by David Sisler

I first read the story of Judy and Gary Darby in a column, powerfully written by Christine Wicker for The Dallas Morning News.

In a state whose motto could be "More, Bigger and Better," the Darby's were perfect representatives for the Lone Star State. They were a normal, happy Texas family. Judy had her hands full with five youngsters. Gary was a successful businessman. Deeply devoted to God, they learned in one horrible moment, that piety does not necessarily protect God's children from tragedy.

The seven Darbys had spent the July Fourth holiday in Austin with Judy's parents. Gary went home early to take care of business. Judy and her oldest son, Gary Scott, left separately for youth league baseball playoffs.

On a clear July morning, Judy's father loaded 12-year-old Rebecca, 8-year- old Sarah, 5-year-old Mary and 3-year-old John into his Buick Park Avenue and headed back to Dallas. A sudden, violent rainstorm swept through the Texas sky and the big car hydroplaned. It crossed the median and struck an oncoming vehicle. That driver was injured. Grandfather and the three girls were killed immediately. John died in the hospital the next day.

Standing in the hospital, Judy saw that her three-year-old son's heart was functioning only because a machine kept the electrical current going, which supplied the beat, which kept his small body alive. Judy and Gary remembered how Lazarus, who had been dead for four days, his body partly decayed, had been resurrected by Jesus. They fervently prayed for a miracle. At the end of their prayer, the bells on the life-support system went off. It was time to let John go. God, the Darbys insist, was right there.

The nurses unhooked John from the machines and Judy held him in her arms, fulfilling a promise she had made to her son before he left Austin to come home.

When Judy asked God if her faith had been too weak to believe for a miracle, God answered: "It wasn't because you didn't have enough faith. John was new to his relationship with me. If he had stayed, he wouldn't have been unable to understand how a loving God would call home his beloved sisters, and he would turn away from me."

Judy thanked God for taking her son, saying, "It would be worse to have him here in rebellion than having him there."

The night of the accident, Judy and her widowed mother lay in bed togther, clinging to each other. Judy's mother asked her daughter, "What are we going to do? How are we going to survive."

Judy replied, "We will hold on to the Lord."

It would be easy to be bitter. Judy says they agreed, from the beginning, "not to be embittered toward God because it can only grow and it's sinful. It wouldn't help any situation to let bitterness build in our hearts."

With unshaken confidence, Judy and Gary know that God is always with them. Their faith in a literal Bible has not changed. Fully trusting that her Heavenly Father is completely in charge, Judy says, "The accident that took them was no accident. Nothing happens that God doesn't allow."

One night, not long after her children died, Judy was standing alone in the silence of her daughters' empty room. With tears bursting from her eyes she cried, "Lord, Lord, do you love me? Let me know you love me. Help me walk through this."

In a still, small voice, God whispered to Judy Darby: "Look out your window. There I am."

The darkness of the front lawn was broken by dozens of small, flickering lights. Strangers of all sorts and descriptions had heard the story, and separately, spontaneously gathered at their home to light candles and to pray.

Judy heard God say, "I laid it on their hearts to come here for you all." That was her answer. God had not forsaken her.

A week before the accident, Mary told Judy, with utter delight, "Mother, I think Jesus is calling me home." Rebecca had just finished telling about a dream. She was in heaven with her grandfather, two sisters and younger brother. "Oh, Mother, it was so beautiful and we were so happy," she glowed. But after the funeral, Judy wondered if Sarah had known God was calling her home.

Four months later, to the day, Judy and Gary found a paper on which their second-grader had written, "I will be there with you, Lord, I will praise you, Lord. I will lift my words to you. I will love you, Lord. I will praise you, Lord, and I will never leave you, Lord. I will praise you, Lord."

"It's all future tense," Judy says. "She knew."

Christine Wicker asked Judy if she ever blamed God for all of this pain. Judy whispered, "He hasn't asked anything of me that He hasn't done himself. Our children are in the best place. God sent His Son to this terrible place to die for my sins."


Published in the Augusta Chronicle 3/22/97

Copyright 1997 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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