Authored by: Linda Flowers, Women's small group leader at The Church of Brook Hills
With every passing November we are reminded of a special birthday—a reminder of what we’ve lost...
In so many ways, it seems like we were just celebrating our daughter on her 15th birthday. It was hard for us to contain our pride and enthusiasm in celebrating this gracious gift from God! She was so excited to reach this milestone because it meant she was at her first step towards gaining independence. So, the revered driver’s permit was soon obtained.Our Melanie was so full of life and determination! She was unashamed in her strong conviction to speak truth and share the Gospel with those God placed in her path.
As Spring Break rolled around a few months later, my husband and I decided to visit our parents in west Alabama, but little did we know what was in store for us. Our visit was especially good with our parents. They were so proud of our children and so thankful to have some quality time with all of us. As we prepared to leave our parents hometown and travel to south Alabama to visit my brother and his family, Melanie began to complain of a bad headache. The pain grew progressively worse as we traveled south through a rural part of the state. There were no hospitals in the small towns we drove through, so we traveled on thinking we would take her to the hospital upon our arrival in Mobile. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to Mobile before she lost consciousness. By the grace of God we were able to flag down an ambulance. They got her to the small hospital nearby, however, her condition was declining rapidly. While there, she quit breathing and had to be airlifted to the hospital in Mobile. As we drove to Mobile in a state of shock without our girl, God carried us safely there. Upon arriving at the hospital, we were escorted back to the ICU, where we discovered our daughter had been placed on life support. It was completely unbearable to think our healthy child could possibly be so gravely ill.
As the next five days unfolded, Melanie’s condition worsened quickly. All the while, we continued to hold out hope that God would miraculously heal her and bring her back to us. In the midst of all the heartache and tragedy, our gracious Father provided for us in ways that only He can. His presence was almost palpable—the Holy Spirit was “thick” in that place.
He assembled a body of believers to surround and encourage us. Friends and family came from hours away to be with us for our entire hospital stay. Pastors from local churches heard about our situation and came to minister to us. At one point, eight pastors showed up and prayed over Melanie as we shared a time of worship in her hospital room. The doctors and nurses were in complete awe of the presence of joy in our worship, even in the face of such tragedy. They asked how we could have deep peace and not be full of bitterness in light of what we were facing—it was an incredible opportunity for sharing the hope we have in Christ. The other people in the ICU waiting room were amazed at the body of Christ at work in ministering to us over those horrific days of waiting. God was already at work redeeming this immense trial for our good and His glory.
Many miraculous events took place that week as God continued to show up in ways we never expected. One of the most precious to me was on the day that I was struggling terribly with the idea that I might never get to tell my daughter how much I loved her again. Melanie was a typical teenager, who was strong-willed and butted heads with her mother often. I desperately needed to know without a doubt that she knew how much I loved her, but my sweet girl was unconscious and couldn’t hear me. As I was crying out to God for help, Melanie’s discipleship teacher appeared in the room with me. She had driven for 6 hours to be with me because the Lord had told her to come. She walked around the bed to the other side and asked what I was dealing with at that moment. I explained my struggle to her, and she said, “Linda, Melanie did know how much you loved her, and she loved you so very much!” Suddenly, she gasped and pointed to a tear that had rolled out of Melanie’s eye and down her cheek at the very moment she told me how much Melanie loved me. Our gracious Father had done the impossible on my behalf to assure me of my daughter’s love and that all was well between us.
The day we couldn’t imagine came when we were told that Melanie had reached the point of brain death. She was gone. We had to give our permission for them to turn off the life support machines. That was not possible for me! Under no circumstances could I even consider letting go of her. I spent the next day holding her and crying out to the Lord to give me strength and peace with the inevitable. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, I went from a place of total denial and refusal to a posture of complete surrender and worship. He was sufficient for my need!
He didn’t choose to answer our prayer the way we had hoped. Our precious daughter ended up going to be with her Savior just 5 days after the onset of her illness. An autopsy revealed that her carotid artery “fractured” for unknown reasons. Many doctors reviewed her case to try to determine a cause, to no avail. Enabled by God’s grace, I began my journey to move forward in His purposes for my life without Melanie—to trust His sovereignty over all things and His goodness to me, even when it didn’t make sense to me in my limited understanding.
I am a different person than I was before. My dependence on the Lord and my intimacy with Him are indescribably deeper and completely different that anything I had ever known. He is my strength, my comfort, my Rock, my Source, and my Redeemer.
“But the LORD has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge.” -Psalm 94:22
Am I over our loss? No, I will never be “over it” on this side of eternity-but God’s grace alone, i have been able to move forward to what His plan for my life includes. He has restored my joy—something I never dreamed would happen. Am I always okay with it? No, I would give anything to have her back! However, I realize that His ways are MUCH higher than our ways.
“"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD.”-Isaiah 55:8
He has never failed me or forsaken me--even when I couldn’t understand His plan.
“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."-Deut. 31:8
I often tell people that I am living proof that God CAN and WILL carry us through the darkest of days and experiences that we must face on this earth. He is faithful beyond comprehension and loving beyond comparison, and He is totally worthy of all our trust and praise. To Him alone be glory!
I often have people tell me that they just don’t know what to say to someone that is going through tragedy or trial. The worst thing you can do is to do nothing. You don’t need to have eloquent words or just the right anecdotal advice. It is most important to just be there to listen and to show you care. God uses even our most feeble attempts in powerful ways to extend His loving care to those in need. He is able to make all grace abound to us, whether we are the hurting or the helper.
“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”-2 Cor. 9:8