I Can’t Wait to Tell Them, “We’re All Here!”
As told by Abigail Austin
I was nine years old. It was a beautiful April day in 1995, and a group of us from the local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses decided to spend the day out in the English countryside. We set off in car groups. My older sister Sarah, our family friend Deborah, and I were traveling with my father and mother. Suddenly, a car came speeding toward us on the wrong side of the road and crashed into us. I was the only survivor.
I AWOKE in the hospital two weeks later. My skull had been shattered, and the doctors had inserted several plates in it to hold it together. Yet, I recovered quickly. My relatives finally told me what had happened, but I didn’t believe them. I kept thinking that my parents and my sister had visited me while I was asleep, and I had missed them. It was only when I returned home that reality set in. I was devastated.
What helped me to cope with this terrible tragedy?
My Spiritual Heritage
I was the youngest of five children. At the time of the accident, Sarah was 22, Shane 20, Jessica 17, and Luke 15. We had wonderful, caring parents. My father, Steve, served as an elder in the West Yorkshire Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Shipley and was known affectionately for always taking the time to listen to and help others. My mother, Carol, was also well-loved, caring like a daughter for the older ones in the congregation. She arranged get-togethers for us youngsters and helped us find good friends. All were welcome in our house. Our parents taught us to be kind and considerate to our neighbors too.
Every Wednesday evening we studied the Bible together as a family. Sometimes we acted out Bible dramas and dressed up for the parts. Mum and Dad involved us from an early age in learning how to prepare for our congregation meetings and how to present the Bible’s message to people at their homes. Although they had their hands full with five children, our parents spent time with us and helped us become spiritually strong.
When Sarah, Shane, and Jessica left school, they became pioneers, full-time Christian ministers, as did our friend Deborah. Sarah and I were particularly close. She was like a second mother to me, and during my school vacation, we spent our time together helping others to learn about the Bible. I loved those days. I could see how happy all the pioneers were, and I enjoyed being with them. My goal was to pioneer along with Sarah after I left school.
On holidays, our family and others in the congregation often spent time together. Young and old grew close in friendship and love. Little did I realize how these good friends would help and comfort me in the days to come!
After the Accident
When I left the hospital, I returned to our family home. Holding down part-time jobs and sharing in the full-time ministry, Shane and Jessica worked hard to provide and care for all of us.
Many fellow Witnesses in our local congregation also came to our aid. They did so much for us! They provided meals, cleaned, shopped, and washed our clothes, until we got on our feet. We were really grateful. Countless presents and cards of support came from Witnesses far and wide, revealing the depth of love within Jehovah’s organization.
After about a year, my brothers and sister decided that I needed a stable family life. Some kind families in the congregation had offered help, so my own family sat down and considered what Mum and Dad would think was best for me and my spiritual future. One family stood out. Billy, an elder, and his wife, Dawn, had been particularly close friends of our family, and they had a five-year-old daughter, Lois. They welcomed me into their home and ever since have lovingly looked after me like their own daughter. Although Lois had to share her parents with me, she has never felt jealous, and today we’re as close as two real sisters.
How I Coped With the Tragedy
At first, I wondered why this terrible tragedy had happened to our family, especially when my parents, as well as Sarah and Deborah, had shown such love for Jehovah and for other people. But then I recalled the Bible account of Job, who kept his faith in God despite losing his children. (Job 1:19, 22) I thought, ‘Yes, Satan brought suffering and death into the world in the first place, and he’d be happy if this disaster stopped us from serving God.’ (Genesis 3:1-6; Revelation 12:9) I remembered, too, that Jehovah has lovingly given us the wonderful hope of the resurrection. (John 5:28, 29) We’re going to see our family and Deborah again, this time in a paradise earth! In fact, my love for Jehovah grew stronger.
When I meet people who have also gone through tragedies, I feel so sad if they haven’t heard of the Bible’s precious resurrection promise. It makes me want to share our hope with them, for I’m sure it’s only because of Jehovah and his organization that we’ve come through this dark time as well as we have, knowing that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
Perhaps our experience has helped in another way too, causing some parents to wonder, ‘Have we given our children a spiritual foundation that is strong enough that if something happened to us, they would continue to serve Jehovah without us?’
I’ve tried to live my life as if Mum and Dad were still here. I know they would have wanted me to work hard in helping others, just as they had. I have been pioneering since I left school, and now Lois is serving alongside me as a pioneer. My brothers and my sister are married and are happily serving Jehovah in their respective congregations.
I’m so looking forward to God’s new world and the resurrection! Then there will be no more pain or death. (Revelation 21:3, 4) Knowing that we’ll all be together again helps me to keep going. I can’t wait to give Mum, Dad, Sarah, and Deborah a big hug and tell them, “We’re all here!”
[Picture on page 23]
Abigail (second from left) with her adoptive family today