Eighteen-month-old Jackson “Jack” Bayers loved swinging in the jumper that hung in the living room door as his father, Brian Bayers, pushed him. He also loved to dance with his mother, Amanda Bayers, while she bounced him in her arms.
The swing is empty now.
On the morning of Feb. 13, 2015, Jack died after his father accidentally backed over him with his pickup truck at their home in Elk Creek.
Since Jack’s death, Brian and Amanda have found strength and hope in their faith.
“We never would have made it through the first weekend without God’s presence,” Brian said.
On Good Friday, Brian and Amanda were baptized by Southeast Christian Church Teaching Pastor Kyle Idleman and Senior Pastor Dave Stone at Southeast’s Blankenbaker Campus.
Being raised a Catholic, the Lenten period between Ash Wednesday and Easter has always been a part of Brian’s life.
“We’d been talking about getting baptized, and it seemed like a fitting time,” he said. “Good Friday is the beginning of our new life. We are going to start our lives new and give our lives to Jesus Christ.”
Throughout the tragedy, Amanda mentioned the impact of Romans 5:1-5, especially verse 3, which says, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
“I wasn’t always faithful,” she said. “God tried to reach me, but I shut it off. It wasn’t until Jack passed away that my heart was opened.”
Mark Townsley, who works with Brian at Bachman Chevrolet and sings at Southeast, wrote a song called “Love, Jackson” for Jack’s funeral service, which took place on Ash Wednesday. He and Phillip Brock created a video to go with the song.
“(Mark) laid down to go to sleep, and then the words came,” Amanda said. “He got up and finished the song in an hour. He told us that God wrote the song. The first time we heard it was at Jack’s service.”
Two parts of Townsley’s song were particularly significant to the Bayerses. The first was the inclusion of the first verse of the song “Jesus Loves Me.”
“That was Jack’s favorite song,” Amanda said. “The bunny he slept with every night played that song. Mark didn’t know anything about that.”
The second part was the lyric, “Mom there’s dancing; Oh, I can’t wait to show you.”
“That was mine and Jack’s thing,” Amanda said. “He loved me dancing with him. He wanted me to hold him and bounce him. Mark didn’t know that either. That was confirmation for us that Jack was in heaven.”
The video can be seen on the Jackson Bayers Memorial Fund Facebook page.
After Jack’s funeral, Amanda was crying and hugging her husband when she heard God speak to her.
“I’d had to stay strong all day,” she said. “Then a voice said, ‘Think of all the people you are going to help,’ and I stopped crying.”
“I’ve been angry with God before,” Brian said. “I remember cussing at God. But I’ve never had that anger with Jack’s death.”
Brian and Amanda’s faith through the loss of their only child has astonished many, but they also plan to honor Jack’s memory in a much more physical way: building a park.
“Our initial thought was to put swings in an existing park,” Amanda said. “Then we started thinking that there wasn’t a park in Elk Creek.”
Jack loved swings, water, music and people. The Bayerses plan on featuring each of those things: large swing sets, a splash area and outdoor musical instruments in a place where people can relax and have fun. They would also like to include a walking trail and a garden that could be a place for grieving family members to plant flowers in honor of loved ones.
“We want it to be a park where you can go for a walk and relax and feel a certain amount of peace, but still encourage kids to play,” Brian said. “It would describe who Jack was.”
To help raise the money to build the park, the Bayerses have started the “Jackson Bayers Memorial Fund.” Donations to the fund may be made at any Citizen’s Union Bank or Fifth Third Bank. Online donations may be made at www.gofundme.com/jacksonbayers (online donations are subject to a 5 percent fee).
After the funds for the park are raised, Brian said that he and his wife plan to start a memorial foundation to help underprivileged families pay for daycare.
“I’ll say (Jack) was a daddy’s boy,” Brian said. “(Amanda) will say he was a mommy’s boy. But really, he was both. Jack loved everybody, the dog and horses included. He wanted to kiss and love and hug everything.”
WAVE-TV News will feature a story on the Bayers family at the end of April.