The Brave Heart
HE'LL GET YOU THROUGH IT
A true story* by Jenny Baxter
Stephen walked in from work with some news. “Anne and Tom are going to start coming to Bible study on Wednesdays.” As he was the Associate Pastor at our church, we led a thriving little Bible study group that met weekly for a meal, study and prayer.
“That's great!” I said. “I've been wondering whose group they would join.” I pondered on that for a moment. Our new friends had only been married for a few months. “I guess they'll be needing a bit of support after being single for so long.”
“Yeah, and it sounds as though Anne's already miscarried a couple of times.”
That put a new perspective on things. Personally, I knew it was hard to live through a miscarriage, but to manage that as an older woman AND learn to live with someone after decades alone? That was tough.
About four months later, the phone rang early after our first night home with our new baby, Alice. I was more than a little bleary-eyed, so Stephen was the one to reach for the phone. It was Anne. I could make out her distinctive voice coming through the handset. We had seen her with Tom a few days before, when they'd come to visit us in hospital with Alice.
“Oh OK,” Stephen said. “Are you alright? I'll come right over.”
He hung up and looked at me squarely.
“Everything alright?” I asked.
“Tom's dead,'” he said.
“I don't know. That's all she could say. ‘Tom's dead. Tom's dead!' I hope she's wrong.”
A few days earlier Tom and Anne had gazed through the window of the hospital nursery. They picked out the crib with the pink cover and the small card declaring, BAXTER – female. Someone had written ‘Alice Elizabeth' in scrawly blue ballpoint pen at the top. They beckoned to the nurse to bring the crib closer and looked down at her tiny cherubic face with golden hair and rosy cheeks, fast asleep. “Our turn next,” Tom whispered lovingly.
Anne looked up at him, tears in her eyes. “Oh Tom,” she struggled to get the words out. They both knew she was overdue but so far she hadn't been brave enough to go see the doctor. She hesitated, “Isn't she just beautiful? I am so sure the world is not going to end just yet.”
Just a couple of weeks before that they arrived at Bible study with more hope in their eyes than we'd seen for ages. “Tom's written a new song,” Anne announced with enthusiasm. “Can we sing it for you later?”
A talented guitarist and singer/songwriter, I knew Tom hadn't written for a long time. This was a welcome change. God's doing something with Tom, I thought. Maybe we are watching him be healed.
The song spoke of new life, of hope in God, of relying on him to the very end, and even of trusting him with their children. We all cried. To see Tom hopeful about the future again was wonderful. It was like he had re-found his faith. A new zest for life was oozing out of him.
Earlier that week, Stephen mentioned Tom's progress to me. He had been meeting with Tom weekly for a month or so. “It's really been quite powerful,” Stephen said.
“Sorry, what?” My pregnancy brain! I'd zoned out again just when he had been explaining – something.
“I was just saying,” he said with that not-quite-so-patient voice, “those sessions I am having with Tom are so powerful. He's sorting out all sorts of things with his parents and family and other relationships. Stuff that happened years ago.”
“Maybe that dream was a good wake up call,” I wondered out loud.
“Yeah – I reckon. It really impacted him.”
Tom had had a dream about a month previously. Anne was generally as extroverted as Tom was reserved, but not this time. They arrived at Bible study very subdued. I mostly put his low moods down to the medication to control his epilepsy, but wasn't so sure this time.
As we started praying for one another, Tom finally came out with it. “I had a dream,” he said. “Jesus came and told me the world is going to end.” He explained what happened in more detail – it had obviously made a huge impression on him. We all nodded politely, not quite sure how to take his earnest request for prayer. None of us felt the same sense of urgency.
Afterwards, Stephen took Tom aside to talk. He suggested they get together to pray through some things. “That'd be great,” Tom smiled for the first time that evening. “I just feel as though I need to straighten my life out, you know?”
It was around 11am when Stephen rang to confirm Tom had died. Our Bible study that night was obviously quite subdued. Not long after we started, the doorbell rang and I ran to answer it. Anne fell into my arms, a sobbing heap. She couldn't say anything for a while. “Thanks for letting me come, with Alice just home and all.” I held her tighter, reassuring her she was welcome any time.
“It was awful,” she groaned. “Tom had a fit during the night. It's happened before. He told me to let him sleep in, and that he'd take the morning off work.” Her eyes filled with tears, “But he never woke up!” and, “Something else too. I . . . I think I'm pregnant.”
“Oh Anne,” I whispered. She told me about their conversation, when she and Tom had first seen Alice. “We were so excited. It was like we fell in love all over again. But we never found out for sure. I'd better go to the doctor's office tomorrow.” I could see she was terrified about the possibility of miscarrying again.
I spoke the only encouraging words I could think of. “God is good Anne. I am sure he knows what's going to happen. He'll get you through it.”
PostScript: Heartbroken, Anne remained a single mother for a very long time, surrounded first by a loving Christian community and later with extended family nearby. Today Tom and Anne's daughter is a gorgeous 23 year old, who plays guitar and writes songs. Just like her dad.
* Some names have been changed.
Jenny Baxter is married to Stephen, and lives in Hobart Australia. They have five children, including Alice, who amazingly is also a gifted musician teaching piano, vocals and guitar, and is involved in youth ministry. You can listen to Jenny online in the US from 3-6pm EST every Saturday and in Australia 6-9am EST every Sunday.