An Eagle woman whose son was murdered 12 years ago while attending the University of Southern California has published a book about her grief over the tragedy — and how she has found peace.
Paige W. Lee, released her book, "Choose to Believe: A Story of Miracles, Healing and the Afterlife," on Sept. 18, the anniversary of her son's death.
That night in 2008, Bryan Richard Frost, a cinema arts student at USC, was walking home with a couple of friends near the university when he got into an altercation with a man over making too much noise, according to court testimony reported by the Los Angeles Times.
The man, Travion Terrett Ford, ran into his mother's apartment and came out brandishing a knife, mortally wounding Frost. Ford, 24 at the time, was convicted of second-degree murder and is serving a 16-years-to-life sentence.
Lee said she has come from "the worst nightmare any parent can imagine." Her book examines her belief that her son reached out to her from the afterlife, and charts her journey to reconnect with him.
In addition to penning the book, Lee is a speaker, certified grief and transformation coach, and Reiki practitioner (Reiki is an alternative healing practice using "universal energy"). As a former Helping Parents Heal affiliate director, she serves as a Caring Listener for the organization.
Lee and her husband, Dwaine, are still in Eagle and spend as much time as they can with their two other children and five grandchildren. She has a passion for nature and gardening and as a couple, they love to travel and hike in the foothills.
"Choose to Believe," said Lee, is a book born of the pact she made with her son, after his death — to share their story and help others overcome the profound grief after the death of a loved one. I recently was able to talk with Lee via email.
Jeanne Huff: "Choose to Believe" is the first book you have written. Do you have a writing background, or was this book more of a product of inspiration that you were compelled to write?
Paige Lee: Yes, this is my first book. I do not have a writing background, it is just something that I enjoy doing. My son Bryan loved writing also, in fact he won an award when he was younger for one of his pieces. I was driven to write this book in an effort to help other people who are grieving the profound loss of a loved one. Ever since Bryan died, I have felt that need — to share with others what I learn so that their journey might be just a little easier.
JH: Let's talk about that — your son Bryan was just 23 when he was murdered in California. That was in 2008 — can you talk about your grief journey?
PL: Three weeks after Bryan died, I was laying on my bed one afternoon when I suddenly heard "MOM" out loud with my ears. Out loud! I recognized Bryan's voice and I jumped up, calling out “Bryan! Where are you? Where are you?” Although there was no reply, I understood three things at that moment: 1) I knew that my son still lived, 2) I knew that I could find him if I didn't stop looking, and 3) I knew that I could still have a relationship with him.
I also intuitively knew that finding him in the 'afterlife' would be the only way I would survive this tragedy. And so, I set out to find him. I promised him that I would not stop looking. And find him I did!
JH: You say you are a "seeker" and you firmly believe in an afterlife and that you can connect with your deceased son. What would you say to those who may be naysayers?
PL: We each have our own individual paths to follow in this life. If my experiences do not resonate with someone, then that’s OK. I wish them love and peace. I know my truth, and I am resolute and passionate about it.
JH: Can you share one of your most profound connection experiences?
PL: Hearing Bryan out loud with my ears was pretty awesome. I have also been fortunate to experience several very profound experiences during meditation. One of them might be described as astral travel, meaning that my consciousness traveled to where my ‘deceased’ loved ones are while my physical body remained in its chair. I prefer to refer to it as a rare glimpse into ‘the other side’ and the special gift of experiencing the joy and love that I will feel when I am reunited with my loved ones.
Another time we were with our daughter, son-in-law and 2-year-old granddaughter and had just sat down to have hot chocolate. Suddenly the 2-year-old said, "Hey! Everyone is drinking hot chocolate except that guy sitting over there," as she pointed to the empty chair at the table. We knew "that guy" was Bryan. We felt his presence with us.
My son has sent us many signs, many ‘hugs,' many messages, and he continues to do so to this day. He is still very present in our lives.
JH: Prior to your son's untimely death, were you a believer of the afterlife? If so, how has that tragedy informed that belief?
PL: My four siblings and I were raised Presbyterian, although we were not regular churchgoers at all. I believed in the afterlife, in a very loose kind of way, as in I believed heaven was ‘up there’ and that’s where we went when we died. I didn’t believe it was a place that we could see or touch or visit. Actually, I didn’t believe or not believe, it was simply not a part of my awareness.
After Bryan died, my new spiritual awareness and unfolding of proof that the afterlife exists was intriguing and curious to me. From the moment I heard my son call out to me, my healing journey became one of being willing to be open and to explore — even those things that I didn’t understand. I knew I had God by my side. I have never wavered in my belief that God exists. Not when my beloved grandparents each died, not when my baby girl Jamie died in my womb after 6 months of pregnancy, and not when I lost two other babies in early pregnancy. Not when my mom died at the age of 66, not when my friend died of a brain aneurysm in his 30s, and not when my dad died in 2012. In fact, I had known God to work in my life in many ways. He had saved my life, and Bryan’s, on multiple occasions.
But believing in God was one thing; having experienced God’s work in my life was wonderful. Yet consciously living a spiritual life with God at the helm — well this was something new for me to explore.
Boy, did I explore! And those explorations (the seeking) became my pathway to healing from the death of my child. As I studied, learned to discern what my truths were, and continued to put one foot forward (even though sometimes I would fall two steps back), I began to feel Bryan around me in ways that I hadn’t before. I started to become aware of God and the Universe in ways that I had never known before.
It didn’t happen right away, but I did develop my own unique understanding of spirituality. It unfolded slowly, beautifully, in divine beauty and with divine timing. Imagine a lotus flower, each petal shining brightly and ever so slowly, opening — reaching up to touch the golden warmth of the sun’s rays. This was me, reaching up to feel God’s love and the love from my son.
JH: What about the future? Are you working on any other books?
PL: Not at this time, although I suspect there will be another book.
JH: So, in writing this book about your grief and the experiences you've been through as a result of charting your grief journey, have you been able to somehow attain a sense of peace about the horrific loss you've experienced — and if so, can you describe how?
PL: Yes, most definitely I have peace. Do I still cry? Yes, sometimes. Do I still miss the physical presence of my son? Yes, of course. But more often than not, when I cry now, my tears are joyful and full of gratitude for the gift of him. They aren’t the four-hour long agonizing and painful cries from those early days. The book tells the journey of how I reached this point. But basically, it boiled down to being a seeker, being willing to explore things I didn’t understand, being willing to try new things, and refusing to give up! I was determined to still have a relationship with my only birth child.
"Choose to Believe" is my gift to anyone who grieves a loved one. In it, I present to the reader my path, but they must each follow their own path. Whatever that looks like, I ask the reader to consider making the choice to BELIEVE. Ask their loved one, “Where are you now?” and begin their journey toward finding them. Ask them for signs, signs and more signs. Seek to understand everything that they cannot see or hear. Open their eyes and their ears and their mind, be aware!
Choose to believe. Choose life. And when they’re ready, learn to communicate with them. Set new goals for the life ahead of them and the new relationship they have with their loved one.
Be the teacher. Pay it forward. You just never know who needs to hear what you have to say.