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Light in dark places: Grieving family turns to hope in wake of sons’ deaths

Anyone driving by the Finks’ house this season will be greeted by a choreographed light show to some of their sons’ favorite songs. Being something the Finks have discussed for a few years, the light show is a special tribute to the sons they lost within two weeks of each other earlier this year and the son they lost in 2014.

Even in the midst of grief, Susan, the boys’ mother, said she is trying to find light in the darkness.

“They were kind to everyone they met, and they were something special,” she said. “They were both really patriotic, and they were appreciative of living in America. They had a Biblical worldview, and they would both stand up for it.

“Neither of them were big, but both of them would stand up for others – even at their own risk – because it was the right thing to do.”

Each of the Fink boys were born with a genetic immune system deficiency, chronic granulomatous disease, that Susan, the boys’ mother, said could make them more susceptible to certain bacterial and fungal infections. She said that despite the quick timeframe between the boys’ deaths, they were unrelated to each other.

Nicholas Fink was a 10th-grade student at Hartselle High School. Susan described her son as a Lego master and Star Wars fan who liked to build computers – and most importantly, someone who loved people and would help others at his own expense.

Oct. 17, Susan found Nicholas unresponsive and without a heartbeat in his bed. Despite efforts from Susan and her husband, paramedics and the hospital, they were unable to revive Nicholas.

In a Facebook post the following day, Susan wrote, “As you can imagine, we are all devastated beyond comprehension. He was so smart, funny, creative, witty, loving and so full of life to be lived, and how much we miss him already cannot be measured in any other way than tears and groans.

“If I did not know the Lord and His promises, I would surely die of a broken heart.”

Ryan Fink was a 2020 graduate of Hartselle High School and a student at Calhoun Community College. Susan said Ryan had played the marching baritone for several years and dabbled in sports like baseball and basketball.

She said she loved Ryan’s desire to be a friend to any in need.

“Ryan loved people. Even when he was little, he was the one in preschool that, if there was a little kid that would want a toy, he’d let them have it. It was his personality that he had enough,” she said.

“He would go to the other side of the playground to talk to another kid that was by themselves.”

Nov. 1, two weeks after Nicholas’ death, Ryan died at 18 years old. Nov. 6, Susan wrote on Facebook, “It hasn’t even been three weeks yet since Nicholas has been gone, and the days without Ryan are crawling by. In a way, it already feels like months, even years, without them, but I think that’s just a continuation of what we feel like living without Gavin.

“It never ends. As long as we are living, we will miss and love these boys. All the memories, all the funny things they did and said, all the hopes and dreams, the life within them – no more. We must look toward Heaven.”

Despite their grief, Susan said she and her husband have clung to their faith. She has taken the opportunity to share her experiences on Facebook in the hope of inspiring other believers and to remind them they have a choice even on the dark days.

“All throughout the Bible, God tells us we will endure suffering, and we don’t know what that’s going to look like. I think we have a choice to make every day,” she said. “We can look at things from a godly perspective or earthly one.

“I think a lot of people call themselves believers but don’t live like believers. I don’t want to be like that,” she added. “That’s the only viewpoint: that there is peace. If I want to do any good in my life, I have to become smaller and do away with my human way.”

With the Facebook posts, much like with the Christmas light display, Susan said she hopes she can bring encouragement and inspiration to others.

“A friend of mine has given me a little book by Samuel Rutherford, the theologian. It summed it up really well: ‘Glorify the Lord in your sufferings, and others will follow you, if they find you strong in the Lord,’” she said. “It’s not about us. Nobody tells us these days, but glorify the Lord in your sufferings. That’s why I write. I feel really prompted to write.

“I think a lot of people hurt, and I am helping more than just me. When I help other people, that helps my sadness.”

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