The Voice: Spring 2001

The Voice

In Memory of Layton

Written in loving memory of Layton De Vries.

As a Dordt graduate, I was delighted when my son, Layton, decided to attend Dordt College.

I remember the day we brought him and nearly all his earthly possessions from Pella over Interstate 80 and up Interstate 29 to Sioux Center. It was a long quiet ride. We, Layton and his dad and I, all knew that this was the beginning of something important, but also the end of something precious. Our relationships with each other would never be quite the same after this day.

Too soon the moment I had been dreading for months arrived--it was time to leave Layton and go home. We found a moment alone with him so as not to embarrass him in front of the other guys. We hugged good-bye and I said through my tears, “We love you, we'll miss you, and we'll pray for you every day.”

I thought that was a hard day--mercifully not knowing that in less than six and a half years we would have to leave him behind in a grave in Michigan.

Layton was not one to eagerly anticipate new challenges and adventures. Leaving home for college was a bit frightening for him. But in a couple of weeks the tone of his phone conversations changed. The wonderful, loving Dordt community was becoming a comfortable home-away-from-home for him.

It was marvelous watching him grow into new friendships, excel in band and choir, and mature spiritually. Soon Layton loved being at Dordt, and it was obvious that he belonged there. He always wanted us to attend every concert and talent night he was involved in. And we didn't miss very many. We were there so often that one friend of ours said we should just get an apartment in Sioux Center. Those were happy times, and we delighted in the goodness of God.

God also led Layton to find his wife at Dordt. Layton and Heidi Petersen discovered each other when he was a senior and she was a junior. They were married in New Brighton, Minnesota on July 17, 1999.

Layton taught junior high and high school choral and instrumental music in Prinsburg, Minnesota, for one year and then Layton and Heidi moved to Grand Rapids so Heidi could attend Calvin Seminary. Layton became the choral and instrumental music teacher at Lansing Christian School. He disliked the long commute to Lansing, but he loved the kids and he loved teaching. And he was good at it. So many people in Prinsburg and Lansing said their kids loved him and learned much from him. They learned from him not only musically but also from his Christian example. He was a friend to the friendless; he was always an encourager; he loved unconditionally.

Layton had become a composer during the last year and a half. Some of his words of his bring us comfort:

    But I have trust in your unfailing love.
    I rejoice in your saving power.
    I will sing and dance and laugh forever.
    You are with me in my darkest hour.

From another song:
When darkness drifts around you,
    and your eyes close in sleep,
    The Lord watches over every breath you take.
And when death comes near to bring you home,
    you have no need to fear.
Layton's life was taken as the result of a tragic accident on his way to Lansing on December 8. People all over joined us in praying for a miracle for Layton, but that was not in God's plan. Layton died late on December 11. He was only twenty-four, such a promising career ahead of him, so much to look forward to.

Our initial shock and wrenching heartache have given way to an all-pervading sadness. We are thankful that God gave Layton to us for twenty-four years, and for so many wonderful memories. Even though we do not understand God's timing, we know God is sovereign and in control of everything that happens here on earth. He is a loving God and understands our pain. We know He will carry us through this difficult time.

We thank all of those in the Dordt community who remembered us with cards, notes of encouragement, and prayers. The love and concern of Christian friends have truly overwhelmed and humbled us.         

Seeking God's peace,
Ruth (De Vries) De Vries
Class of '69

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