Heather Pinegar and her family were camping in Arizona for a family reunion when their lives changed forever. They were preparing for their long drive back to Texas when Mick, Heather’s 15-year-old son and an avid dirt biker, asked if he could go on one last ride before they headed home. He loved going on rides after rainstorms, and after receiving consent from his parents, he went on his way.
Heather recalls, “Mick gave me a hug, gave his dad a hug and a fist bump, and when he came to his older brother Willem Derby, Mick took his helmet off to give Willem a hug and tell him he loved him. . . . I remember thinking that my boy had grown into a man as I watched Mick drive away. He was 6’3” and he weighed 210 pounds of muscle at 15 years old.”
What the Pinegar family thought would be an ordinary ride quickly turned into a nightmare when one of Mick’s cousins came running toward the campsite to let them know that Mick hit a boulder and crashed his bike.
Mick was rushed to a hospital in Phoenix via helicopter and admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). The doctors found that he suffered from a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) that left him in a coma for a week until he passed away. In an interview with LDS Living, Mick’s mom, Heather, shares how she and her family found hope and healing through this difficult experience and the way she stays connected with her angel son.
Relying on God for Comfort and Hope
The Pinegars relied heavily on their faith for comfort and blessings during this difficult time. “We pleaded in prayer for God to save Mick’s life. We fasted for seven days. Mick had priesthood blessings promising that he would be fully healed from his condition.” And although their prayers were answered differently than they had hoped, they remained faithful that God loved them and knew what they were going through. “We never had those debilitating questions of ‘why,’ asking, ‘Why did God take our son at a young age?’ or ‘Why did this happen to our family?’”
However, the Pinegars did have questions about Mick’s priesthood blessings and had to rely on their faith. And in the October 2016 women’s session of general conference, Heather found the answers she had been praying for. Elder Uchtdorf was speaking and said, “Faith is powerful, and often it does result in miracles. But no matter how much faith we have, there are two things faith cannot do. For one, it cannot violate another person’s agency. . . . The second thing faith cannot do is force our will upon God.”
The Pinegar Family (left to right) Willem Derby, Spencer, Katy, Heather, and Mick.
“In that moment,” Heather said, “The Spirit spoke to my heart and taught me that while Mick was in a coma, his spirit was speaking with our Father in Heaven. Mick was given the choice to stay on earth or continue his journey to heaven. Mick chose to journey to heaven because he saw all the work he could accomplish. He was shown how friends and family and strangers would be humbled by his passing and turn to God for help. He would be the bridge back to a love for God for some people.”
This answer gave Heather and her husband, Spencer, great peace and joy. “Ultimately it was Mick’s decision to accept the promises of the priesthood blessings or to journey to heaven. All our prayers (no matter how much faith we had), could not violate Mick’s agency,” Heather says.
Sending Texts to Mick
The grieving process was difficult for Heather, but she managed to find peace by serving the Lord and staying close to Him. She worshiped in the temple and made time to communicate with the Lord, and she mentions that a large part of her healing process came from serving others. “Sometimes I only had enough energy to make a fresh loaf of bread and deliver it to a friend who needed it, but the Lord took my humble act of service and blessed me with a greater sense of love and joy,” Heather shares.
There was one thing, however, that really helped Heather connect with Mick and remember the amazing times they shared. She started sending texts to his phone talking about her day, how she was feeling, and sharing fond memories they had together. At first, a small part of her hoped Mick would somehow see the texts, but she later realized that “God knows our hearts before we even tell Him how we’re feeling. I was confident He would share the tender feelings of a mother’s heart with her son.”
The belief that loved ones who have passed away still help us in our everyday lives is what inspired Heather to text Mick about her life and struggles.
“On some of the dark days when I didn’t know if I wanted to go on living, when I couldn’t remember any happiness, I would look back at the texts I had sent Mick and read about the amazing spiritual experiences I had that were full of hope,” Heather says. “The positive texts helped me stay grounded and see that the light would eventually come back into my life.”
As Heather goes back and reads the texts she has sent to Mick, she is reminded of all the wonderful times they had together, and in a way, she feels that Mick is helping her heal. She explains, “It’s like he’s saying, ‘I know it’s hard mom, but look at all these beautiful memories we have together. Hold onto our memories together and think of all the happiness we shared.’”
Grieving and Letting the Savior Carry You
For others experiencing profound grief and loss, Heather notes that it’s important to realize that things won’t simply go back to the way they were and suggests filling your season of grief with things that bring you closer to God instead of spending time on things of little importance. And when you reach your darkest moments, remember Christ will carry you.
“The first year of grief is extremely hard. I would compare it to trying to climb an emotional sort of Mount Everest while barefoot with a backpack full of heavy rocks strapped to your back,” Heather says. “Although the first year of grief is hard, in time, you will look back and see Jesus Christ was always there to comfort you. In fact, our Savior is willing to carry us up that emotional climb if we will turn our cares and worries over to Him. There were many times when I felt peace that “passeth understanding.” Hold onto that peace when you feel it and let it become your anchor when grief hits.”
Heather also emphasizes that it’s important to understand what grief is and what it’s not. First, grief isn’t a lack of faith and you shouldn’t feel guilty for having those feelings. It’s a normal way people get through difficult times, and it’s necessary for healing. Second, grief is a process. “You can’t ignore it; you can’t go around it; you have to let yourself feel it,” Heather says. And third, “Grief is another word for love. Focus on all the love and you will grow stronger. When a special memory comes into mind from your time with your loved one, take it as a gift. Recognize that sweet memories are meant to bring us joy and remind us that we will be reunited with our loved one again.”
“Heaven Was Close to Earth and the Veil Was Thin”
Keeping this in mind is crucial to finding hope and healing through hard trials, and because of this, Heather has been able to feel God’s love in every circumstance. She mentions how precious the lessons she learned are, and how she strives to be more Christlike every day.
Katy and Derby Pinegar.
Heather recalls the experience of fasting for seven days. She was weak and tired, but says, “I learned a little bit of what it feels like to put off the natural man. My heart was tender, teachable, and full of love. I was meek and mild.”
“I give my family more hugs now. I try to see people the way God sees them. Each and every one of us is of great worth to God. Superficial things and material things that at one time appealed to me have little value now. I pray often that I will remember the close feeling I had to the Lord when Mick passed on. It was a time when heaven was close to earth and the veil was thin,” Heather says.
The Pinegars want to share the gospel and the happiness it provides. Heather shared her full story in her book, Texts to Mick, in hopes of sharing the gospel and bringing comfort to others who have experienced losing a loved one.
Heather says Mick’s passing has given her a greater appreciation for life and the time we have on earth to dedicate ourselves to the Lord. “This earthly life is a time of growth and learning,” she says. “I feel more than ever now that our time here is short even when it feels long. We should make every moment count and draw closer to the Lord.”
Photos courtesy of The Pinegar family
Heather's book is available at textstomick.com or as an e-book on Amazon.