Popular U.S. radio broadcaster Delilah Rene – known to all as just Delilah – is one of the best presenters in her field. Millions of listeners tune into her syndicated talk-radio and request show every night. She is the upbeat “Queen of Sappy Love Songs,” and always provides positivity and support for people calling into her program. But in October 2017, the 57-year-old Oregonian was the one in need of support – and lots of it. Delilah is no stranger to tragedy, but it had struck again, and in one of the worst possible ways.
If you can recall the romantic 1993 Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan film Sleepless in Seattle, you may remember the Delilah rumor concerning one of its pivotal players. In the film, the DJ character who links the protagonists, Dr. Marcia Featherstone, played by Caroline Aaron, was reputedly based on Delilah. The story may very well be true, as the Seattle residing radio star has been a cultural touchstone for a very long time. If you were to ask the average American to name a female radio host, Delilah would probably be the first person to pop into their head.
Delilah is so popular that she has gained the nickname “Radio’s Oprah,” which is high praise indeed. Her nightly show is carried by 150 radio stations across the U.S. and typically captivates up to eight million listeners across the week. The shows audience mainly consists of women in the age range of 25 to 54 years old. Delilah’s warm, comforting voice is credited by many for attracting such a large listenership. It seems like an awful lot of people can’t help but listen whenever she dishes out advice.
Notably, whenever the personality offers counsel and consoling words to her listeners, she is always sincere and eager to share her own troubles. Delilah has been married no less than four times, and three of those unions ended in divorce. Speaking to People magazine in February 2017, she described her first husband as a “complete alcoholic and womanizer.” She had married him at the tender age of 22, just one year after meeting him.
He was the father of her first child, Isaiah, and African-American. Sadly, this presented a problem for Delilah’s parents. Her mom and dad actually disowned the young woman for marrying outside her race. If that wasn’t difficult enough to come to terms with, something even harder to deal with was soon to come. At the age of 25, Delilah was devastated by the loss of her elder brother and her sister-in-law. They both tragically died in a plane crash on their way to visit her.
After divorcing her first husband, Delilah fell into a series of whirlwind romances, none of which lasted too long. Indeed, some of them were mercifully short. “At 28, I was married for less than two months to a man who turned out to be a cocaine and heroin user,” she revealed to broadcaster CNN in 2012. But although there was a lot of pain in Delilah’s life, there were some rewards to be had as well. While simultaneously building her radio career, she ended up being a mother to 13 children.
Three of these – the aforementioned Isaiah, Shaylah, and Zack – were her biological children; the other ten she adopted. Two of these were orphans from Ghana, three were refugees from Liberia, and four came from the foster care system in the U.S. It takes a truly remarkable person to adopt even one child, so taking on ten is downright extraordinary.
For many years, Delilah lived in happiness with her large family just outside Seattle. She had bought an enormous house for herself and her children, married again, and eventually became a grandmother of nine. But then, a terrible tragedy struck the family. One of her adopted boys, 16-year-old Sammy, died in 2012 after suffering complications arising from his sickle cell anaemia.
Naturally, Delilah was utterly distraught, as any mother would be. At the time, she posted a heart-rending tribute to her boy on her Facebook page. She wrote, “My son Sammy passed from this world today into heaven, but he left behind a piece of his amazing soul in all that met him… He was a precious, precious young man and I praise the Lord that I was allowed to be bathed in Sammy’s love as his ‘MommaBear.’”
After Sammy’s death, his mom and the family slowly picked up the pieces and got on with their lives. Delilah continued with her hugely successful radio career, and in 2016 she celebrated two decades on the air. But sadly tragedy was still not yet done with her. In October 2017, another terrible event struck Delilah – her son, Zack, ended his life.
Losing a child to suicide is possibly the most painful things that can happen to a parent. When that child is only 18 – as Zack was – it can only make it worse. Delilah spoke of her grief in a Facebook message informing her 1.4 million followers of what had happened. She told them, “My dear friends, I need to share some devastating news with you. In the early morning hours, Tuesday, October 3, my son Zachariah took his life.”
The devastated mom continued, “My heart is broken beyond repair and I cannot fathom how to go on… But I have to believe he is at peace with the Lord and that God will get us through.” It is not surprising that she mentioned God; Delilah is very much a woman of faith, and has been for some time. The radio presenter was not raised in a religious household, but found the solace of Christianity at one of her lowest points.
After the first couple of major tragedies in Delilah’s young life – losing her sibling and her marriage in short succession – she found herself alone and contemplating suicide. But during that testing time, she returned to her car one day to find a stranger had placed a copy of the New Testament on the windshield. Delilah decided to go to church, and soon embraced Christ.
So, as we have seen, Delilah knows all about depression and how a person can be tempted to take their own life. She was just fortunate enough that an anonymous person offered her an alternative. It is truly sad that her son wasn’t also able to find a solution to his troubles. Delilah ended her Facebook post by writing, “Please pray for my beloved Zacky, and I will pray for all suffering from this debilitating disease called depression.”
Delilah also told her online followers that although Zack had been “treated, counseled, and embraced fiercely by family and friends while battling depression,” it hadn’t been enough. The boy’s illness had simply proven too powerful. Zack had fallen into a downward spiral after experiencing a traumatic car accident in late 2016. Physical illness and relationship issues had compounded his problems. Sadly, he never overcame them despite therapy and the love and support of his family.
In October, 2017, Delilah gave an interview to People magazine about her son’s suicide. She publicly discussed her personal loss in order to raise awareness of depression. The radio star told the publication a little about the letter Zack had left behind. She said, “His goodbye note did not mention sadness, anger, angst or depression, just a pressing madness about feeling like this world was not his home.”
But Delilah made sure to talk about the sort of person Zack had been, instead of focusing too much on his death. “He was my wild child; 13 broken bones, umpteen trips to the hospital with appendicitis, tonsillitis, a fractured skull. He was wild but so so so sweet,” she told People. “He was a faithful friend to the outcast and the troubled.”
Delilah went on to say that since her son’s passing she had been inundated with messages from people who had benefited from knowing him. She said, “Dozens of his friends have written to me and told me he was like a counselor to them.” One person, the mother of one of Zack’s friends, had told her that the young man had even intervened to help save her daughter who had been battling depression and anorexia.
Unsurprisingly, Delilah has had to take a leave of absence in order to deal with the terrible event. “I will be absent from the radio and on social media for a time as I grieve and try to process this loss with my family,” she wrote on Instagram. “In the meantime we’ll be playing some of my favorite shows from the recent past.”
Although Delilah has so far been able to handle everything life has thrown at her, it is heartbreaking to see her in such pain. Aaron Crisler, Delilah’s friend and representative also spoke to People magazine. He said, “The lady who is there for everyone else every single night now needs our love and our prayers sent right back to her.” Hopefully, Zack’s death will be the last massive tragedy Delilah has to endure.