As Becky Patterson rocked her six-month old daughter, Micayla, she began to cry. Through the tears she whispered a prayer: Lord, I want so much more for her. I want her to know you. I want her to walk with you.
Married at age 17, a mother by 18, Becky was growing up faster than most. She met and dated Christopher in high school. He [Christopher] was in Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and she [Becky] in Youth for Christ.
“We were just living life for ourselves; two scared kids who knew the Lord, but we weren’t walking with Him,” she said. “Chris and I didn’t get to go to college. We had to immediately start working. It was like a lot of dreams were shattered.”
Becky began volunteering at Northwest Arkansas FCA and not long after she joined the full-time staff as a field representative, organizing FCA huddles for female student-athletes in middle, junior and high school. She holds that same position today.
“People are really drawn to her, and it’s just a matter of time, once they get to know her, that they are drawn to Christ,” said Bill Burnett, area director for FCA in Northwest Arkansas. “She has an incredible way of connecting people. That’s a gift.”
“Life is hard,” added Becky. “We, as believers, all need someone to walk through life with us — to do it authentically — that’s my heart. For Chris and I to have the relationship that we did that was so unhealthy to ourselves and our spiritual walk, God used that season early in my life to provide a ministry.”
Becky Patterson has experienced hard. The woman known in Northwest Arkansas as “FCA Becky” has been a firsthand witness to more pain, more trials and more tragedy than most people do in a lifetime. But, through each experience – each test – she has persevered, turning fear to peace, tragedy to truth, brokenness to beauty and sorrow to hope.
GRIEF DOES FUNNY THINGS
Becky prayed with such intensity and purpose she was certain God would heal her mother, who was battling cancer. Eventually the breast cancer aggressively spread to her bones and took over. Becky was sitting at her mother’s bedside in the middle of the night as she took her final breath.
“She fought for so many years, and I prayed for healing,” said Becky, who was then in her early 20s. “I wasn’t mature enough to understand that she received the ultimate healing when she got to go home and be with Jesus. It was one of the big aha moments of my walk with Christ.”
In the days after losing her mother, Becky was excited to talk about just how good God was. At her mother’s funeral Becky moved from person-to-person with a smile, trying to be the model Christian, celebrating her mother’s life and story.
But grief does funny things.
“Once I experienced the depths of loneliness of not having my mom here, I rebelled,” she said. “I went through a season in my life that was not honoring to God. I moved out, and I was so miserable.”
Becky eventually returned home. On the first night back, she sat in Micayla’s room and confessed, “Micayla, I messed up big time. I am not your role model. Jesus is your role model.”
That night, seven-year old Micayla prayed to receive Christ.
“It still blows me away,” said Becky, pausing to catch her breath through the tears. “That gift that, in my brokenness, she prayed to receive Christ. That was the beginning of her faith journey. That was also the beginning of my restoration, and it was really beautiful.”
KNOCK KNOCK …
It’s started with a scratch – and a visit to the doctor.
“I got scratched by a cat and got really, really sick,” said Becky. “In the midst of trying to figure out why I was so sick I was diagnosed with breast cancer. That was scary because I had this beautiful little girl and I have to go through chemotherapy and have a double mastectomy and this was just rockin’ my world.”
Becky had watched her mother wrestle with cancer, but now, this was personal. The disease had attached itself to her.
“I was incredibly fearful because I had seen my mom go through so many years of pain,” she said. “I’d walk in grace and peace knowing that God was not going to leave me stranded. I knew that, and I wanted His will to be done, but I didn’t want to leave my little girl.”
The chemotherapy hit Becky hard. She lost her hair, her eyelashes and her appetite. The treatments sapped her energy. The smell of food made her nauseous. She was losing her appetite. As she struggled, her FCA family rallied.
Becky was lying sick in bed after the first treatment when she heard a stir. She lifted herself out of bed and walked into the hall. There stood one of her “FCA kids” holding a bag.
“Miss Becky, you look so cute,” said the girl.
No eyelashes, no hair or makeup, Becky didn’t feel “cute.” The two met in the hall and hugged.
“Here, this is for you,” she said, handing Becky the bag.
Becky sat on her bed and dumped out the contents. Out tumbled gift cards to every restaurant in Northwest Arkansas. Becky and her family had enough $50 gift cards to eat for months.
“I don’t know how much money that was,” she remembers, “but we used the last gift card after my mastectomy. It was perfect. Down to the last meal. My kids – I call them my kids – the kids I work with, they were the hands and feet of Jesus.”
Becky’s FCA family also raised $300 in change to help purchase a wig during her chemotherapy. The gift cards, the rolls of pennies, nickels and quarters; they were not random acts of kindness, but kindness in return for the avalanche of kindness Becky had heaped on her FCA “kids.” Her faith had changed countless lives, including her own supervisor.
“I am a different person because of Becky, but not so much because of how she handled her cancer,” said Burnett. “I have learned so much from Becky about what it means to care for people; what a big difference we can make on a daily basis through small acts of kindness.”
Becky didn’t hide her illness; it became a platform to share the gospel with others. On many days she would wake feeling sick to her stomach and weak. She struggled to get out of bed, but she did. She thought of the beauty she witnessed in her mother’s suffering.
“The beauty of walking through every single day with her while she was on this earth was just amazing,” said Becky. “She loved Jesus so much. She was a wonderful role model for me to watch how she handled suffering. She did it with grace and a thankful heart. It was beautiful to watch.”
There’s no place Becky wanted to be but in the schools sharing Jesus with her “kids.”
“I was not a beacon of strength by any means,” she said. “All the coaches I was working with knew what I was going through, but I wasn’t in my ‘FCA Becky’ mode. I just needed to get through each and every day.”
Out of the darkness came light. Becky’s chemotherapy worked. She was cancer free.
‘LORD, WHAT ELSE?’
One year after her final treatment for breast cancer, Becky was back at the doctor for her annual wellness exam. The tests all came back negative and she exhaled. Becky’s doctor sent to her to an oncologist for an additional checkup. Becky faced another setback. This time it was cervical cancer.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” she thought as she left the doctor’s office.
Within days doctors performed a radical hysterectomy. The procedure meant Becky and Chris would not be able to have any more children.
“Lord, what else?” she thought.
“We’d talk a lot about the sovereignty of God,” said Burnett. “She would ask, ‘Why me? Why this? Why now?’ That’s what most people ask when that kind of thing happens. I told her God is either sovereign or he’s not. That’s what I believe really got her through and to bring her to a place of peace. Not necessarily me telling her but her coming to grips with the reality of the sovereignty of God and standing on that truth.”
Burnett and Patterson grew close through her illness. During difficult times, Bill would counsel her through her struggles.
“She had a great deal of peace,” said Burnett. “Now, I’m not going to say it was a breeze. She had her days. It was a real struggle and pain — not just physical but emotional.”
“I did feel His presence and his peace,” Becky said. “I felt Him walking with me, arm-in-arm, through those trenches. There were times he scooped me and carried me through some truly dark times. I was just wore out – just plumb tired. I walked through it without my mom, but I knew that through all things I was to count each and every season for joy.”
Becky had suffered physically and emotionally, but she was a survivor. She had reason to be joyful. Despite the setbacks and struggles, she was alive — and finally — well. Her marriage was strong, she loved her work, her FCA “kids” and her beautiful daughter Micayla, who was preparing for her senior year of high school.
Micayla was an only child with an exceptional spirit, a caring heart and a brilliant mind. She was an honor student and an athlete, a member of the Har-Ber High School girl’s basketball team.
Soon, she would be out of the house and in college. But before that she had something she needed to do: see John Mayer in concert. When the local radio station announced Mayer was coming to the BOK Center in Tulsa, Micayla squealed.
The concert was on a Friday night, just days before the start of the school year. Micayla wanted to go with two of her friends.
“She was already planning for college,” said Becky. “We knew she was going to be out of the house. We knew we were going to let the reins out a little bit so when she went into college, freedom wasn’t going be like whoa …”
Chris and Becky went back and forth on what to do.
“We knew this could be an opportunity to give her a little bit of freedom, but it was a big decision for us because she was 17 and they were going to drive an hour away,” said Becky. “We ultimately decided, she had great friends, and Micayla had a really good head on her shoulders. I trusted them going but driving just worried me crazy.”
On the morning of September 4, 2010, Micayla kissed and hugged her mother and told her, “I love you.” Micayla texted her mom throughout the night including a short video clip attached to a text.
“I could hear her singing in the background and then she put the phone up close to her mouth and she said, ‘I love you momma,’” said Becky. “That was the last time I ever heard her voice.”
Moments after leaving the arena a pickup truck slammed into the side of the girl’s car. Micayla’s friends in the front seat survived. Micayla was killed instantly when the seat belt she was wearing broke her neck.
OUR DAUGHTER IS WITH JESUS
Becky heard a knock on the door.
Chris got out of bed and walked to the hallway.
“Baby girl the door is open,” he said.
Chris saw a police officer standing at the door.
“Becky, you need to come here,” he said.
Becky and Chris sat down and grabbed each other by the hand.
“I am sorry for your loss,” said the officer.
“Don’t be,” said Chris, “our daughter is with Jesus.”
Becky will occasionally still burst into tears when she thinks back to that night. But she takes a deep breath and continues. “We knew where she was,” she says. “It was the worst of the worst – and it still is – but it’s just awesome how God has used her for a way to share the hope in Christ and that this isn’t all that there is.”
“She’s not over it yet,” said Burnett. “I told her, you will limp into Heaven with that one. You’ll never completely get over losing your daughter.”
There isn’t a day that goes by that Becky and Chris don’t think of Micayla. The couple’s home has framed photos everywhere you turn. Micayla’s life and death have become an annual celebration.
Each year on September 4, the anniversary of Micayla’s accident, the couple canvas’s the community putting signs on street corners and alongside open roads. More than 100 signs carrying a photo of Micayla and the message: Today is my heavenly birthday because I put my faith in Jesus Christ, have you?
“Instead of being a sad day, we know that it’s her heavenly birthday and it should be celebrated,” said Becky. “Every year we do something special for someone in a similar situation, people who are hurting and just need a break and a breath of life. That has been a neat way to honor Micayla and to share our faith in Christ.”
In time, again, Becky has found peace.
“I believe that when you are at the lowest of lows, when you are that weak, He is strongest,” she said. “I have seen that. I have felt it.”
Becky doesn’t hide the fact that there were dark days.
“I would get angry and question, ‘God, why me?’” she said.
A WORLD AWAY
I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. – Romans 8:18
Six months after Micayla’s accident, pain and anger had again reared its ugly head.
“One day after church, I was just miserable,” said Becky. “I got out of the truck and I just started to walk.”
“Where are you going?” asked Chris.
“I am just going for a walk,” she said.
Becky was coming off six months of speaking at churches and schools. Staying busy and sharing her story every opportunity she had. As her schedule slowed, she became miserable. Becky walked and cried. Her purse in one hand and her Bible in the other, she paced the back yard. Lord, I want something right now. You need to show me right now why this makes sense.
“After I was done having my pity party, I came inside,” she said. “I took my phone out of my purse to put it in the charger, and I saw that I had a notification. While I was walking I got a message from a lady in Dubai – on the other side of the world.”
The woman was a fan of John Mayer, the music artist Micayla went to see the night she died. The woman came across a YouTube video clip from the John Mayer concert the evening after Micayla’s accident. The singer talked to the audience about Micayla and how sad the news made him. From a world away, the woman in Dubai sent a Facebook message to Becky:
I am from Dubai, and I’m a Muslim. My mother was a Christian, and she lost her battle with breast cancer two weeks ago.
“While I am wailing in my yard saying ‘I want something right now,’ He gave it to me,” said Becky. “It was Him meeting me right where I was. He gave me a gift in my horrible, miserable state. It’s awesome how faithful He is when we’re not.”
“God opened the door for so many people to come to her and talk about their own issues,” said Burnett. “She is equipped to help those people through those struggles because of what she had been through. She used her experience as a teachable moment.”
Becky and Christopher Patterson celebrated their 22nd wedding anniversary last November. They still have good days and bad days. Becky says she will always have a hole in her heart without Micayla.
“God really and truly is more than enough,” said Becky. “That’s what this has taught me. All the things that I know to be true I have been able to experience. I never thought I’d be able to live without my mom, and he brought us through that and, then, my daughter. I used to think of myself as really, really weak and now I know I am the weakest of the weak, but I walk every day with Christ as my strength and I feel like – with Him — I could walk through anything.”
A NEW SEASON
Becky is back at FCA, but it feels different. For more than a decade she has been working tirelessly, sharing the gospel with young girls. She didn’t know it at the time but her work created another generation of disciples.
“Seeing the girls I poured into in middle school and high school who are now new moms and wives, some are coaches and coach’s wives, that’s a new ministry for me,” she said. “I have a heart for these women, female coaches, coach’s wives.”
“I didn’t tell you the really awesome part of our story,” said Becky.
Becky’s story is entering a new chapter.
“We got a telephone call from a young lady who was a freshman in college,” said Becky. “Her younger sister and Micayla grew up being really close. She said, ‘Miss Becky, I don’t know if you guys would consider this but I just found out I am pregnant, and I am not ready to be a mother and I want this baby to have a mother and a father.”
Becky and Chris accepted. Christopher Stephen Patterson is now two years old.
“We’re starting completely over with Micayla’s little brother named after my husband, Christopher,” said Becky. “First we were the young parents with Micayla and now we’re the old parents with Christopher.”
This story was originally published by FCA Magazine