I have known Tomara for several years but our conversations had been brief and friendly, most of our interactions being in passing at church. She is one of the most radiantly joyful people I have ever met and I was excited to get the opportunity to sit and talk with her one chilly afternoon quite by accident. In 30 minutes, with a peace that defied reality she shared her story with me. My heart stood still.
I love hearing people’s stories. I think the reason is that often the ones who have experienced the most loss; the most suffering; the most pain; are the ones who rise to a place of joy and peace that I can only hope for. I wish you could have the opportunity to see Tomara just living her life. You would see a miracle, a testimony of God’s sovereign protection and the truth of His supernatural power of redemption.
My own childhood was safe and simple but compared to the grueling hardships that my grandmother went through and my mum’s experiences growing up, my life could have been considered luxurious.
As I have grown and traveled, I’ve seen and heard people’s stories that have moved me from the place of ignorance to a place of compassion. There are people we meet who hold memories deep inside that might destroy the weakest of us. Why one person suffers and another knows only the ease of life is a mystery.
I know that there’s so much more that Tomara could have written but there is so much in these few words. Sometimes less is more.
This is Tomara’s story:
Most of my memories are just flashes of pictures, instances that stand out from the hum drum of life for someone of a poor background. I have to rely on my sisters to help me with the rest because there is so much I don’t remember.
My life began with my father’s murder. He was shot on the date I was due to be born. I have heard multiple stories of what supposedly happened to him on that day but the result is that my mother and I were put in great danger. When I was barely able to stand in the seat of the car next to my mom, we were shot at on the way to visit his side of the family. We survived but she bears the scar of ‘my’ bullet that scratched her cheek as she threw me down.
Later in life I survived a step-dad that beat my mom to the point of near death multiple times. I remember running away from home during the day and him coming to find us by evening. One day he shot through the window in the living room and through my fish tank that sat in front of the window. I watched as the water drained out through the bullet hole and onto the carpet. I turned and said calmly to mom, “He killed my fish.” I was almost 4 years old. War trauma from Vietnam and a drug addiction caused him to hallucinate and even dare to melt down peanut butter to see what it would do when injected into his veins.
Many years later I survived another step-dad. This one didn’t beat my mom; instead he sexually abused my sisters and me by the time I was in fourth grade.
Next in my timeline-of-sorry-events; our house caught on fire in the middle of the night. My mom woke up and we made it out, but our house and almost every belonging burned to the ground.
When I was 13 years old, my mom had a terrible car wreck, hitting a tree. She was so smashed inside the truck the EMTs didn’t know if she was male or female. She was gurgling and they resuscitated her 3 or 4 times in the evacuation helicopter. She lived but suffered an extreme head injury and was in a coma for quite some time. When she first began rehabilitation, she did not remember having children. We lived with our aunt for that year. We had never moved before and now had to leave our friends and the only school we had ever known, all while not seeing our mom for weeks on end.
There were good times too. We had wonderful family members and people who loved us; friends teachers and spiritual parents. They influenced us, prayed and provided along the way. During the good times we had a ‘normal’ life. We were regular kids going to school and church.
I remember feeling God’s presence at a very young age. I remember physically seeing angels. It wasn’t a dream; I was fully awake and had an adult with me. I remember begging my mom to let me stay in ‘grown-up-church’ so that I could feel His presence, and not wanting to leave the building.
It is clear that my life and my mom and sister’s lives were spared. God’s goodness is the only true answer as to why. Some would call it luck or fate but I wouldn’t be so sure.
Guest post written by Tomara Bedell