Not many friends of Tom Rose believed he would survive the tragedies that ravaged their family during the fall of 1994. A horrible automobile accident had claimed the lives of two of their three children in October of that year. Several months before, Tom had been told his heart had deteriorated to 15 percent of full capacity, and he would die without a heart transplant.
Though the deaths of his 9-year-old son Benjamin and 12-year-old daughter Lacey had stricken the custom sign maker with a grief that would decimate the spirit of a healthy man, Tom clung to his faith in Jesus Christ, and by His stripes, Tom was healed--healed of a broken spiritual and physical heart.
After two more trips to the emergency room, Tom's doctors were still puzzled at what was causing his heart to malfunction. A lengthy battery of tests determined that Tom's heart was suffering from a virus, but doctors could not determine what type virus. Doctors suspects the virus was related to his service during the Viet Nam War, when he was involved in deploying Agent Orange.
His heart's pumping capacity now down to 15 percent, Tom was told to stay home and rest in bed. He was to avoid stress of any kind while he was awaiting an evaluation to see if he could be placed on the waiting list for a heart transplant at Shand's Hospital in Gainesville, Florida. Meanwhile, Tom's inability to work and earn a living threw the family into a financial tailspin. Tom lost his business, and was about to lose his home in DeLand. Help from his church kept the family stable temporarily while they looked for a more affordable home.
Then came the fateful night of September 30, 1994. It was a Friday night and daughter Lacey and son Benjamin wanted to go to a nearby skating rink. Youngest daughter Rachel decided to stay home with her mom and dad. Tom's sister, Vickie Rose, was in town to help the family. She volunteered to drive the children to the skating rink with two schoolmates in the family station wagon.
They never made it to the skating rink. As Vickie attempted a left-hand turn onto the truck route where the skating rink was located, she pulled in front of an oncoming speeding drunk driver who plowed into the passenger side of the station wagon, pinning Benjamin and Lacey in the vehicle.
Their father's doctors agonized over whether to tell the ailing heart patient that his son had died, fearing the traumatic jolt could cause Tom's heart to fail. They left it up to Marilyn, who decided Tom needed to know he had lost his only son. Tom was devastated by the news, but he survived.
Local newspapers, including the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Orlando Sentinel, blared the tragedy in headline after headline. The local community rallied to support the family, as their plight became known. A prayer vigil began at the Daytona Beach hospital where Lacey fought daily to stay alive.
In the Rose's valley of decisions, two were made that deserve noting here. Tom and Marilyn decided to donate their children's vital organs so that others could live. And the couple decided not to sue the Daytona Beach hospital for the doctor's errant diagnosis.
"As Christians, we could not justify not forgiving those doctors. They had done everything in their power to save Lacey," Tom said. "We knew she was with Jesus in heaven, and though we faced huge medical bills, we knew in our hearts that suing to pay those off was not God's will, that He would provide."
And provide He did. The Rose's faithfulness paid off. Financial and spiritual support came in from every facet of the local Volusia County community. A car dealer donated a car to replace the station wagon destroyed in the accident. Children Benjamin's age raised more than $7,000--in mostly pennies. There was not a bill that was not paid, and more importantly, Tom and Marilyn received healing from their grief through their forgiveness.
"I truly believe that if we had not chosen the mountain of blessing instead of the mountains of cursing, and reaped all the negativity that would have dragged this out, the tragedy would have cost me my life," Tom said. "Instead, not only did God bless us financially, but He blessed us with His peace."
But Tom's peace did not come quickly. He still had an ailing heart that now had pinned to it the memories of fresh dirt flying onto the graves of his only son and oldest daughter. He and Marilyn attended church every time the doors were open, but despite Tom's faith, he had lapsed into a deep depression. He wondered why he should even fight to live. One evening as Tom sat home alone, weak, depressed and talking to the Lord, Jesus and his son Ben and daughter Lacey appeared to him. Tom said, "I don't know whether I fell asleep or if I was awake. I really couldn't tell, but Jesus appeared there in our living room. As He stood there, He opened His arms and my daughter Lacey appeared on His right side. Then Ben appeared on His left.
"Benjamin didn't move his lips, but I could hear him speaking. He kept saying that I should focus and finish strong, that it was not my time to die, and that God had a work for me to do."
With this new knowledge, the couple made their way into The Sanctuary the next Sunday morning in April 1995 wondering what the Lord might do next. Tom hobbled in on his cane and slumped into the pew on the fourth or fifth row near the front on the right side of the pulpit--his heart still heavy.
The choir came onto the platform and a resounding praise to heaven lifted the congregation into worship. In the middle of the musical praise, the Lord began to speak to Tom.
"He said, 'I want you to rise and praise me.' At first I did not respond. Then He spoke to my heart again. 'I want you to stand up and praise me!' As Tom stood up and lifted his hands, tears streamed down his face as he began to praise the Lord. "As I praised Him, I could feel a burning in my chest. It was as if my heart literally was on fire. The Lord spoke to me and said, 'This is my resurrection power.' "
Tom immediately felt strength return to his body, and his doctors have since taken him off the list for a heart transplant. His heart now functions at near normal capacity.
They have lived the faith that teaches, "Ye, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for Thou art with me.' "