GRAYSON, Ky. (KT) – Derrick and Amy Burton didn’t have to look far for something to be thankful for on Thanksgiving Day.
He was sitting right across the dinner table.
Six months ago, they didn’t know if that was going to be possible ever again. William Burton, their 12-year-old son, was in the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital clinging to life. In April his heart stopped beating on a baseball field in Grayson. It was shocked back into starting again, but he remained unconscious and lifeless. He was rushed to a hospital in Ashland, and then airlifted to Cincinnati, where his miracle began to take seed.
His anxious parents were speeding down the highway to meet him at a hospital 2 ½ hours away. It was the trip every parent fears. They were trying to face a cold reality that their son might not make it or may not be the same if he did.
“In the midst of our 12-year-old fighting for his life, we had peace that if God chose to take him, he would be in Heaven,” Amy Burton said, remembering the horrific day but also the peace and comfort that kept them calm.
With prayers coming from literally all over the world – Amy’s sister is a missionary in Zimbabwe and men in the village there prayed for him daily - William Burton woke with no brain damage and slowly began to get stronger, but the recovery was just beginning. He returned home to Grayson, receiving a hero’s welcome by those who had been praying daily for him. Their church family at First Baptist Church in Grayson led the cheers.
His desire was to play basketball again and William fulfilled that wish in October, another miracle in the family’s eyes. He is back on the basketball court, sprinting down for a layup and then getting back on defense in one short video clip on Facebook. His miraculous recovery from near death was complete.
But that wasn’t the end of it for the Burtons. It was only three months later that a family matriarch, Amy’s grandmother, Marmee, died after fighting Alzheimer’s disease. She left behind her husband of 67 years and a legacy of Christian service.
“She is the reason that we all know Jesus,” Amy said.
The past six months has been a mix of thankfulness and sorrow for the Burton family. Through it all, a strong faith in God has persisted. If anything, they believe they have grown in their faith through both triumph and turmoil, in life and in death. It was hard watching her oldest son in a hospital bed with no guarantee he was going to get out of it alive, and then her dear grandmother’s homegoing tore a hole in her heart.
“God wants to be known and so He has allowed us to walk this journey for the privilege of bringing us out on the other side to be more fully aware of who He is,” Amy said. “We have encountered the details of the character of God through this trial in the power of the Holy Spirit, equipped with the strength of God around us.”
In a Facebook post on the day that William was going to tryouts for the middle school basketball team, Amy admitted being anxious.
“When William fought for his life on machines, I prayed for months that God would give him life and give it abundantly! He was faithful! Boy, was He faithful! When William woke and was recovering, I prayed for months that God would allow William to return to playing his first love … basketball. Again, He was faithful,” she wrote.
Before that first day of practice, though, Amy was a nervous wreck. The mother in her was determined to sit in her van and be there through every practice “just in case.” But on the morning of the first practice, William had a basketball bag and big grin on his face as he prepared for school.
“It took everything I had not to cry and then I did cry after I dropped them off at school,” Amy said. “Worry, not joy, overcame me. I immediately texted some faithful women to pray for me. I know they did!”
He made it through that first practice, made the team and is playing regularly. She was being a taught a lesson and understands life even better now. She was learning to trust God.
“My children are not mine,” Amy said. “They are His. He has graciously given them to me for a short time. I will trust Him through this thing called motherhood. When my sister was leaving with her family for Africa, I remember my Mom saying, ‘They are safer in God’s will in Africa than they are out of God’s will living across the street from me.’ I pray I have that kind of faith from here on out.”