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9-year-old’s faith remains evident after tragic death

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP)–The last thing James Mobley
wanted to do before he left for West Virginia with his mom,
dad, sister and grandfather, was to teach his grandmother
how to play his Nintendo games. Nine-year-old James thought
his grandmother, who was staying at his house while the
others went skiing, might want to play some of the games
while he was gone.
It was a characteristic gesture for James, who was
killed in a skiing accident Dec. 18. He is remembered as a
caring, demonstrative boy with a contagious smile and a keen
imagination, a straight-A student who hugged his teachers
and always held the door open for girls at school.
Tim Maynard, pastor of Fruit Cove Baptist Church in
Jacksonville, Fla., remembers baptizing James after the
youngster made his profession of faith about a year ago.
“He came up out of the water with the biggest smile on
his face,” Maynard recalled. “He had everything in the world
going for him.”
But James’ potential for success in this world would
never be realized.
“The Lord was going to use his life in another way, for
others,” said his father, Bruce Mobley.
The fatal accident occurred as James, his father and
his sister, Jennifer, were making their last run down the
expert slope at Snowshoe Mountain, planning to join the rest
of the family for lunch. Bruce had given James permission to
go on ahead of the others and meet them by the lift at the
bottom of the hill.
There was no reason to feel James was in danger. “We
had been down the same slope 12 or 14 times,” Bruce said,
and they had skied slopes at other resorts that were as hard
or harder. And James already had completed the hard part of
the run.
When Bruce got to the lift and discovered James was not
there, he took off his skis and began hiking back up the
mountain. He was met on the way by a ski patrol officer who
had found James injured on the slope. Apparently the boy had
hit a tree, but no one had witnessed the accident.
James was taken to the resort’s medical treatment area
at the top of the mountain. Bruce and his wife, Debbie, were
allowed to spend just a few minutes with him before he was
rushed by helicopter to Charleston Area (W.Va.) Medical
Center. He was conscious, Debbie said, and responded to her
presence but could not speak.
Regulations prevented Bruce or Debbie from accompanying
James on the flight. They drove the 200 miles to Charleston.
“The roads were terrible,” Bruce recalled. At that point,
they knew James had two broken legs and a bump over his
right eye, but they had no idea how serious his internal
injuries were.
The Mobleys were met at the medical center by doctors
and a chaplain and were told James had died during the
The family has been touched by the outpouring of
sympathy and support, not only from close friends and
members of their church, but even total strangers.
Bruce recalled the kindness of a hostess with US Air,
who tended to the family’s needs during a three-hour layover
in Pittsburgh, Pa., on their way back to Jacksonville. When
they left, she handed them a note and told them she would
pray for them; inside the note was a $20 bill.
“You find Christians all over the country,” Bruce
Maynard, who went to visit members of the Mobleys’
extended family in Jacksonville after news of James’ death
was received, recalled that when he arrived at the home,
“their deacon was already there.” He commended deacon Frank
Holley and his wife, Annette, for their ministry to the
family, as well as numerous other church members who made
phone calls and personal visits and provided meals.
James Mobley’s short life and tragic death have touched
literally hundreds of lives. About 800 people came to visit
the family at the funeral home, Bruce said. The Sunday
evening visitation was scheduled from 7 to 9, but continued
from 6:30 until nearly midnight, with some people waiting as
long as two hours to speak to the family.
James’ funeral service, held at Fruit Cove church, was
attended by 600 to 700 people. Bruce said many family
members, friends and co-workers — some of whom may not be
Christians — have told him how they were touched and
uplifted spiritually by the memorial service.
Bruce gave the eulogy for his son.
“I wondered if I could get through it,” he said, “but
the Lord came into my heart and gave me the strength.”
In a letter afterward, the commanding officer of the
Naval Aviation Depot where Bruce works as a civil service
employee told Bruce, “I have never been given so much energy
in the Lord and life than when I heard you speak about your
James will be honored through a memorial fund being
established through Fruit Cove church. Details have not yet
been worked out, but it is anticipated gifts will be used
either for education or for church building needs.
The important thing is, Bruce said, “We want the money
to be used for the best possible purposes for ministry for
the Lord.”
James gave one other final gift — to a child he never
knew. The cornea from his left eye, the only organ that
could be donated, was given to a blind child in New York.
The recipient of the transplant, whose name was kept
confidential, was able to see for Christmas, the Mobleys
were told.
Nothing can take away the pain of losing a child. “We
still have our grief,” Bruce said. “We ache to hold him.”
But at the same time, the Lord has given a sense of
peace. “I feel like my faith is stronger,” Bruce said.
Being in church, even though their child’s funeral was
held there, is comforting, Bruce added. “Sunday’s our best
When pastor Maynard went to the Mobleys’ home to visit
and counsel with them, “I had two pages of questions I
wanted to ask him,” Bruce recalled.
Maynard observed that one of the hardest questions to
answer, not only for James’ family but for all of the Fruit
Cove congregation as they work through their grief, is, “Why
did God let it happen?”
God may not give them answers they are able to
understand, the pastor acknowledged. But it is important for
them to realize, “God’s not afraid of their questions.”
As Debbie thinks about James’ death, she doesn’t dwell
on the idea of God taking something away. Instead, her focus
is on the realization that “God gave me a blessing for nine
years,” she said.
For Bruce, what makes the loss bearable is the
assurance that James is with the Lord. Right now, “I can’t
see him, but this is temporary,” Bruce said. “I’ll see him
“I don’t know what he’d have turned out to be” if he
had lived to be an adult, Bruce said. “But it doesn’t matter
whether you live eight or nine years or 80 years, if you
don’t have the Lord in your heart. … Even if he was the
president of the United States and didn’t have the Lord in
his life, I’d never see him again.”

    About the Author

  • Shari Schubert