By Rosemary Pollock
Faith Amid Tragedy
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- Barry and Trisha Topham, like most couples,
have had their share of trials. With the sudden loss of their
daughter, Susannah 23, who died after being struck by a car while
riding her bike and the near-death of their son, Dan who three years
ago was stung by a yellow jacket and left with an allergic reaction
that caused severe brain damaged, they share the same grief but have
come to terms with the tragedies in different ways. "I'm always the
optimist and Barry's the pessimist," says Trisha. "This too shall
not pass," said Barry turning a familiar comforting phrase upside
"For some people it's more hope than faith," Barry says. Barry and
Trisha are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints. During the worst days of Dan's ordeal, their prayers were
answered more than once. "I can look at those things and can lean on
them for strength. Barry tends to forget those things when he's
unhappy. His mind goes to the thing that raises questions, instead of
the things that shores you up." Trisha adds.
"It's the unfulfilled promise of Susannah that haunts me," Barry
said. "She was so sweet and bright and hard-working. Never did
anything just halfway." One of Susannah's professors wrote of her,
"In over 25 years of teaching here at Utah, as well as at the
universities of Virginia and Michigan, she is one of the four or five
best students I have been privileged to teach."
The anoxic encephalopathy caused by Dan's yellow jacket sting has
left him with a "locked-in syndrome." He is unable to express himself
or control his movements. "I think he is just floating most of the
time," Trisha says.
Susannah and Dan are two of the Topham's six children. One son is
serving a mission for the Mormon church and three of the other
children and their spouses live close by. Barry is grateful for his
family and good friends. He is currently putting the finishing
touches on the Susannah Topham Memorial Scholarship Fund at the
University of Utah. The fund will help provide financial assistance
for students majoring in history.
"This Thanksgiving was especially hard this year," Barry said. "I
couldn't say the prayer. I had to have my brother-in-law say it."
Three months after Susannah's death, Barry lies in his dark bedroom
and hears the questions that Job once heard, questions that stack up
faith against unspeakable pain and sorrow. In spite of the pain,
Barry will make breakfast and help Trisha with Dan's shower. After
making it through another day, Barry will lie down next to Dan and
ask him if he wants to say his prayers. "He'll say 'Yes" and then,
'Heavenly Father, bless our family to be healthy, safe and happy.'"
Faith and trial
Deseret News 2Dec00 P2
By Elaine Jarvik: Deseret News staff writer
Even shared tragedy is coped with individually