Kay Warren, wife of Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren, has written a heartbreaking letter to their late son Matthew in honor of his birthday, telling him "I can't wait to hug you tightly and kiss your face again."
"Happy Birthday in Heaven, Matthew," Kay wrote in a July 18 Facebook post. "I wish I was making you biscuits and gravy for birthday breakfast like I did on your 8th birthday or organizing your birthday party with friends later in the day."
Instead, Kay said, she "watched a butterfly merrily fluttering around your headstone at the cemetary, played your favorite Five Iron Frenzy album on my phone and reminisced with Daddy about the day you were born."
Kay admitted that she and her husband, author of The "Purpose Driven Life", "have conflicting memories" of Matthew's birth.
"He says I was delirious and therefore not a reliable witness - all I know is I was SO happy to welcome you to our family," she said. "For the next 27 years you made us laugh, you made us cry."
"Today we're cheering each other up with Matthew stories, sayings and songs - who could forget your classic song 'I'm naked under my clothes?'" she said. "Oh, Buddy......your mama is missing you! I can't wait to hug you tightly and kiss your face again. Yet....celebrating with you the life that is truly life. I love you. Mom."
Matthew Warren struggled with mental illness, deep depression and suicidal thoughts throughout his life. Over the years, he had been treated by America's best doctors, had received counseling and medication and been the recipient of numerous prayers from others, his father said.
Sadly, the young man died at the age of 27 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on April 5, 2013.
The Warrens, who co-founded Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California in 1980, have since pushed to bring mental health to the forefront of Saddleback's ministries. Today, it is a major part of the church's care initiative.
Kay also travels across the country to speak about her experience and advocate early treatment and intervention.
"I really can't even count in the last 2½ years how many people have come up to me and said Matthew's suicide has caused them to decide not to take their lives," she told CNN. "They watched our family and saw the devastation that we've experienced. Some have said to me, 'I don't care how bad it gets. I can't do that to my mom and dad, my wife or my kids.' And then there are those that have lost someone to suicide, but our story of resilience and hope has given them the courage to get out of bed."
She added that some days, her faith is the only thing that keeps her going.
"When everything in my body is telling me to stay in my room and curl up in despair, it is God that has carried me and continues to carry me."
Kay previously told The Christian Post that she maintains "certain hope" that her son is in Heaven after taking his own life.
"God's promised us that Matthew's salvation was safe and secure. Matthew gave his life to Jesus when he was a little boy. And so, I'm absolutely 100 percent confident based on the work of Jesus that Matthew is in Heaven," Kay told CP. "And that's a certain hope."
Kay went on to say that her optimism for her son's life was "fragile" in the years leading up to his suicide because of his struggle with mental illness.
"I had a very fragile hope when Matthew was alive. I wanted things that I couldn't control. I wanted him to be well. I wanted him to be healed. I wanted him to live a normal life like his brother and his sister, and like most people that I see. Like we do," she said.
"I have a certain hope that God will make all things right and He will rebuild the ruins of our lives. I'm absolutely certain that I will join Matthew in Heaven because Jesus is alive. I'm gonna live. Those are things that are absolutely certain. I don't have any doubt over them. And so my hope is stronger than it ever has been," Kay added.