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Dreaming of Anita Jo: a story for the generations from the Story Powerline
3/12/2020 6:00:00 AM by: Paula Kortkamp Combs

We were just 19 and had all of life ahead of us – or so we thought. After my good friend Anita Jo and I finished our sophomore year at Baylor University, she went off to church camp and I went to Dallas for summer school.

One muggy July afternoon the phone rang. "Anita Jo was in a car accident in West Texas. She was killed instantly," a solemn voice said.

Death, and more death

The news plunged me into a whirlpool of grief. I had lost three grandparents by then, but this was different. Death had cruelly snatched away a young person with great promise, someone my own age. How could I cope?

A deep sadness engulfed me that summer. I was a student nurse rotating through pediatrics at Baylor Hospital. Many of our precious little patients were dying from leukemia, which in the 1950’s was incurable. Death was all around me.

Survivor’s guilt

In an odd way, I felt guilty for living. Anita Jo was a gifted pianist and vocalist. She was popular on campus and active in many organizations. She had so much to offer the world. I, on the other hand, mistakenly felt I was nobody and had no particular talent. Surely the Lord had made a terrible mistake. He should have spared Anita Jo and taken me instead.

Often I dreamed about my friend being in a terrible car wreck, but she always survived. Sometimes in my dreams she even got up out of her casket.

One last dream

Finally, I dreamed about my friend one last time. As always, the dream began with Anita Jo being critically injured in an accident but living through it. This time, however, the dream ended differently. After surviving the accident, Anita Jo was diagnosed with leukemia and faced prolonged suffering and certain death.

I woke up, sobbing. "Lord," I cried, “it would have been much better for You to have taken her instantly in the car accident rather than let her suffer and die from leukemia!"

After that final dream, I never again questioned God about Anita’s death. Instead I thanked Him that she had not suffered and was now in heaven using her beautiful voice to sing in the celestial choir.

Anita’s Bible

After the accident, the driver of the car in which Anita Jo was killed found her New Testament lying open on the pavement. When he picked it up, he saw these words she had underlined: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21 KJV).

Because Anita Jo had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, she did not fear death. She saw death as merely the doorway to a far better life with her Lord.

Today’s prayer

Father, there are things in life we’ll never understand, but we trust You anyway. We know You never make mistakes. Your ways are far superior to ours. Thank You for the hope of eternal life through Your Son, Jesus Christ. And thank You for the joy we’ll experience some day when we’re reunited with our loved ones in heaven. Amen.

© 1998 Paula Kortkamp Combs

You can find this story and others by Paula Kortkamp (Harvie) Combs  in My Roots Go Back to Loving and other stories from Year of the Family in the Bookstore

 

 


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