Ron HayesHow quick is quick, how long is long, and why? These are the top three questions each family asks after their loved one has been killed on the job. Yes there are many more questions, but these three always top the list, they are also the first questions that have to be answered before any family can move forward.

I know about these questions because our nineteen-year-old son was killed on the job in 1993, and I asked these questions myself many, many times. Our son Pat was suffocated under 60 tons of corn while working in a grain bin for a company that didn’t care for human life.

I asked the coroner, doctors, preachers, everyone — they all told me the same thing. It happened quickly, it went fast, Pat died very quickly. But I saw Pat’s face in that morgue that night and I can tell you from the tears that ran down his cheeks he died a painful death. He also had his arm straight up as if he was trying to get out, and all I could think about is him suffering and screaming out, “Dad, help me.” I had to live with the fact I could not help my own child. It hurt so bad, I just had to find out how long it took for my son to die.

I have been an x-ray tech for 30 years, have seen all manner of deaths, also a hospice volunteer and watched many people die, but nothing prepared me to see my own son in the morgue. So I studied books. I asked questions. I read articles and was on a quest to find out a answer.

Finally, after a year of searching, I found a report of deaths in grain wagons, prepared at Kansas State University, that said a six-foot man who suffocated would die in about 90 seconds, and that put my mind to ease. Pat didn’t suffer, he didn’t have time to call out and I finally had peace.

During my studies I found a lot deaths are within that time frame.

A trench cave in, a shot in the heart, a fall from the top of a building, a truck crash. Now you know there will be exceptions to the rule, but most trauma deaths would fall in this category. This example is not meant in any way to take away the sting of death, but just maybe, it will help some folks that are suffering. I know it’s hard to believe a doctor or police official or corner or during this hard period of time, so maybe this information might help.

The question of “why” is so important too, because we are left here with all the pain, burdens and troubles; we have to pick up the pieces of life and go on, and we have to start a new life without the one we loved.

That’s why for us, the question of “why” is so important. We humans want answers to all our questions; this is one time, there is no answer, no way, no how, you’re not going to find the real answer, will not happen.

You will suffer with this and it will weigh you down. But I really do have an answer for you: we only ask why while we are here on earth and separated from our loved one. I promise you when you see your loved one again, you will not ask why, you will be so happy you will just bask in the wonderful love and warmth of your homecoming.

I know when I see Pat again, I will fall my head on his shoulder and cry great tears of joy, not the tears of suffering I’ve been doing for 18 years now. I look forward to that day, it will be a great day indeed.

If you have lost a loved on, no matter how, remember this, they are only gone for a while, we will meet again and they are always with us as long as we remember them and tell others their story, may you be blessed, as I have

Here is a poem written by one of the people I have tried to help through their grief:

“My Friend”

Why did you leave me ?
Without seeing me grow up?
Without seeing me drive, graduate or even get married.
You were everything to me.
I miss you everyday.
I remember the times we had together, the good and the bad.
I will never forget those times.
They were precious to me.
 I will love you always.

-Amanda Beasley

Ron has lent support to hundreds of families of workplace fatality and injury victims since Pat died in 1993. Called a “hellraiser” by Mother Jones magazine, Ron is a grassroots job safety activist and trainer based in Fairhope, Alabama — an apt place for a man committed to giving fair hope to grieved families. Ron and his wife Dotty own and operate The F.I.G.H.T. Project, Families In Grief Hold Together.

To contact Ron, call 251-990-8644; 800-288-8644 code 19; email:

The F.I.G.H.T Project is on Facebook at