 months that followed, the sufferings of the Reppond family mounted.
Then Ginger Reppond felt a calling, she said, and, as King suggested, she chose to transform her suffering into a creative force: She started a Facebook page called Seven Angels as a source of healing and hope for those who have lost children, and began keeping a journal with the intention of crafting it into an e-book to help others.
That journal ended up taking the form of “Losing Megan,” a 188-page book appropriate for anyone who finds themselves on a journey of loss, Ginger Reppond said. On sale at For All Bible at Northpark Mall and at Amazon.com, it includes excerpts from her journal, daily devotionals, and quotes Reppond chose to “continue to help and heal the pain of losing a child.”
“It is written to help others understand what they go through on this journey, they are not alone,” she said.
The Repponds aren’t alone, either: According to the National Vital Statistics System, an average of 16,375 teens ages 12 to 19 years died in the U.S. every year from 1999 to 2006. Accidents accounted for nearly one-half of those deaths.
Ginger Reppond said she understands the value of a shared experience: A friend of hers lost her son six months after Megan’s death.
“She was standing in the visitation line for Megan,” she said. “Six months later, I’m standing in that line for her son. There is this weird sense of OK-ness, because you know someone else is going through what you’re going through, and they’re still upright and walking and talking,” Ginger Reppond said. “We formed a bond that will never go away.”
With that in mind, the couple sent copies of “Losing Megan” to Trayvon Martin’s mother in Florida, to a Ronald McDonald House in St. Louis, and to grieving parents, bookstores and libraries across the U.S.
“I don’t know if they’ll ever open them, but at least they are there,” Ginger Reppond said. “My hope is that it is a source of comfort. That’s what it’s all about for me, and for Jeff.”
Reppond works at Leggett & Platt in accounting; her husband Jeff, Megan’s stepfather, is a manager at Standard Transportation. They attend Apostolic Revival Church in Joplin, and have relied on their faith to make it through each day, she said.
In addition to the King quote, there’s a line in an Anthony Hopkins movie that Ginger Reppond also likes to use a lot: “What one man can do, another can do.”
“As a Christian, it is the same,” she said. “What one believer can do, another can do. If the Lord will pour out his grace, power and strength to one, he will do it to another.”
“When Megan first died I remember asking the Lord, ‘How can you get the glory in this?’ I knew that moment that what was required of me was to show his grace,” she said. “During the grief process, we don’t always get it right, but we are still in there trying.”
One of the lessons the Repponds have learned, Ginger Reppond said, was that in dealing with their own pain, they have hurt others as much as they were hurt.
“People are not always kind, truths get distorted and feelings get trampled on in the midst of painful events in our lives,” she said. “Nothing stays on hold and gives proper time for healing. There are storms within storms. But we have been shown it’s about mending those fences, not taking a side on either one of it.
“Problems don’t stop because you’re going through this horrible grieving — you still have to interact with people, but you don’t really have the tools to do that yet. You’re filtering everything through this pain, this loss. If I would have known that a year and a half ago ... There are people I have to go smooth it over with.”
The couple also became involved in a lot of outreach and community service, including serving meals at Joplin Souls Harbor once a month.
“Whatever time we would have spent with Megan, we will spend serving,” she said. “Believe me, when you decide that, your time will fill up.”
And Jeff Reppond wrote a book too: A testimony of overcoming 35 years of alcohol and drug abuse, “Knock Knock” is also for sale at For All Bible.
“We can’t know what the next few years will hold, but we can hope and pray that even if this helps one person make it through one really tough day, it’s all worth it,” Ginger Reppond said.
There have been bright spots for the Repponds in the past 18 months: Their daughter, Holly Woodward, gave birth to their granddaughter, Gracie, on June 3. Her name was chosen in honor of Megan, whose middle name was Grace.