Pat Boone family: Faith sustained us through tragedy

Prayer and, at times, medical marijuana have proved essential for Lindy Boone Michaelis as she cares for her son, who was severely injured in a three-story fall through a skylight a dozen years ago.

“I’m very grateful that this is available legally for Ryan right now,” Michaelis told Matt Lauer Wednesday on TODAY, where she was joined by her father, Pat Boone, and sister Debby Boone.

While her son is “so much better than anybody had ever predicted,” he relies on medical marijuana because of an involuntary reaction he has when seeing men he does not know.

“It’s really a fight-or-flight part of the brain. He feels threatened by other men, so we were kind of limited as to where we could go,” Michaelis explained. “He’s great with our family, with the men in our family, but when I’m able to give him some little bit of brownie, a little bit of chocolate (with medical marijuana), something that calms his anxiety, we can go to church.”

Pat Boone was second only to Elvis Presley as a chart-topping pop singer in the 1950s and early '60s, and daughter Debby Boone sang one of the biggest hits of the late '70s, "You Light Up My Life." The Boone family toured the country singing gospel and pop tunes during the 1960s and 1970s. The family is deeply religious.

Michaelis said her faith played a key role when she learned about her son’s accident. She was vacationing in Spain in 2001 when sister Debby called with devastating news: Michaelis' son Ryan Corbin, then 24, had gone to sunbathe on the roof of his apartment building when he accidentally stepped through a skylight.

“We were, like, heavily on prayer. When I was in Spain, I was so grateful for the gift of prayer. I couldn’t get to my son for 24 hours, so the prayer was vital,” said Michaelis, who wrote about the experience in her book, “Heaven Hears.”

A turning point for the family came when Michaelis' father Pat was invited by longtime friend Larry King to appear on his popular CNN talk show. With Ryan in a coma and on life support, Pat and Michaelis appeared on King’s show to appeal for prayers and support. “We wanted everybody, anywhere, to pray with us,” Pat Boone told Lauer on Wednesday.

While the long recovery and ordeal that followed might have shaken the faith of others, Boone said he never questioned what happened. God doesn’t cause accidents, but allows them to happen, he said.

“There are consequences to actions, but God says, ‘I’ll go through it with you,’" Boone said. "He did not even prevent his own son’s death, because there was a purpose in it."

Michaelis said her son has made great strides since his accident.

“He is happy, he talks, he eats. He is getting better in his movements all the time, more and more cognitive,” she said. “He reads. He’s funny, he makes us laugh.”

Debby Boone told Lauer she believes the experience has strengthened the family.

“We united. We supported each other. And there was something so incredibly beautiful about it. It strengthened rather than tore us apart,” she said. “I think it made us all a lot stronger, and my sister has become my hero in the way that she has been Ryan’s greatest advocate in her courage.”

To read an excerpt from Lindy Boone Michaelis' "Heaven Hears," click here.