Charlotte dad celebrates sons’ brief lives, urges forgiveness for driver who caused fatal wreck

Mourners exit Forest Hill Church after a celebration of life for Dobbs and Reed Eddings on Sunday.he two children one a newborn, the other 2 years old were killed in a wreck over the Memorial day weekend
Mourners exit Forest Hill Church after a celebration of life for Dobbs and Reed Eddings on Sunday.he two children one a newborn, the other 2 years old were killed in a wreck over the Memorial day weekend rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

The father of two small children killed in a wreck last weekend celebrated their brief lives Sunday and told more than 800 mourners at Forest Hill Church that he and his wife have forgiven the truck driver who caused the accident.

Gentry Eddings, a worship leader at Forest Hill’s Ballantyne campus, drew both tears and laughter as he shared memories of Dobbs, a happy 2-year-old boy who loved to dance, clap his hands and tap away on anything that could pass for drums, and Reed, a newborn boy delivered during emergency surgery after the four-vehicle wreck north of Wilmington.

Eddings and wife Hadley, who teaches 4-year-olds at Forest Hill, “were able to spend precious moments with him,” the grieving dad said of the baby boy, “holding him in our arms before he went to be with his brother in heaven.”

Sunday’s gathering, which was presided over by senior pastor David Chadwick, was called a celebration, not a funeral, and Eddings told the full house how he and his wife taught Dobbs these words of the 46th Psalm: “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Sometimes, Eddings said, they’d try to get Dobbs to recite the verse for them and he’d be too shy.

But on the day before the accident, as Eddings was preparing to preside over his sister’s beachside wedding, “things were a little hectic,” he said. “It was then that Dobbs’s sweet voice spoke up with a timely reminder. He said, ‘Be still. And know that I am God.’”

Those words from his son not only calmed him and his wife on that wedding day, Eddings said, but Dobbs had “given us the words that would guide us in the storms to come.”

Eddings also said he and his wife have forgiven Matthew Deans, the 28-year-old truck driver from Wilmington who has been charged with two counts of misdemeanor death by vehicle and failure to reduce speed.

“We have, in our hearts, forgiven the man who did this,” he said. “It was not the easiest thing to do, but in some ways it was because we know – Hadley and I – that Jesus Christ has forgiven us our debt. ... So in some ways, it was very easy to forgive a man who made an accident.”

Eddings called on the family, friends and other mourners sitting before him to also forgive Deans “and forgive anyone in your life who you hold anything against.”

‘We will stand with you’

The tragic story of the Eddings’ loss touched the Charlotte community and beyond. Gentry and Hadley Eddings, both of whom were injured in the wreck, were embraced by the evangelical congregation at Forest Hill, one of Charlotte’s largest churches.

At the end of Sunday’s memorial, Chadwick called the couple onto the stage and asked them to look out at all the people and feel their support.

“I just want you to see the family of God that loves you,” he told the pair as they stood next to him. Then, to the crowd, he asked “Don’t you love them?”

That sparked sustained applause and eventually cheers.

“We will stand with you,” Chadwick told the couple. “We will lift you up in our prayers. We will hug you when we see you. We will walk with you through the grief.”

In a sermon, Chadwick invoked the image of Jesus weeping at the death of his close friend Lazarus. “Jesus hated death,” the pastor told his flock. “He hated what it had done to ransack his father’s once-perfect world.”

But, Chadwick told the parents and those supporting them in their sorrow, the promise of heaven means that this world and its pain are not the end.

“I believe, Gentry and Hadley, with all my heart, that you’ll see your boys again,” their pastor said. “I believe … that Reed and Dobbs Eddings have never been more alive than they are right now.”

How to help

▪ In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to Mission of Hope Haiti, a Christian organization that meets the physical and spiritual needs of Haitian villagers. Visit mohhaiti.org and click Donate Now. Under Choose a Program, select General and type Eddings Family in the Additional Comments box.

▪ Share condolences and prayers by joining the Facebook page Prayers for the Eddings Family.

▪ Send cards to Forest Hill Church, 7224 Park Road, Charlotte, NC 28210.

▪ Contribute to a GoFundMe account that was set up to raise financial support for the Eddings at gofundme.com/vda7q6e.

▪ To send non-monetary gifts or offerings, contact leslie.long@foresthill.org.