As I write this, it has been a week and a day since we lost our son.
I have cried until I have no tears, I have asked why, and I probably will never know the answer. I have found out friends are friends, and they stand by you in the worst of times.
At 8:30 am Saturday, July 22, Jimmy Dean thought he was invincible, bullet-proofed, and had the world by the tail. I thought bad things happened to other people.
A telephone call an hour later changed our lives forever.
Our only son, Mike, was involved in a car wreck when a driver came across Route 13 near Carbondale and hit his car, trapping him for over an hour.
Mike was taking three friends to Carbondale to watch another friend play rugby. Thankfully, the other three received only minor injuries. We were assured Mike died with no pain.
My good friend, Don Lowery, said something that stuck in my mind as well. "You know where your son is and you care. Some parents don't know where their kids are and worst of all some don't care."
Mike is for sure looking down on us.
We have learned in the past week about our Southern Illinois community that wrapped their arms around a family in need.
Over 4,000 people stood in line at the First Christian Church in West Frankfort for over five hours to pay their respect to Mike.
We arrived at the Church at 3:45 P.M. We shook the last person's hand at 12:10 a.m. Tuesday morning.
At our church, an overflowing crowd watched in the gymnasium by television at Tuesday's service. What a tribute to a young man who was taken less than four months short of his 26th birthday.
People are asking, "How are you getting through this?" My answer is, "I don't know, and I don't think we are but some things help."
How do you do it without friends like Rev. Gene Fox who drove us to St. Louis and stayed by our side and preached an awesome sermon, and Mike's best friend, Brad Cullum, who put us at peace with a tremendous eulogy?
Mike's friends, students, and co-workers shared stories and memories I wish I knew a few days earlier so I could have told Mike how proud I was of him.
How do you survive without a church family? Our church family not only attended to our needs but the needs of the folks waiting in line by serving drinks, parking cars, and doing everything possible to make everyone comfortable.
My immediate family is just about gone, but the ones still with us stood with us during this tramatic time. My wife's family was with us step for every step. The people that really left an impact on me were the friends of my two daughters. They stayed by our side and the girls' side showing maturity beyond their young years.
Donellyn and Kara had friends at the house as late as 4 a.m. on some nights, and Kara took 10 to church with her the following Sunday.
I could list name after name of people who brought food, mowed our yard, ran errands, held our hands, hugged our necks, and more importantly prayed for us.
We continue to ask for those prayers. Some people say it gets easier. To me it gets harder as I keep expecting Mike to walk through the door and want to go to a ballgame, talk politics, or need something done at the his house of which he was so proud.
I will not be doing football games for WGGH this season. I don't know about basketball yet, but it sure would be hard to look at that chair next to me. Mike was like a good assistant coach. He covered my back; he did not stab me in the back.
Will I miss broadcasting football? Probably, but I will miss the folks around Marion football more. I am going to channel my efforts into raising money for the Mike Dean Scholarship fund that we have started at Sesser-Valier High School. My good friend, Lyndell Zanotti, is starting a scholarship in Mike's name at Johnston City High School.
So many of what I refer to as "my Marion family" came to the visitation and funeral and this touched our hearts. Mike would have been proud because he truly loved Marion sports and announcing the games.
I have said a thousand times this past week, "Parents - hug your kids and tell them you love them; kids do the same."
You never know if that will be the last time you see them. I just wish I had one more chance to share my love with Mike.
If this seems like a rambling column, it probably is at this time. Right now I am emotionally and physically drained and as mentioned earlier a lot of questions in my mind are left unanswered.
I just wanted to thank those who came to pay their respects to a young man who touched so many lives, was the love of our life, and lived too short of a life.
The only answer that I have is that God needed someone to broadcast Heaven's All-Star game. They now have another all-star in Heaven: This all-star is Mike.
We love you son.
Jimmy Dean is the former mayor of Johnston City.