In the spring of 2001, Tim and Linda Flowers decided to take their two kids, Melanie (15) and Daniel (11), to visit their families in their hometown of Demopolis, Alabama. They had no way of knowing how their trip would end, nor how God would show Himself faithful during one of the darkest periods of their lives.
During the first part of the week, they stayed with Tim’s parents and decided they would follow Linda’s parents down to Mobile for an Easter production at her brother’s church at the end of the week. Her parents left on Friday, and they planned to follow. Saturday morning, Melanie woke up with a headache. Not thinking too much of it, Linda suggested some tylenol, and they loaded up the car, preparing for their three-hour car ride.
Linda recounts the next series of events that tested them beyond anything they’d experienced previously.
“It was like a progression – every 30 minutes, there was a big difference in the severity of her symptoms. By the time we were just an hour away from Demopolis, Melanie was writhing in pain. We stopped to get medicine, I called the doctor’s office, and they didn’t really know what to do. We thought, ‘She’s got a really bad migraine. We just need to get to Mobile, where there are good doctors and a hospital.’ There really were no hospitals along the way. We thought we’d just persevere, and if needed, take her to the emergency room when we got there.
“About another 45 minutes or so down the road, she lost consciousness. We had no idea where to go. Tim was in the backseat trying to help her, and I was frantically driving. The Lord directed us to a side street where an ambulance just happened to pass by. We flagged them down, and the ambulance took her to a small hospital in Jackson. In the emergency room, the doctor told us we needed to send her on to Mobile. But before the helicopter came to pick her up, she quit breathing.”
Tim, Linda, and Daniel drove the rest of the way to Mobile to meet the helicopter at the hospital. The staff met them at the door, rushed them through paperwork, and took them to see Melanie, who was in the ICU, already on life support.
“They couldn’t take her off life support to run any tests because she would crash every time,” Linda says. “So we just had to pray for a miracle. The Lord assembled a team of people that just completely blew us away. God provided for us. We had friends from Atlanta come stay with us for days, and pastors in Mobile who we didn’t even know came and stayed hours with us at the hospital. The other people in the waiting room, the nurses, and the doctors were just in awe, watching the body of Christ at work on our behalf that whole week, even while they saw our daughter dying. I really believe the Lord used that in a big way in their lives.”
Melanie never regained consciousness. Her organs began shutting down. By Wednesday night her EEG flatlined, meaning brain death, and on Thursday they took her off life support. The funeral was held on Easter Sunday.
“Yet, the Lord was so gracious to us in so many ways,” Linda recalls. “Right after we got home, I was grieving and just in agony, lying on the floor in my bedroom and praying. I needed to know for sure that she was with the Lord. Tim went out to the car to look through everything, and he found a journal that Melanie had kept the three days prior to her becoming ill. It was such an amazing thing to see how the Lord had wooed her to himself.
“The first day, she was just crying out to the Lord that she wanted more of His presence in her life. The second day, you could tell that there was a softening there, that she was starting to praise the Lord for how he was working in her heart. The third day, she was rejoicing at God’s presence seeming so very real to her. I truly believe the journal was a gift for us, to be completely assured of her relationship with the Lord. We don’t grieve as if we have no hope.
Linda continues to describe one of the multiple ways God began to heal them. “The whole church was torn up over Melanie’s death. She was one of the kids in the youth group who was the most involved. She’d seek out kids that were new and draw them in, and she tried to witness to everybody. She was very well-loved.”
Tim adds, “There are introverts, and there are extraverts, and then there was Melanie. She was just beyond anything I’ve ever seen – biased as I am.”
“The week that she was sick,” Linda continues, “they were having a revival at our church, and the youth showed up every day an hour or two hours before to pray just for Melanie. It really affected our church in a big way.
“About six weeks after Melanie died, one of the couples in our church decided to start a GriefShare ministry. And at first, we really didn’t feel like we wanted to go. We thought it would just be too hard. I had lost my brother – who I was very close to – when I was 25, and I thought, ‘I’ve been through this before, I don’t need to go to a class where they’re going to tell me how to grieve. I know how to grieve.’ Neither one of us wanted to hear other people’s sad stories, and we kind of had a negative idea of what GriefShare would be. But these were friends of ours who had started this class, and they called us to tell us that they had us in mind when they started it. So we decided to go.”
“After the first time or two, it became apparent very quickly that the Lord was going to use this to help us learn how to grieve in a healthy way, and even bring some healing to our hearts. For both of us, I think that was probably the single most effective thing in our healing after we lost her. Having that ministry and those people to share with and pour our hearts out to, helped us realize that the things we were struggling with were common to everyone walking through grief.”
Tim shares how that led to the idea of starting something similar here at Brook Hills. “About six months ago I was talking with an old friend and pastor who led Melanie’s funeral service, and he asked if we’d seen the new GriefShare material. He said, ‘They’ve completely redone it, and it’s deeper and better than ever before.’ He encouraged us to take a look.
“We’ve learned so much. When you go through something like this, sometimes it’s all you can do to just breathe and get up in the morning. We’ve learned that people grieve at different paces. I told Linda, ‘I think we need to do this GriefShare.’ And now we really feel like this is what we’re supposed to do.”
Linda says, “I look back at those seasons, and I realize those are the times that I’ve pressed into Christ and seen that He is my breath. He is my strength and my rock. Our relationship with the Lord is so different than it would’ve been if none of those things had ever happened. Yes, this is really hard and something we wish had never happened. Yet, the Lord is faithful and able to carry us through that. He is even able to restore our joy.”
“It’s the tragedies in life,” Tim expounds, “the hard times, where we really see God. We see God in our sorrow, and that’s when we meet Him.”
“I had heard reports about you, but now my eyes have seen you.” – Job 42:5
Tim and Linda Flowers met and grew up in Demopolis, Ala. They’ve been married for 37 years, and in 2008, a job promotion brought them from Atlanta to Birmingham. They began attending Brook Hills, where they immediately felt God leading them to stay. Linda currently serves as a Women’s Small Group leader.
Tim and Linda are leading a GriefShare night at Brook Hills in November called, “Surviving the Holidays.” Visit brookhills.org/survivinggrief to learn more.