A book recommendation from a mom who experienced great tragedy

Speaking of books…I got this recommendation a while back from an email list I’m on. I have not read this book myself (though I’ve heard great things about it and bought a copy after reading this), but I thought I’d pass this review along. This email is from Marian Hammaren, whose only child was killed in the Virginia Tech shootings. She writes:

My daughter, Caitlin Hammaren, was a well-liked and much-loved 19-year-old sophomore at Virginia Tech. On April 16, 2007 — one year ago — a deranged young man shot and killed her…along with 31 other innocent people.

When one of his bullets took my Caity’s life, it might as well have taken mine, too.

I’ve sent you this email because I truly believe that what happened to me in the days and weeks after I lost my Caity can benefit you.

“How,” you ask? Because our loving God always — and I mean ALWAYS — brings good out of evil.

You have probably experienced troubles in your life. Troubles you couldn’t explain. Troubles that tore at your heart. Troubles that rent you in two. Troubles that made you question whether or not there really is a God in heaven Who loves you as much as you’ve been told He does.

Well, I’m writing to you today to assure you that, not only does He love you as much as you’ve been told, but to promise you that He is with you at every moment of your life…and most especially when you are hurting and feeling completely alone.

He was there for me. And I am now certain that He chose my little girl — my Caitlin — to be the instrument through which He will bring you and countless numbers of other just like you closer to Himself … and nearer to your eternal home.

And here’s how.

A moment ago I told you that when the gunman killed Caity, he all but killed me, too.

It’s true. I wasn’t suicidal. But my purpose for living had died with Caity. And I truly believe it would have remained dead and buried…except for a book that gave me hope and a reason to live.

ten prayers A book recommendation from a mom who experienced great tragedyThat book is Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To by Anthony DeStefano.

Since reading his book, I’ve spoken with Anthony many times. We have become good friends. And when I told him I’d like to send you this email, he objected. He felt it would be exploiting my tragedy in the worst way and he wouldn’t hear of it. He didn’t want me to be “pitching” any products.

But I told him, “Anthony, you’re being selfish. Look at how your book changed my life! I wouldn’t be the person I am today had it not been for you and ‘Ten Prayers.’ How many other hurting people are there in the world who God wants to heal using your book? Why do you think God inspired you to write it? So it could collect dust in a bookstore? Nonsense. People need to know about the treasure you’ve written. And there’s no one better to tell them than me. I’m not ‘pitching’ your book. I’m trying to help people.” Reluctantly, he agreed.

And thank goodness for you he did.

Because if you can only read one book in the next week, then read Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To I promise you it will change your life!

It changed mine. And to show you how, let me take you back to that terrible day a year ago:

My husband Chris and I live in Upstate New York. Caitlin was our only child. As you can imagine, our lives revolved around Caity…but especially mine. When we drove her down to Virginia Tech for her freshman year and dropped her off at her dorm, I thought my heart was breaking. But she sent me a text message within an hour of our heading north…and we texted each other every day thereafter.

So on that fateful day, as news began to filter out about the shootings … and as no calming text messages were appearing on my phone … I feared the worst. Chris and I got in the car around ten that morning and began the slow, 10-hour drive to Blacksburg. Every few minutes I tried texting my daughter. I was frantic. I clutched my phone in my hand desperately waiting for a text message back from Caity: “I’m OK.” But nothing.

When we finally reached the campus, we were ushered to a large room filled with other anxious parents. And that’s when it happened. Two men — a policeman and a minister — were walking toward Chris and me. I’ll never forget that moment. I wanted to run out of that room. I didn’t want to hear what I knew they were going to tell me. But I couldn’t move.

With tremendous compassion and sympathy, the officer asked: “Mr. and Mrs. Hammaren?” When I nodded, he continued: “I’m sorry. Your daughter was pronounced dead at five minutes after ten this morning.”

And with that, my world had ended. Or so I thought. The next week was a blur. And the days home in New York are fuzzy.

But one thing I remember very clearly is opening Caity’s laptop after we were given her belongings. Just above the screen was taped a short message that read: “God, I know that today nothing can happen that you and I can’t handle together.”

Unfortunately, it would be several months…and a lot of tears…not to mention some real angry shouts at God…before my daughter’s message penetrated my heart and soul.

And I’m writing to you today to tell you that the instrument God — and my Caity — used to break through and open the eyes of this stubborn, know-it-all, never-trusting, cynical woman was Anthony’s book.

Looking back on it, it was a series of co-incidences — and by the way, I’ve learned that there are no “co-incidences” in life…only God-incidences. Anyway, it was an incredible series of events that brought “Ten Prayers” into my life at precisely the moment I needed it.

Once Caity had died, I avoided shopping malls like the plague. Caity and I loved to shop together. But now, every store…every item…every sight…every sound…they all reminded me of her and re-opened wounds I was trying to heal. Of course, that was one of my problems. I was trying to play the role of spiritual physician when there is only one Person Who can handle those duties: GOD!!!

But when my husband needed me to pick him up at an auto repair shop while the car was being worked on, I said sure. Little did I know the service shop was at a mall. To make matters worse, when I got there, the car wasn’t ready and I had to wait…at the shopping mall. The only place that offered me any hope of solitude was a bookstore. So I ducked inside.

Nervously I walked around until I found myself in the religious books section. I glanced at titles and snickered at all the “self help” pop psychology. I knew there was nothing here that could help me. I’d read a title and think, “Give me a break.” One book, however, intrigued me. It wasn’t the title so much as the cover. There was something about its texture that caught my eye. When I pulled it off the shelf and read the title: Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To, the angry, cynical Marian kicked in and said: “Yeah. Right. Well, He didn’t answer my prayer.”

With my smug smile on my face, I flipped it open to see what was on the inside jacket cover. Well, I was taken aback when I realized that the very first sentence could have been written about me. Here’s what Anthony wrote: “There have been thousands of books written about prayer and millions of sermons preached about it, yet people continue to wonder: Why doesn’t God answer me when I cry out to him?”

“Exactly!” I said to myself. “And are you going to tell me, Mr. DeStefano?”

So I read through the contents and saw chapter titles that talked directly to me:

Chapter Four — “I Can’t Take it Anymore”
Chapter Six — “This Stress Is Killing Me”
Chapter Nine — “Will I Ever Be Happy Again?”
Chapter Ten — “Why Am I Here Anyway?”

Needless to say, I bought the book…and devoured it within a couple hours after I got home. I couldn’t put it down. Anthony put things in a way that was easy for me to read…and even easier to understand. His was a language I could appreciate.

And because of Anthony’s book, I began to understand how God works through people and events — even gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, spirit-crushing events like my Caity’s senseless death — to bring souls closer to Himself.

[It] opened my mind and my heart to God. What’s more, it gave me HOPE when I was filled with despair!

And that, my friend, is why I’ve sent you this email. […]

A year ago I thought my life had ended.

But thanks to God and His orchestrating events so that I found myself in that bookstore with Anthony’s book in my hand, I now realize that my life was really only just beginning.

God gave Caitlin to Chris and me. She was His special gift to us. And for nineteen precious years, we enjoyed His gift.

Today, in a very real sense, I am giving her to you.

Caitlin had absolute trust in God. She knew that He would take care of her…no matter what.

And Anthony DeStefano’s book will help you find that same level of trust. Thanks to “Ten Prayers”, God was able to use Caity’s tragic and unexpected death to bring me out of my old world and into His new one.

If God could use Anthony’s book to do that for me, I know He can do it for you, too…and He will if you trust Him like Caity did! Remember the note she kept on her laptop: “God, I know that today nothing can happen that you and I can’t handle together.”

Prayers and blessings.

Marian Hammaren

New here? Come say hi on Twitter at @jenfulwiler!



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12 Responses to “A book recommendation from a mom who experienced great tragedy”
  1. Meta says:

    This is slightly unrelated except that it’s a book you may be interested in for your kids on pregnancy.

  2. Kelly @ Love Well says:

    Thank you for the excerpt, Jennifer. I’m heartbroken for the Chapmans. And while I’ve tasted God’s goodness in the most horrible of circumstances, it’s good to be reminded.

  3. Jenny says:

    It’s been 9 months since Ben died. I have been searching for books to help me through this difficult time. I think more than anything, I need to know how others were able to cope. God is my source of comfort through all this. Thank you for posting this today.

    Jenny

  4. Kristen J says:

    I, too, received this e-mail and bought the book on Amazon as a result. I’m only a couple of chapters in, so I haven’t gotten to “the good stuff” yet (on stress, etc.), but it looks solid and I can’t wait to read the rest.

    The first chapter (on God’s existence) might be helpful for those of us with an interest in evangelization, especially the importance of praying to see and not just looking for proofs.

    Thanks again for the great blog!

    Kristen J

  5. noe says:

    The author was interviewed about his book on EWTN’s Bookmark show, which we downloaded from EWTN’s website. It’s a great interview and made me want to read the book. After reading this email, I certainly will purchase it.

  6. Mary Poppins NOT says:

    I just bought this book, too, and will be diving into it this weekend. I had no idea it had made this kind of “ripple” in the blog world.

  7. Joy of Frugal Living says:

    Thanks for the recommendation. It sounds like a good book for me – I’ve had three miscarriages in the last two years. Not fun! But I can already see the many positive ways this has worked in our lives. If I could somehow do it all again and skip that suffering, I actually wouldn’t do it (at this point).

    Anyway, I’m sure this book will help me get even more out of the experience. Have a great day.

    Jennifer

  8. Peter says:

    this book is very good, well written, clear and concise. Thanks for bringing it to my attention

  9. I need to to thank you for this excellent read!!

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