Christy Beam’s heart broke every time she looked at her nine-year-old Annabel, curled up in pain on the couch.
The young woman had been in hospital nine times that year, but her rare incurable digestive disease meant she still faced a life of constant agony, unable to eat.
Christy thought things couldn’t get any worse, until one day her daughter said words no mother should have to hear.
“She said, ‘Mommy, I want to die and go to heaven and live with Jesus where there is no more pain,’” recalls Christy.
But just a week later, Christy’s life changed forever.
A freak 30-foot fall that doctors say should have left Annabel paralyzed, actually left her without a scratch and inexplicably cured her condition.
doctors said it was a “medical miracle”.
But as Christy looks at her healthy little girl, she thinks it might actually have been a true miracle, especially when Annabel described a vision of Christy’s sister who miscarried before she was born.
It’s a remarkable tale which has now been made into a Hollywood film, Miracles From Heaven starring Jennifer Garner.
The actress, 44, has told how her family history gave her strength, at a time when she was going through her separation from her husband of 10 years, Ben Affleck.
but christy and annabel, now 13, feel it’s an important story to share, regardless of what people believe.
christy, 43, explained: “annabel’s illness was always horrible. the film shows that she was sick for about a year, but it was actually four years.
“When she was five years old, she had major abdominal surgery and we almost lost her. she never got better.
“Her life consisted of lying on the couch in the fetal position with a heating pad on her stomach. she was taking 10 drugs for her system to malfunction at best.
“one year, annabel was hospitalized nine times for at least five days each time.”
doctors believed it to be pseudo-obstruction motility disorder, an incurable condition that makes eating extremely painful.
was regularly on a liquid diet and required pain medication.
but a week after saying she wanted to die, annabel had one of her rare days when she felt strong enough to play in the garden.
She was with her sisters Abigail, now 15, and Adelynn, now 11, when, frustrated, she tried to climb the family’s hollowed-out aspen.
suddenly he fell, and fell 30 feet inside.
“It was such a freak accident,” Christy says. “My oldest daughter, Abbie, ran home to tell me that Annabel was stuck in the tree.
“At first I just thought Annabel needed me to help her maneuver her way through the bushes. Then I saw what had happened.”
She called her husband Kevin and the emergency services.
annabel was released after five long hours, during which time she lost consciousness and passed out.
The firefighters warned their desperate parents that anyone who fell that far would likely end up paralyzed. but they couldn’t believe how calm annabel was.
“If someone was buried at the base of a tree for five hours, they would be hysterical. but he never was, ”says christy.
After a long rescue mission to get her out, Annabel was strapped to a board and airlifted to the hospital.
but other than a few scratches and a slight concussion, he was fine.
“They did test after test and couldn’t find anything wrong with her since the fall,” recalls Christy.
“She had scratches and bruises. but she just had a minor concussion, that’s all the doctors diagnosed.”
even more incredible, tests showed that he no longer had any signs of the digestive disorder.
christy says, “doctors actually used the word miracle.
“They believe that perhaps she landed on top of her skull and it reset her nervous system and made the disease go away.
“They call it a medical miracle. But I think it was the hand of God.
“either way, definitely a miracle.”
annabel’s own account of her full recovery, which she gave on her way home from the hospital the next day, is even more remarkable.
Christy says: “We were driving home and everyone was very quiet. Annabel just turned to me and said, “You know, Mommy, I went to heaven when I was in that tree.”
“annabel said she had seen a girl who looked like her and her two sisters.
“That was what confirmed to me that what she said was true.
“I shared with the girls that I had two miscarriages, but I never told them that only one was a viable pregnancy. Annabel said she saw a little girl who looked like her and her sister.
“If he was making it up, why didn’t he say he saw two girls in the sky?”
The schoolgirl rarely talks about what she saw. Christy protects her and chose to share her story on her behalf.
When he spoke about it, he described God as having “a beautiful long white robe, dark skin and a big beard, kind of like Santa Claus, but not really.”
Christy went on to write a book about her experience, and the family is now well known in Dallas, Texas, where they live.
The tree remains in the garden, although the family considered removing it after the accident. “Kevin went out to cut down the tree and couldn’t do it,” says Christy.
“so instead of cutting it, he carved the huge cross with a chainsaw.”
When asked what she would say to those who don’t believe Annabel’s afterlife story, Christy says, “I used to struggle with this question until I heard Annabel answer it.”
“and I loved your answer so much that I stole it.”
“annabel says: ‘i don’t say anything to those skeptics because it’s my story, i lived it and i know what it was like to be sick and not have a cure. and I know what it means to be well and heal.’”
Jennifer, a mother of three who plays Christy in the film, was particularly moved by the story. She formed a close friendship with Christy and said that she reinvigorated her own beliefs.
christy says: “jennifer was so sweet and we had a lot of quality time together.
“I didn’t ask a lot of questions about ben because people deal with things their own way.
“but jennifer was so into the movie that i feel like that gave her focus and distraction.”
Meanwhile, Jennifer gave a speech to Christy’s local church congregation and said, “Christy is a very strong woman and she has been tested by fire.”
“There is no fire like having a son who is sick, who suffers and this role changed me.
“sometimes a mother’s love really is all the doctor ordered.”
- Miracles from Heaven is in theaters starting Friday