Doctors are at a loss to explain why 12-year-old Annabel Beam is the picture of health today.
She shouldn’t be. At age 5, Annabel was diagnosed with two rare life-threatening digestive disorders that blocked her intestines.
For years, the Burleson girl’s life was defined by near-constant pain, endless hospital visits, invasive testing and marginally effective treatments. At one point, she told her mother she wished she would die so she could go to heaven, where there would be no more pain.
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But three years ago, in December 2011, something remarkable happened.
Annabel fell headfirst 30 feet into a hollow cottonwood tree, where she was trapped for six hours. But she came away from the ordeal uninjured, telling a story about meeting Jesus in heaven, and she suddenly tested symptom-free.
Annabel’s mother, Christy Wilson Beam, has come to the conclusion that miracle is the only word that applies when explaining Annabel’s recovery.
Annabel’s Boston-based gastroenterologist, Dr. Samuel Nurko, didn’t call it a miracle, but he did release the girl from his care last November, noting that she “is completely asymptomatic, is leading a normal life and is not requiring any therapies.”
Beam tells her daughter’s feel-good story in Miracles From Heaven. The book, out Tuesday, is published by Hachette.
The Sony producing team behind the 2014 movie Heaven Is for Real has already acquired the film rights. It’s tentatively scheduled for release the week of Easter 2016.
We chatted with Beam about the book and about Annabel (whose middle name, fittingly, is Faith).
First things first: How is Annabel doing today?
She is amazing. She is happy and healthy and thriving and on zero medication and eating everything in sight. Her doctors have told us she does not need their care anymore. Not only is she physically well, but she is also well mentally, emotionally and academically. In all areas of her life, she is above and beyond.
Have you ever been given a sound scientific explanation for what prompted her recovery?
They really don’t know. My husband, Kevin, is a veterinarian and very scientifically minded. He went over everything, but he couldn’t come up with anything concrete to explain it.
Annabel’s problems involved nerve damage. Her digestive system would not process solid food because her muscles would not fire synchronically, because the nerves could not give the message to the muscles.
Kevin was thinking, “Well, she did hit her head three times during the fall. Maybe it jostled something in her nervous system.” But the best that anyone can do is guess. All I know is she is asymptomatic, on zero medication and released from the care of a specialist.
You write in the book that you initially resisted using words such as healed and miracle. Were you afraid that if you did, you might jinx it and that Annabel’s symptoms would return?
I literally felt like, “OK, when is the other shoe going to drop?” But I eventually got past that fear. I realized that God doesn’t play that way. He doesn’t say, “Now that I got your hopes up, surprise! That was a good joke, wasn’t it?” God just doesn’t play that way.
What’s the most convincing evidence you have that Annabel went to heaven and came back?
I talk in the book about how I had two miscarriages before we had Annabel. We continued trying — we had faith — because we believed God was going to bless us and that we would be able to have another child. Annabel was that child.
One of the miscarriages, I want to point out, was never a life created. It’s called a blighted ovum. The other was a life that was miscarried. So I find it intriguing that when Annabel talks about going to heaven, she says she saw a little girl and asked who that girl was. And Jesus told her, “That’s your sister.”
I find that interesting because Anna knew I had two miscarriages, but I had never explained that one was a baby and one was not. But Annabel didn’t come back saying, “I saw two little girls.” She says she saw just the one. That made my mouth drop open.
You write that Kevin used a chain saw to carve a cross — “a symbol of both suffering and salvation” — into the trunk of the tree that trapped Annabel. Is it still standing on your property?
Less than two months ago, on a day when we had high, strong winds, the tree fell over. It literally snapped in two. It broke right above where he had carved the cross into it. That part has been cleared away. But the part from the cross down, that’s still standing.
What do your other daughters, 15-year-old Abigail and 10-year-old Adelynn, think of the attention Annabel is getting? They’re not jealous, are they?
My youngest says she’s so grateful to have her sister back. She now has a best friend she can play with all the time. They’re inseparable. Abbie is the one with the very old soul. She remembers how Anna’s illness pulled us in so many different directions and how sad and how hard it was.
Yes, there’s going to be a lot of attention showered on Anna. But they would never want to go back to the way it was before.
What do you hope readers will take away from Miracles From Heaven?
I believe it can help other families. I know it would have comforted me if I had read a book like this, written by someone who had made it through what we were going through.
I also feel that every parent can relate, even if their child doesn’t have a chronic illness, because there’s always some kind of struggle that requires courage and faith.
Miracles From Heaven: A Little Girl, Her Journey to Heaven and Her Amazing Story of Healing goes on sale Tuesday.
Published by Hachette, it is $24.
Meet the author
Christy Wilson Beam’s book tour includes these North Texas locations:
▪ Alsbury Baptist Church, Burleson, April 29, time TBA
▪ Healing Hands Ministries, Dallas, May 1, 10:30 a.m.
▪ Chi Omega Women’s Group, Dallas, May 5, 9 a.m.
▪ City on a Hill, Burleson, May 9, time TBA