(Photo: Hachette Book Group via The Christian Post)
The father of JonBenet Ramsey, the 6-year-old beauty pageant queen whose 1996 murder has yet to be solved, shares in a new book that it was faith in God that helped him overcome the tremendous ordeal and suffering he has endured throughout the case.
John and Patsy Ramsey lost not only JonBenet, the young beauty queen found in their basement the day after Christmas, but also lost in 1992 their eldest daughter, Elizabeth, who died in a car accident.
During JonBenet's murder investigation, the Ramseys were declared "persons of interest" until they were officially cleared of any suspicions in 2008. But two years prior, in 2006, Patsy Ramsey died of ovarian cancer.
Ramsey, who admits that he wasn't much of a Christian earlier in his life, found himself faced with so many tragedies and challenges, that some have compared him to the biblical Job, who lost his family, health, possessions and wealth before finally having it all restored. The key to overcoming those difficulties, Ramsey told The Christian Post, was finding a source of joy, and for him it was having three remaining children from a previous marriage that needed him to be a strong father.
How does one overcome a string of personal traumas? And what influence can they have on one's spiritual life? These are the main questions Ramsey tackles in his new book on his spiritual journey, The Other Side Of Suffering. He recently shared some thoughts with CP on what led him to write the book.
At the time when Elizabeth Ramsey was killed in a car accident, her father's faith was not very strong. Ramsey, a successful businessman, considered himself a "cultural Christian" – raised in a Christian family but not spending too much time thinking about God and His ways, he told CP. That changed, however, when he learned in 1992 of Elizabeth's death.
"It certainly challenged my instant faith at the time," Ramsey told CP, revealing that it took him four years to get through the grieving process. "It just didn't make sense. In my mind God had let me down. I think that's a very common reaction that people have when tragedy strikes; 'Why did this happen to me'? 'Am I not a good person?' 'Why is God punishing me?' 'Why did this happen?'"
"It really forced me to examine what my faith was all about," he added.
Ramsey read a lot at that time and talked to different people, trying to explore his faith, asking questions like "What did God promise us?" and "What He didn't promise us," he told CP. Elizabeth's death was an accident, he acknowledged, and he managed to accept that fact eventually. But the death of JonBenet was even more difficult to cope with, because it was not an accident. It involved human intent.
Ramsey was the one who found the little girl's body in the basement, under a white blanket with her hands tied above her head, her mouth covered by black duct tape and a garrote tightened around her neck. The murderer had apparently broken into the house through the basement window.
"When JonBenet was murdered, my faith progressed, and that helped a lot," he told CP. "I just could not comprehend how that could happen."
The media frenzy and police accusations did not make things easier. "It was difficult to grieve, in some respects," the author said, accusing the media of sensationalizing his daughter's murder case. Adding to the suffering, was also the fact that the perpetrator was not found.
Ramsey revealed that there were also times when he wondered whether JonBenet's participation in beauty pageants attracted the killer.
"It was different 16 years ago. Patsy and JonBenet did these little pageants for fun. It was kind of mother-daughter time," Ramsey said, suggesting that current competitions and reality shows like TLC's "Toddlers & Tiaras" are something he does not approve of. Even at pageants JonBenet attended, there was competitiveness among other parents and that made him uncomfortable.
"What I see now on television is just unfortunate," he told CP. "I see that level of competitiveness from parents that is not healthy. JonBenet had fun with it. They [JonBenet and Patsy Ramsey] both did."
The deaths of his two children changed how he looked at life, Ramsey told CP. He did not use to understand the real meaning of the word "hope," which he later found himself desperate to find.
"Up until this happened [Elizabeth's death], I was probably pretty materialistic," he acknowledged. "My hope was based on a better job, a nicer car, a bigger house. Those things, which are transitory, they don't last and they're really not a good foundation for hope."
The next blow came when Patsy Ramsey fell ill with cancer and he realized that she was not going to win that fight, he told CP. At that time, his prayers shifted from "God, heal her" to "God, take her home and end her suffering."
Patsy Ramsey passed away in 2006 at the age of 49. She had "a stronger base of faith" than he did from the very beginning, Ramsey revealed.
It took years before he learned to cherish the memories of his loved ones, but now, they are bringing him a smile, as he recalls them at their moments of joy, he told CP. That transition – from deep sorrow to the ability to rejoice in life once more – is the main focus of The Other Side Of Suffering.
"I had to get to the point where I could believe that the best days of my life are still ahead of me. Because that's hope," he said. "I spent a lot of time thinking about that and I accepted the challenge but there was no easy answer for that."
"God didn't promise us that life would be easy. In fact, he told us quite the opposite," he concluded.
"The main purpose of the book was to encourage readers. I hoped that the book would be uplifting; an encouragement to people who have suffered tragedies in their lives," he said.
People often struggle with smaller problems that seem big to them, like the loss of a home or job, he suggested. "You've got to be able to move beyond that and re-establish hope in your life. And purpose. I hope what the book does is share in a clear way how I dealt with those issues, both in terms of my personal life and my spiritual life," he said.
"God's grace has come to me through trial, through suffering (…). I believe the best days of my life are ahead of me," he shares in the book, the final outcome of his reflections. "I found them on the other side of suffering, where they were waiting."
Despite the past 16 years, he still has some hope left that JonBenet's killer might still be punished in this world, although, "The longer it goes the less encouraged I am," he said, admitting that the trail in the case has gone cold despite authorities being in possession of the killer's DNA, which might potentially one day make his identification possible.