Sharing a story of hope and grace
In August 1996, Ginger Millermon gave birth to twin boys 11 weeks early. Although both Brennan and Jarrott struggled with conditions common to preemies, Jarrott was critical. He spent the first year of his life in the hospital and – at one point – the doctors spoke with Ginger and her husband about removing Jarrott from life-support. But, as she explained in her book, “Grace Thus Far,” God had other plans. Paula K. Parker spoke with Ginger about their story and her heart for those in difficult situations.
Paula K. Parker: What advice would you give families facing extreme crisis?
Ginger Millermon: I went through moments of anger and struggling with why our family had to face this. Then I came to this point of accepting and really knowing in my heart that I didn’t have to know how it was going to end and I didn’t have to know why it happened. I just had to understand and have that faith to know it would work out for good and that God would give me the strength and grace that I needed to endure either way.
There are times obviously when God says, “No.” His ways are different and we don’t get the answer that we want and I know that He truly gives the grace to endure that.
One verse that that has really been a stronghold for me is Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you.” Think about King David, when his baby was dying. The scripture says he was on his face – he wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t drink – praying for that baby, because he realized there was still hope. That is always my message; don’t give up. No matter what anybody says, no matter what the doctors’ predictions are. You do everything you can and you continue to pray and continue to hope.
PKP: You mentioned getting mad at God. Some people who would feel guilty doing that.
Millermon: I think God can handle our questions and our emotions. I bordered on being very bitter and cynical. I knew that I was wrong and that I needed to accept and trust, but I did go through that time of raging and being mad. God was very patient with me through that; I never felt condemnation, I just felt grace.
PKP: In the book that someone left a basket filled with presents on Christmas. For many people, it’s difficult to know what to do when someone you know is going through a crisis.
Millermon: I love to talk about this. So many times, as people, we have really good intentions and then we don’t follow through.
My mom went through late stage ovarian cancer a few years ago and was given a five percent chance of surviving. It was a really rough time in our family. One time my mom came back from the grocery store. She had run into a friend she hadn’t seen in a long time. Her friend said, “You look great! I meant to call you.” Then she made excuses for why she didn’t call. My mom was so sweet; she hugged her and assured her it was all good. But when she came home, she said, “But why didn’t she even call?”
For us, it was oftentimes somebody calling and saying, “I’m bringing over a bag of groceries. Is there anything you need?” Or somebody saying, “I’m going to watch your kids for a while, so you can get out.” I had people do our laundry. It was a long list of very practical things.
My message is, Do something. Send a note. Give a hug. Tell them that you love them and that you’re praying like crazy. Do whatever you feel you can do; anything is going to help. Don’t be the queen of good intentions. It doesn’t take that much to make a difference in somebody’s life.
PKP: Conversely, what would you advise somebody not to say or do?
Millermon: Don’t be judgmental about decisions made medically for a child or loved one. We faced that in our family. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law lost a baby and people would say things that were so highly inappropriate, even things like, “Well, she’s better off.”
We all know that a baby with severe medical complications is more comfortable in Heaven, but a mommy’s heart doesn’t need to hear that. If you haven’t walked in somebody’s shoes, you might want to keep your advice to yourself and just offer love.
PKP: Some people believe that ‘quality of life’ is mutually exclusive to ‘sanctity of life.’ You had to face that issue. What would you say to people who are facing the decision of whether to take someone off life support?
That is really difficult. I’m sensitive to that when I speak or give my testimony. I know that there is a good chance that there is someone in the crowd who has taken a parent or child off life support.
I don’t know the exact answer but, for us, we knew that Jarrott still had a lot of brain activity. The body can keep going, the heart can keep beating, for a while when the brain is gone. We sat with families in the neonatal nursery whose babies were completely brain dead. They felt that the spirits were gone, although the hearts kept beating, and there was a time for that.
It’s a scary thing to face as a parent, not knowing. There were days when we didn’t know what we were going to deal with for the rest of our life, knowing there would be these special needs and possibly really difficult circumstances. God was very gracious to bring us out of a lot of that and I’m extremely thankful for where we are today.
To me, there is never a question when the baby is in the womb. Abortion is never an option. That is my very strong, opinionated belief. Because you don’t know and that ‘quality of life’ is in God’s hands.
PKP: Last Words?
Millermon: Personally, I think we’re facing a lot of crisis in our culture as a whole, not just the sanctity of life, but the sanctity of marriage and a lot of things. I think the older I get, the more passionate I am to let my voice be heard on those issues. I think as Christians, it is our responsibility to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves – for the unborn – and to make a difference in our culture.
My passion is to bring a message of encouragement and hope. To not give up in the circumstances that you are in; God is bigger than that.
Ginger Millermon is a nationally acclaimed singer/songwriter and speaker. You can learn more about her at www.gingermillermon.com