Ella was only ten years old when she found herself lying on the cold, hard tile of her church welcome center. Tears dripped from her chin as she cried out to her two sisters that she had lost her vision. What began with an abrupt pain in her head was quickly becoming debilitating. Without warning, an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) had ruptured in her brain. The bleed was massive and began shutting down her faculties within minutes. First, her eyesight. Then her speech. Soon Ella’s ability to move her head and control her extremities had been lost. She was dying, and there was nothing anyone could do to save her.
When paramedics arrived, they struggled to understand what had occurred. Through facial expressions, Ella showed her disapproval to smelling salts as they strapped her to a stretcher and rushed her through the glass doors of the church toward the ambulance. However, this would only become known as her final response to outward stimulations. Before she could reach the hospital, she lost her ability to breathe on her own, as the catastrophic bleed spread further throughout her brain.
Upon Ella’s arrival the hospital staff began to intubate her, as they wrestled to understand what was happening inside this sweet, innocent little girl. The CAT scan soon revealed the AVM that was located near her brainstem, as one family’s routine, church activity-filled Wednesday soon became a nightmare.
This story is one of tragedy, loss, and devastation. It is a story of heartache and mourning. Ella’s untimely death destroyed the innocence of childhood for her brother and sisters and shook the very foundation of faith that her parents spent their entire married life building and modeling for their family. Where is God’s love in the sudden death of a seemingly healthy child? Where is God’s mercy in the midst of an unimaginable tragedy? Where is God’s goodness when a family devoted to serving Him is forced to let go of their baby girl?
After struggling to answer these difficult questions in real life and in real time, we felt the responsibility and inspiration to commit to paper the book that you now read. Though hundreds of people were praying for Ella, her story does not end with miraculous healing. Instead, it is a story that is still being written through the lives of those she left behind. Her story is personal to her family, but many other families have stories of their own. Tragedy comes when we least expect it, and it changes the core of who we are. Ella’s story is the basis for this book, but this book is not Ella’s story. Instead, it is your story and the story of anyone who has experienced the devastating effect of tragedy.
We have just released a new Bible Study based on Jeff Bumgardner and Dr. Stephen Cutchins new book. Green Hearts: God’s Goodness in the Worst of Times. This study is a reflection of grief and is response to the tragic loss of Jeff Bumgardner’s 10-year old daughter Ella.
These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of the Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.
Lesson #1 — Grief
Lesson #2 — Pain
Lesson #3 — Questions
Lesson #4 — Answers
Lesson #5 — Surprises
Lesson #6 — Grace
Lesson #7 — Faith