Kay Warren, wife of Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren, wrote a heartbreaking letter to their late son Matthew in honor of his birthday, expressing hope that he’s among “the crowd of witnesses who are cheering us on” in Heaven.
On July 18 — what would have been Matthew’s 34th birthday — Warren shared a photo of a colorful rose along with the caption, “Happy birthday in heaven, my beloved son. Your rose is blooming today. With all the faith I have, I believe that the roses that surround you are brighter, smell sweeter and are tended by their Creator.”
She continued, “Maybe you are spending one of eternity‘s endless days enjoying every rose in sight… Maybe you and Jesus are just basking in uninterrupted conversation… Maybe you’re laughing with Granddaddy, Grandpa, Grandma, or Uncle Jim. Maybe you’re taking part in the crowd of witnesses who are cheering us on - millions of brothers and sisters who are reveling in the life that is truly Life.”
“Whatever you’re doing, Jesus’ words reassure me it’s good. So I will linger over your rose, absorbing the colors, textures and scent, and let it be a 'seen' reminder of the unseen Reality where you live. I miss you so much; just a little while longer! Love you forever, Buddy.”
On April 5, 2013, Matthew Warren, then 27, fatally shot himself after a long and private struggle with mental illness that was only made public after his death. In a video posted on LightWorkers.com, Kay Warren revealed her son was diagnosed with clinical depression at age 7, and later with ADHD and panic attacks. At age 12, he began having suicidal thoughts.
"Matthew was one of the funniest guys I know," she said. "He just had this weird and wacky sense of humor and nobody could make me laugh like Matthew. He was both amazing and someone who was pretty tortured most of his life. He was complicated, I think, because of that."
"So he just lived his life with serious mental illness, and his chronic suicidality began to build and build and build," Warren said. "I never knew from day to day if he was going to be alive. I really didn't know, 'Is this the day he's gonna die?'"
The day Matthew died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound was her “worst nightmare come true," Warren said.
Still, the Warrens, who co-founded Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, in 1980, held to the "knowledge that God had not left us, that we would somehow survive, and that somehow, someday, we would choose joy."
"I think that's what I remember so clearly," she recalled. "A lot of it's a blur, I just know I hit the ground and laid on the ground for hours, sobbing."
"Matthew's story didn't end on April 5, 2013," Warren said. "I am absolutely, 100% convinced that Matthew is in Heaven, that he is in God's arms, that he is safe, he is secure, that I will see him again someday. So, joy for me now, and hope for me is not about what happens here, it's about what's going to happen."
The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that one in five teens ages 13-18 live with a serious mental illness. Over the last few years, the Warrens have pushed to bring mental health to the forefront of Saddleback's ministries. Today, it is a major part of the church's care initiative.
In a previous interview with The Christian Post, Warren said she firmly believes that Matthew's salvation is "safe and secure."
"God's promised us that Matthew's salvation was safe and secure. Matthew gave his life to Jesus when he was a little boy. And so, I'm absolutely 100 percent confident based on the work of Jesus that Matthew is in Heaven," she said.
"I have a certain hope that God will make all things right and He will rebuild the ruins of our lives. I'm absolutely certain that I will join Matthew in Heaven because Jesus is alive. I'm gonna live. Those are things that are absolutely certain. I don't have any doubt over them. And so my hope is stronger than it ever has been.”