Amanda Brotherton was in church, but not in Christ when her world was rocked.
It was the spring of 2009 when Michael and Amanda Brotherton got married. They had been together for ten years, had four children between them – two from Amanda’s previous relationship, two together and another on the way – and they finally decided to tie the knot.
Around that same time, they began attending King’s Church in Warrington. They hadn’t yet made a personal commitment to Christ, but with their growing family it was a great way to make new friends and be part of a community.
However, one Sunday morning that summer, Amanda, who was six months’ pregnant, was at church with her three-year-old daughter Millie when she received devastating news that would change her life forever.
Michael had left early that morning to take their six-year-old son Jake to football training. Michael was a healthy, fit and devoted dad. He and Jake decided to stay a little longer for some extra coaching. But as they went further down the pitch, Michael suddenly collapsed. An ambulance was called but, despite the desperate efforts of paramedics, he couldn’t be saved. It was as if time stood still!
Jake was never the same again, traumatised by the fact that his dad – his hero and his best friend – was gone forever. For Amanda, it was her darkest day.
“After Michael’s death it left me feeling a sense of emptiness. But I had to keep going for my children,” she recalls.
Thankfully, the church became her adopted family. “Members were so supportive. They made us meals and brought them round, and as I was heavily pregnant I found it really helpful,” she says.
But it wasn’t until about 18 months later that Amanda could face going to church again. This time she was eager to know Jesus personally and after a short time she made a decision to become a Christian. Since then Amanda, now 48, has gone from strength to strength.
As well as being a busy mum, she’s also part of the chaplaincy team at Marks & Spencer, and is a volunteer for Child Bereavement UK. She also helps to run a bereavement coffee morning at her church every week.
“I met a Christian lady called Beryl who had been through a similar experience to me. She also had a vision to start a coffee morning, so it was as if God was confirming his will.
“Like Beryl, I really felt God would use my story to help and encourage others. People need to be supported by someone who can empathise with them and, having been down that road myself, I knew I could do that.We started about three years ago. It’s been wonderful hearing how much people appreciate talking to someone who understands what they’re going through.
“We’ve also been asked to advertise our group in a doctor’s surgery so hopefully we’ll be able to reach even more people in the surrounding community.
“To anyone who’s lost a loved one and feels lonely, take my advice: be brave and talk about it. Sharing your grief really helps.”
Jake, who is now 16, continues to struggle at times without his dad around, but over the past five years Child Bereavement UK have been a massive help and support to him.
“I’m sure all my children each have their own story to tell about their dad,” says Amanda. “Max Michael was born on October 29, 2009. He has brought so much light into our darkness and still continues to do so. I have had many ups and downs since Michael died but I have also seen God at work in my life.
“A few years ago, I went to a Christian ladies conference in Harrogate. I met a lady there called Cheryl McGuinness. She shared how she lost her husband Tom, who was a co-pilot in the 9/11 tragedy. She also gave me a Bible verse from Isaiah 61:3, which says: ‘To all who mourn in Israel, he will give you a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.’
“Listening to her story and reading that passage gave me hope as, before my husband died, we bought a picture of New York’s twin towers for the wall in our dining room.
“It reminds me that even when I don’t see the full picture, God knows the plans he has for our lives, and they are good.”