Matthew 18:3: "And He said, 'Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'"
12 year old Annabel Beam's inspiring story of faith and healing is recounted by her mother, Christy, in a heart-wrenching new memoir, Miracles From Heaven. In an exclusive interview with the Gospel Herald, Christy opened up about her daughter's miraculous experience, her family's journey of faith, and why she finds comfort in the promise of Heaven.
GH: You recently released a book, Miracles From Heaven, about your daughter Annabels' journey to heaven and her recovery from seemingly impossible circumstances. Can you tell me about it?
Christy: When Annabel was about four, she started having "tummy trouble." When she was five, she fully obstructed and had a complete abdominal surgery. About nine days later, she re-obstructed and we almost lost her. But she rallied, and after 21 days in the hospital she finally got out. We then took her to a specialist in Boston, who put Annabel on about ten medications--and those helped her system run poorly, at best. She was severe as far as pain went; it was very chronic and all the time. She really just lived on the couch with the heating pad on her stomach, and when she went to school, she would bring heating pads to keep for her stomach as well. The last time we went to Boston for treatment, Annabel was nine, and she had given up. It was 2011, and she told me, 'Mommy, I wanna die. I wanna go to heaven and live with Jesus where there is no more pain.' I was shocked. I said, 'Annabel, you know I would be devastated--you can't do that.' She had thought it through; she had a plan at just nine years old, and that terrified me. She said, 'No mommy, you kill yourself too, you can come with me, and daddy can take care of my sisters.' Annabel was done fighting after that Boston trip; she had been hospitalized for a total of 60 days in 2011.
One particular day after we got home, Annabel was laying on the couch with a heating pad on her tummy, and I was doing laundry, and [my daughter] Abby, who can be quite persistent, said 'C'mon Anna, I want you to come play with us, please please please, we're climbing trees!' So Annabel came in and told me, 'I think I'm gonna try to play.' I said, 'Are you sure feel up to it?' And she said, 'yeah, if I don't' feel well I'll come back.'
So she went out, and that's when the Big Event happened. I was doing laundry, and as far as I knew, all was well. Then, Abby came inside, frantic, and said, 'Annabel fell in tree, you gotta come now!' She was physically pulling, grabbing me as I was trying to get my shoes on. I thought Annabel had climbed too high and had fallen a little bit and was stuck between branches, because she was so weak, so sickly, that logically, she couldn't have gone far. I never thought anything like what happened could have happened.
We got to the tree, and [my younger daughter] Adeline was digging a huge hole into the tree with a piece of metal. I said, 'What are you doing?' She said, 'I'm digging Annabel out--she can't breathe, she needs air.' I said, 'Where is Annabel?' I was looking on the ground, looking through the branches, and I couldn't see her. All of the sudden, it was like everything stopped, and all I could hear was the two girls screaming in unison, 'She's in the tree!' They were pointing to the bottom of this massive Cottonwood tree on our property. Abby pulled me to the other side of the tree, and there was a hole, 30 feet up in the air, where a large branch had broken off and had fallen to the ground. She pointed to that hole, and she said, 'She went into that hold and fell down, she's in the tree." Once again, I thought, there's no way she's in the bottom of the tree, she's just stuck right inside.
Kevin was at work only a few minutes away, so I called him and told him what happened, and he said 'Ok, I'm on my way.' Like me, he thought there was no way the tree could be dead, because it had bloomed the previous Spring and every Spring before it.
When Kevin got home, he climbed up a 24 foot ladder and looked into the tree with a flashlight. The light went down--all the way down, and his stomach sank. He just physically let go of the rope that he was going to have her grab and pull her out, and he looked down at me and said, 'Call 911.' I knew then this was really bad.
As I called 911, I could hear him yelling, 'Anna, please respond, please answer me, raise your arm, look at me!' I knew he was scared, because it was out of character for him. Finally, Annabel did a very creepy, weird arm raise, in the air and back down. That was it. She never looked at him, never raised her head, or made eye contact.
Not long after, the first responders arrived. It took them a little while to wrap their minds around the reality, but then they began to devise a plan. However, they couldn't get her to respond, and she remained unresponsive for quite some time. They thought about lowering a fireman in, but he was too big. Then they considered cutting the tree down, but it was so old it would have crumbled inside and crushed her.
Finally, she came around, and she started responding back. When she did, they were able to lower a rope to her and she was able to follow their commands. They said it was eerie how peaceful and calm she was; she never asked 'Where's my mommy?' she never cried, she was never frantic, she just did exactly what they told her to do. Annabel was a big part in her own rescue; she assisted them in getting her out, which took three hours. The responders told us to prepare for the worst, because they'd never had anyone fall 30 feet and not suffer paralysis or broken bones.
At the hospital, they did all kinds of scans and x-rays. The doctor came in and told us, 'Jesus was with that little girl in the tree,' because once again, he mentioned that no one had ever fallen 30 feet and not suffered paralysis or broken bones. He said, 'She does appear to have a minor concussion, but otherwise she's fine. We'd like to keep her here overnight just to make sure nothing internal happened that we're missing.' This was nothing new; Annabel's shortest hospital stay had been five days. I thought the fall would compound everything we had lived through with her stomach and intestinal disorder.
I went home late, got to bed, and gathered all of the things Annabel would need to be hospitalized again, and went back that next morning. I walked in, and she was sitting up, laughing and giggling and talking to Kevin. He told me, 'We're leaving. She's fine, the last place she needs to be is in a hospital.' The last connection Annabel had with the hospital was that she wanted to die, so Kevin said, 'We have to get her out of here because she's at a good place mentally, and physically she's fine--let's get her out of here.' The doctors said it was fine, so we left.
Because Annabel had talked about wanting to die, we previously felt she needed to be around family and loved ones, so we decided to spend new years in Corpus Christi, TX. Despite the recent events, we decided to go ahead with the vacation. We were headed to Corpus in the truck, and we were driving down the road. It was quiet, and we were all absorbing what had happened. Suddenly, Annabel turned to me and said, 'Mommy, I went to heaven when I was in that tree.' All I said was, 'Really.' That's all I could get out of my mouth. She continued, 'Yeah I sat on Jesus' lap and He said it wasn't my time.' She went on to share everything that she had experienced and everything that He had said and how it had made her feel. Jesus had said, 'Annabel, the firemen are gonna get you out, and when they do, there will be nothing wrong with you.' She told him, 'I don't wanna go, I wanna stay with you, where there is no pain.' She didn't hurt in Heaven--she felt the best she'd ever felt her whole life. Jesus responded, 'I know you do, Annabel, but I have plans for you on earth that you can't complete in Heaven. But I will send my guardian angel to protect you, and she's going to light the tree for you and stay with you.' I asked her later, 'Is that why you were so calm?' And she said, 'Yes, I already knew the firemen were going to get me out because God told me they were, I already knew that there was going to be nothing wrong with me, because he told me that, and I have my gaurdian angel with me, so why would I get upset? There's nothing to be upset about.' I asked her, 'Did you and the angel talk?' She said, 'No, we just sat peacefully together.'
The firemen had said, 'It was so eerie how calm she was.' They said, "We've never had a rescue even half of the severity of hers, and a child not be frantic and hysterical--but she was so calm and controlled.' It all made so much sense.
After she shared this with us, we begin to notice that she was playing more, she was happier, and she stopped talking about dying. She stopped laying on the couch with a heating pad and asking for pain medication. We began weaning her off of the medications because her body didn't show that it needed them anymore. Eventually, she stopped needing the medicine entirely. We went back to the specialist for the last time, and he looked at her and said, 'She's asymptomatic, she's on zero medications, she doesn't need my help anymore, she's released.' They can't explain it, but they all agree that she's fine--there's nothing wrong with her, she no longer has any of the disorders that she had before.
GH: How did this experience affect your faith and the faith of your family? Do you have a more eternal perspective on a day to day basis after seeing your daughter's miraculous healing?
Christy: We always have been a very faith-driven family; the girls accepted Jesus at a very young age. Even when Annabel was sick and hurting, we knew God had a plan. I struggled at times, but Annabel remained faithful. We were confident in knowing who Christ was and and the plans that God had for us, but now, I can look back and see God's daily faithfulness and how He was working out His plans. It's led me to think-- am I doing those acts of faithfulness back to Him? Am I daily showing Him my love to Him? I believe I've grown, moving faithfully each day. As a family, we've healed more than anything because it was such a hard journey for every one of us. We've all come full circle, and maybe it's affirmed a little bit more of who we always believed God was. I don't feel like there was ever any big revelation of 'we believed it but now we know it'--no, we believed it all along.
GH: Annabel is physically healed, but as her mother, have you healed from the emotional toll of having a sick child for so many years?
Christy: I feel like I have, but sometimes I'll overprocess things the girls will say, I'll think, 'Is there something deeper in there I need to evaluate?' I don't want my girls to ever get where Annabel got. The thought that she wanted to die didn't just come to her one day--there were a lot of things that I missed that I could have helped her work through before she got to that point. I don't want that to ever happen again; I don't want them to go from A to Z and me miss it. I want to hear them and work through every piece with them.
GH: There's been a lot of controversy surrounding stories of heaven, particularly after Alex Malarkey revealed that the events in his book, The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven hadn't actually happened. What would you say to those who will criticize your family's story and question its authenticity?
Christy: My favorite response to that question is Annabel's, and she says, 'I don't say anything to those who criticize and don't believe. What I do say is, this is my story and it is real and I am living proof of a miracle. I'm not going to shove it down your throat, but if you allow it to, it could change your life, it could help you to have a relationship with Jesus if you don't have one, and it could strengthen who He is for your relationship if you allow it to. But if you don't that's fine, but it is my story.' I feel like that's the best response in the world from a 12 year old.
GH: What inspired you to share this story with others?
Christy: About two years ago, God told me, 'Christy, I want you to write a book.'I thought, 'Oh that's cute, you're so funny, God, I can't write a book.' A few days after this back and forth with God, a friend met me for lunch, and out of the blue said, 'God is laying it on my heart that you need to write a book about your journey with Annabel.' I said, 'You know that's weird, and I feel like He's been telling me that as well.' A few weeks went by, and we sat down again, and she said, 'Have you started your book?' I just laughed, and she said, 'Christy, it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when, and God wants you to start.' I then had this overwhelming feeling of 'I've got to get it out.' So I went out and bought a laptop--I didn't even own a laptop--and I just started, and it just flooded from my soul. It was very cathartic.
GH: How is Annabel today? How has she responded to the hype surrounding her story?
Christy: She is so laid back and go with the flow, and she just thinks it's wonderful. I talked to her in the beginning when I started writing the book and I said, 'You know, Annabel, I don't know what's going to happen, I don't know what the plan will be. I don't know if five people will read it or five thousand, but you know, Anna, I feel like I need to do this.' And she said, 'Oh you definitely need to do this, it definitely needs to be shared with the world. Everybody needs to know who God is and that God is faithful.'
GH: Miracles From Heaven will be turned into a movie next year by megachurch pastor T.D. Jakes and preacher/film producer, Devon Franklin. Can you tell more about it?
Christy: I can tell you what I know! [laughs] It's slated to release Easter of 2016, and they're hoping to start shooting in July. Right now they're doing casting calls and people are auditioning for the various roles of the family.
GH: In his book, Heaven, Randy Alcorn says that when Christians go to Heaven, we will experience "true freedom, a righteous freedom that never sins." Based on your daughter's experience, would you say that's accurate?
Christy: Annabel said that in Heaven, she felt free from pain, free from hurt, and that's why she wanted to stay. She told Jesus, 'I don't wanna go back, I wanna stay,' because there was freedom. She was free from hurt, from agony, from that albatross around her neck. She was completely free. For a little girl who loves her family so dearly to say she wanted to stay--that was huge. So, yes, I feel like that's definitely accurate.
GH: What do you hope readers of Miracles From Heaven will take away from your family's experience?
Christy: I hope it provides hope and encouragement to others, but it also reminds them that God is faithful in the little things. It doesn't have to be one big huge grand miracle that happens to help you realize that God is faithful. He is there, He is real, He is active in your life. It is all those small acts of faithfulness that He is trying to show you daily of His love and His reality there for you. It may not mean you get a grand miracle, and that's ok, because sometimes all those little acts of faithfulness that God is showing you daily are miracles themselves.