Jodi Bainter: He was just a baby looking at me. He said, “Mom, where’s Dad?” and I said, “Dad’s in the other room. He’s okay.” But the tragedy of the whole thing is when I realized is I had two people that I love were broken in that moment.
End of Preview
John Fuller: Tragedy is something we all face, and the impact can last for years, for a lifetime, but because of God’s unconditional grace, pain doesn’t have to be the end of your story. Welcome to Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. Our guests are Brett and Jodi Bainter and they have a powerful story of how God took a terrible accident and made a redemption story happen. I’m John Fuller and welcome to our broadcast.
Jim Daly: You know, John, since I was a boy, you know, growing up in a broken home like I did, being an orphan at an early age, I think realizing this world is imperfect has been part of my understanding from the beginning, and it’s tough. Bad things happen in this world and I’m sure you’ve asked yourself that very question, if God is so good, why are bad things happening to me or why are bad things happening to good people? Uh, folks, that’s not the equation and one of the things I can attest to is that difficulties make you stronger. And I don’t know the equation as to why God, uh, plans it this way or programs it that way, but I’ll tell you what, character is built in the valley, not on the mountaintop. And I am excited today to hear, uh, an incredible story about parents, like you and me, that went through a horrific situation and they are here to help us better understand, uh, the book of Romans, if I could be that bold, where it says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Uh, that is hope and the Bainters’ have an incredible story.
John: They really do, and it’s captured in a book Jodi has written called Make It Morning, and we’ll hear a little bit about that title as we go I’m sure. Uh, we are glad they’re with us and that you’ve joined along because I think God will speak to you through this dear couple. Jodi and Brett have been married for over 20 years. They live in Orlando, Florida, and have a 19-year-old son, Jake.
Jim: Brett and Jodi, welcome to Focus on the Family.
Jodi: Thank you.
Brett Bainter: Thank you very much for having us.
Jim: Uh, first of all, I just want to say I appreciate the courage to be able to talk about these things. Uh, there would be thousands, if not millions, of other people that may hear this and they’re living in a, maybe, uh, not the exact same spot, but a similar spot or they’re about to go into something and this will be the exact word that the Lord wants them to hear before they strike tragedy of some sort. So I, I just want to express that appreciation to you, ’cause it’s not easy reliving perhaps the most difficult moment of your life and I get that. Uh, before your son’s accident, and I think it was in 2004, you had a pretty normal life. Um, neither of you were strong in your faith, this is what I’m getting out of the book, uh, but I want to ask you about that. Uh, describe that time. Jake is in a Christian school. What was that like? What was your mindset? Why did you put him in a Christian school when your faith wasn’t, uh, apparent?
Jodi: Well, I think, um, it’s interesting ’cause the school was close by-
Jodi: … so that was probably the first thing, which, looking back, I’m sure that was planned, but the school was down the street and, um, some of our friends’ children had gone there and-
Jim: And it was a good experience.
Jodi: … and it was a good experience.
Jim: Were you the … let me ask if you were the parent that said, you know, “Although we’re not engaged that way, it’d be good for our kids to go to, uh, a school where they get positive values and a good influence.”
Jodi: I don’t think I really understood what it meant.
Jodi: It just sounded good and, you know, we all want that for our kids. And, uh, we walked on, when we put him in preschool, and the first meeting, you know, we sat down and they prayed for us and we left and went, “Oh, well, that was nice.”
Jodi: “We’ll, we’ll see what that means.”
Jim: You know, let me ask you this because sometimes, in this culture today, being a Christian, uh, we’re a bit intimidated at times. We don’t want to pray for somebody that may not know the Lord. It’s unfortunate because it brings such a blessing to so many people. You may hit that occasional person that’s going, “Hey, wait a minute, what are you doing?” But it’s worth the risk, isn’t it?
Jodi: It’s worth the risk.
Jim: In your case, it really helped set up was about to unfold, right?
Jodi: It did. It did. And we don’t … I don’t think we really knew it. I think that’s the beauty of God. Um, we didn’t really know that we were there intentionally, and I think this happens to a lot of families-
Jim: Right (laughs).
Jodi: … but what we’ve learned through the journey is, um, th- th-, if there’s anything, I’m aware in all moments now. I know that God’s hand is on something-
Jodi: … and I think, “I’m here for a reason today in this moment.”
Jim: Yeah. That is so good. And your son, Jake, came home singing, “Jesus loves me, this I know,” I’m sure, and then wanting to pray perhaps-
Jodi: Yes. Yes.
Jim: … I think I read that in there as well. You, you didn’t respond with hostility.
Jim: Um, it, it actually warmed your heart. Wh- what was happening in you that made you positively respond to that?
Jodi: I think probably everything that Jake was bringing home and sharing with us was good.
Jim: Isn’t that great?
Jodi: There was nothing about it that was not good and so, you know, the Ten Commandments were on the wall when you walk into the school and I would read-
Jodi: … those and I would say to Brett, “It, it all makes sense to me.”
Jodi: And so, when Jake wanted to pray or we, you know, we started reading Bible stories and they were a little confusing at first, right, because (laughs) if you start-
Jim: Oh, right.
Jodi: … reading a Bible story to a child, you know, at first, it didn’t make sense to me, but the more that Jake and I talked about it, it all started to sort of come to life for us.
Jim: Well, let’s get to the, the core of the story and begin to unfold the answer to that question I asked about, if God is good, then why do bad things happen to good people? Um, it was Good Friday, ironically, in 2004. Um, Brett, maybe you can describe what was taking place that day, uh.
Brett: Yes. Um, it was a day that certainly changed our lives, um, forever really, so, um, an afternoon to do chores around the house. Um, I was mowing the yard with a riding lawnmower-
Brett: … and we, we had, uh, a babysitter. She was there, uh, and responsible for Jake and-
John: And how old was he at the time?
Brett: He was three in April, turned four in May. Uh, the accident was April. Um, but it was, uh, just a normal day and, um, I did my normal thing. But, uh, Jake was riding his bike in the driveway and, on the side of our house, um, is kind of a cul-de-sac to the air conditioning unit, which I had to turn around. What I didn’t know is, when I went down to the side of the house mowing, he had gotten off his bike that he was riding in the driveway and our babysitter, at the time, got out of her chair to, um, follow him and he had turned the corner. Well, he was following me, um-
Brett: … and I couldn’t hear him, and I didn’t see him. And when I backed up the riding lawnmower, he was behind it.
Brett: At that point, our lives changed, uh.
Jim: Uh, and I’m sure that moment, you’re trying to even, in that split second, it’s not fitting together for your mind. You’re thinking he’s in the driveway, why is he here, that split second of confusion, correct?
Brett: Very confused.
Jim: You’re like, “What’s happening?”
Brett: The lawnmower, uh, I lifted the lawnmower off of him-
Brett: … uh, scooped him up, uh, s- screamed loud enough to attract not only our, uh, uh, neighbors to the … but the whole neighborhood-
Brett: … came to our rescue, screaming to call 911.
Jim: That had to be gut-wrenching.
Brett: It was.
Jim: And I don’t, you know, the graphic nature of that, it really, um, destroyed the lower part of his body. Just in the lightest of sense, what did that …
Brett: The, uh, backing up over him, uh, amputated, uh, four toes on his right foot and, uh, ultimately, blew out his kneecap, uh, it was gone and really, uh, damaged his femur, his lower femur, into his knee, so he lost all of his tendons in his knee. Um, and the bottom part of the bone of your femur, uh, looks like a dog bone, the right side, the right condyle-
Jim: It was just missing.
Brett: … was gone.
Jim: Oh, my goodness.
Jim: Jodi, you get a phone call. You’re not at the house at the time. It’s Mom’s worst nightmare.
Jodi: It is Mom’s wor- … it’s something you would never think would happen in your lifetime. I was at work and, um, my secretary came down and said, “Brett’s on the phone and I … there’s been an accident.” And so, when I picked up the phone, um, I could just hear Brett crying and he said, “Honey, I’ve done something terrible.”
Jodi: “I’ve hurt Jake.” And he was just sobbing, and I said, “What happened?” And he said, “I, I hit him with the riding lawnmower.” And so, um, you know, I said, “Is he alive?” and he said, “Yes, but he’s hurt tragically.” And I could hear the ambulance. I could hear all the sirens in the background-
Jodi: … and, um, you know, your mind can’t process something like that. It’s so … I mean, we’re just like you. We’re just a normal family.
Jodi: You know, we’re just normal-
Jodi: … and this moment happens, and you can’t quite reconcile what’s happening. So we hung up the phone. He said, “You need to come quickly.”
Jim: Yeah. To the hospital?
Jodi: Brett and Jake … to the hospital-
Jodi: … and Brett and Jake, um, Brett, obviously, had his own traumatic experience, so they were both transported by ambulance.
Jim: Yeah. When you show up at hospital, I mean, I can’t imagine, for both of you, everything that’s flying through your heart, through your emotions, through your head, the practical aspects of it, but all that. But, Jake, your little three-year-old, almost four, what is he saying? How is he processing this? What are his fears at the moment?
Jodi: Well, I’ll say this, when I arrived at the hospital, I was greeted by, um, the chaplain and the, and the nurse and the surgical team and they took us down the hall-
Jim: Oh, my.
Jodi: … and they were taking me to Jake, but as I was walking down the hall, I could hear this crying, this cry that I’d never heard before, and, um, when the triage doors opened, what I realized is the first person I saw was Brett and he was on a gurney and he was still covered in grass and dirt and mud from the accident and he was crying, asking me for forgiveness-
Jodi: … and saying, “You need to pray for us. We need forgiveness.” And so then I went in to see Jake and Jake was just, um, he’s just a baby. He didn’t know what was happening.
Jodi: He was just-
Jim: But looking at you, I’m sure.
Jodi: He was just a baby looking at me. He said, “Mom, where’s Dad?” and I said, “Dad’s in the other room. He’s okay.” But the tragedy of the whole thing is when I realized is I had two people that I love were broken in that moment.
Jim: I mean, it’s so hard to think about. Brett, you must’ve been … and I know every father is going, “Whoa.” It’s our worst nightmare to have something like that happen. It could happen in a variety of ways, but it’s that accident around the house where you didn’t see the child. It’s not your fault, but that doesn’t feel like it’s not your fault.
Brett: That’s right, no. That, I, uh, I carried a lot of guilt. In fact, I sit before you today and I still have guilt-
Brett: … um, there’s no question, uh, but there was something that happened to me at that time that shut my body down and I’ll defer to her to kind of answer that in terms of-
Jim: Well, just your emotions, um, I mean, you were in a bad place.
Brett: Very bad place, um, ’cause I hurt the one and only child we had and I didn’t know exactly how bad he was hurt, but I saw it ’cause I had him in my arms before the paramedics saw [crosstalk].
Jim: Oh, yeah, that has to be traumatic. That, I don’t want to lose that moment, Brett, because, again, you’re speaking to a lot of parents, both moms and dads, who will, for a variety of reasons, be feeling guilty, “I didn’t handle that situation right. Emotionally, I traumatized my kid.” It may not be as dramatic with a physical situation like you had with your son. I mean, those early days after the hospital, uh, just for description sake, what was going through your head?
Brett: Well, as I, from what I remember, the, a lot of dark days that were after that, but it was why me, why Jake, and, ultimately, why did God allow this to happen?
Jim: So you did ask that big question.
Brett: I asked the question, and not only did I ask the question, I was mad at God because I thought, if there was a God, why would this happen?
Brett: And it was, uh, it, uh, it created a little bit of angst because I was surrounded, or became surrounded, by people and they told me it was an accident and, uh, it wasn’t my fault-
Brett: … but I felt that it was and, if there was a God, why did God allow this to happen to our family?
Jim: Yeah. And I want to get back to that, but, but, Jodi, like you said, you got … your two guys are now in this despair and, as a mom, I can only imagine, you’re trying to say, “How can I be the right thing for them right now?”
Jim: That had to be a bit of pressure too.
Jodi: It was a lot (laughs)-
Jim: Saying the right thing.
Jodi: … it was a lot of pressure, um.
Jim: The comfort that you had to deliver.
Jodi: Well, and I feel like, um, what’s so interesting about this whole thing and, and how God works is I sort of ran to God and Brett was turning away because I thought there’s no … how do you do this? There’s no other way for me to figure out how to support Brett in this deep, dark place he was and this little guy in the other room that’s going to face 30 days in the hospital. I mean, we were making deci-, I was making decisions by myself about the next surgery because Ja-, Brett just-
Jim: Couldn’t be there.
Jodi: … Brett just couldn’t do it.
Jodi: He couldn’t do it. And so-
Jim: I get that.
Jodi: … you know, I mean, I write about it in the book, this whole journey of my faith started to come together because, in the first 24 hours at the hospital, a pastor showed up with a friend of ours and they took us in a room and he said, “I don’t have anything to say to you. I don’t have any advice. The only thing we can do right now is get on our knees and pray.”
Jim: That’s a wise person.
Jodi: And I had never done that before. It was the first time in my whole life I had been on my knees to pray. And, um, honestly, we, if that all had not happened that way and God had not stepped in, we wouldn’t be married today. I don’t know where we would be-
Jodi: … to be honest.
Jim: No, it, it’s very honest and I appreciate that. I’m just … man, I feel the weight of that for both of you in different ways and I can’t imagine you having to kind of be all things to everybody around you, the doctors and your husband-
Jodi: There was a lot happening.
Jim: … and your son and … that’s a big weight to carry. And the first time you’ve ever prayed has to be this way. It’s not just joyful, “Thank you, Lord, that I’m now a part of your kingdom and you gave your life for me,” it’s petitioning that your son will live.
Jodi: Yeah, I was asking Him for something.
Jodi: I was like, “Not only am I coming to you, but I’m going to need a couple things (laughs).”
Jim: Right. And what an astonishing way to start a relationship with God.
Jim: I mean, uh, wow. Brett, I do want to ask you, though, you’re working on this anger toward God. Did anybody ever say to you, “God’s big enough to take that. He knows it. Give it to Him?”
Brett: They did. I had a lot of support. I had people, um, come to me that I didn’t even know and met my family for the first time, and there was one individual that would come to my house every day, every day. He was on his … that was his, uh, mission and, um, [crosstalk]-
Jim: Did that ever irritate you?
Brett: It did not.
Jim: So you really welcomed it, it was refreshing.
Brett: I did, and I formed a relationship with this individual and I was very candid with him and honest because-
Brett: … I was still mad.
Brett: Um, and, and-
Jim: How well did you know him before this?
Brett: Never met him.
Jim: Oh, my goodness.
Brett: Never met him.
Jim: My goodness, that is wonderful. What a great friend to have.
Brett: And he showed up every day and, where he lived to where … it was a project to get to our home, so.
Jim: He wasn’t even just a next-door neighbor.
Jim: God bless him.
Jim: Wow, and that helped you. I mean, that’s so, uh … right in scripture, the, the meaningfulness of good friendships in this kind of moment.
Jodi: Well, and he wanted you to know that God did not leave you and he, he would say to me, he would stand on the front porch and cry, he said, “Because God has not left Brett. He just doesn’t know it yet.”
Jodi: And he would come every day. And sometimes I would come down and the two of them would just be sitting on the back, in the lake room, just sitting there quietly-
Jim: Yes. Yeah.
Jodi: … and I thought, “This is God’s work if I’ve ever seen it.”
Jim: Yeah. Jodi, that’s so beautifully put. We’re talking today with, uh, Brett and Jodi Bainter. Uh, Jodi’s written this wonderful memoir really, Make It Morning, and we’re going to get to the title, uh, in the next few minutes. But, um, what an amazing story that you have put here. And I’m turning to you, the listener, you might be going through something. Um, this is your opportunity to find that friend. Focus on the Family, we can help, we have caring Christian counselors.
Jim: Uh, call us, get ahold of us, let us point you in a healthy direction. It’s not going to be easy, it’ll be tough, and I’m not sure what you’re dealing with, but talking to somebody is the first step. Like you, Brett, I mean, having that gentleman come over and being able to cry with him, to share with him the feelings of guilt, of despair. I mean, it’s the beginning of the rebuilding.
Brett: It was and, um, I am forever grateful of his time- … spending with me because he, he came when I was at the lowest low and he did what he could do to, to bring me back.
Jim: Yeah. Jodi, uh, calling it Make It Morning, describe where that came from and why you, you titled the book that.
Jodi: Uh, after that initial accident, Jake went on to, uh, we were in the hospital 30 days, uh, he went on to have 15 surgeries over the course of five years before he was-
Jim: Trying to save the leg.
Jodi: We were trying to save his leg, um.
Jim: Yeah, and it wasn’t responding well.
Jodi: That’s right. And they, you know, we, we didn’t want to face amputation so that’s the path we chose in the early days of his accident. And so, um, you can imagine a little boy going through lots of surgeries and hospitals and in pain over the next-
Jim: That was four years.
Jodi: Over four years.
Jodi: And so there was a point, um, a couple years in where Jake was tired and he was tired of feeling hurt and he was tired of surgeries and, um, we would get up in the night, that’s when the pain would get worse, and I actually-
Jim: In the middle of the night.
Jodi: … in the middle of the night, and we actually had, in that time period, we put a, remember, we put a mattress in the floor in his bedroom so I would just sleep with him and that was what we did because he needed comfort-
Jodi: … and moms can do that.
Jodi: And so, um, he would wake up in the night and there was a point where I’d done everything I could do. We tried tapping, ’cause the bone pain was painful-
Jodi: … so we did tapping and heating and, and I said, “Jake, I don’t know what else to do.” I felt like I had done everything a mom could do, and he said, “Can I make it morning?” And the reason … it’s so interesting, ’cause in the morning, I would open the blinds and the sun would shine in and he would just feel that glory. And, um, I didn’t know it at the time, but when I decided to name it Make It Morning, I’m like, “Of course, because God-”
Jodi: ” … renews us all in the morning.”
Jodi: I mean, that’s the beauty-
Jim: He was tapping into that renewal.
Jodi: He was tapping into it.
Jodi: And so, um, it really stuck with me that night because I thought, “Well, geez, I can’t make it morning, but I know somebody who can (laughs).”
Jim: Yeah, every day.
Jodi: Every day.
Jim: Make it new.
Jim: And, uh, I mean, again, that is so touching. Give us the update on Jake and how is he doing and how old is he and what’s life like today?
Jodi: Yeah, Jake’s 19 and, uh-
Jim: (laughs). Love it.
Jodi: … preparing for college.
Jodi: So that’s exciting. He is a, um, he’s a high-functioning amputee now.
Jodi: We actually went through with the amputation when he was eight. It was an elective decision.
Jim: How did he react to that? Was that … I mean, obviously, you’re talking to him, eight years old, are you saying, “Okay, Jake, here are the options. We’re here for you. What do you think? What do you want to try?”
Jodi: Yeah, we … it took us about, uh, about a year before his amputation. We … I felt like we were at a crossroad. Uh, he wasn’t getting better. All the tests were telling us he was never … you know, one leg-
Jodi: … was longer than the other. His foot wasn’t growing. There were a lot of issues-
Jim: Oh, my goodness.
Jodi: … and a lot of pain.
Jodi: He had juvenile arthritis at seven.
Jodi: And so I started to introduce the idea to Brett, you know, would we ever consider this? By then, we were much further along in our faith-
Jodi: … and so, you know, we … I really believe we surrendered it and we said, “All right. God, this is up to you.” And I’ll tell you a quick story. We ended up … we sort of said we have to understand what it would be like to live as an amputee and so we introduced Jake to some amputees, and we started to learn ourselves.
Jim: Oh, good.
Jodi: I mean, we had the privilege of planning a little bit.
Jodi: And so I share that because, when you say-
Jodi: … how did we prepare him-
Jodi: … God did all the heavy lifting.
Jim: I think you did it well though, I really do. I think you guys, you managed that well for him-
Jim: … and I wouldn’t take any of that away from you as well. Brett, I’m stuck, as a dad, you can probably hear it in my voice, how are you doing?
Brett: I am doing much better, um, I would almost use the word great, um, but I still carry a burden, but we have worked through that burden and our son is, uh, a very high-functioning, um, amputee and, when he succeeds, I succeed-
Jim: That’s beautiful.
Brett: … and when he heals, I heal.
Jim: So when you get right down to it, this is probably the question for people listening that have gone through tough stuff, what are you going to say, that person listening who is at the bottom, they’re still curled up in a ball, Brett, what word would you give them to say look up, fight it out with God, and keep moving?
Jim: I mean, what would you say?
Brett: I lived a time that I lived day by day and I lived one day at a time and that’s all I could handle and, eventually, that turned into two days and three days and four days. And, ultimately, time heals, and it’s something that is hard swallow and hard to listen and hard to accept, but at the end of the day, when you make it through it one more day, the next day will be better.
Jim: That’s it. Mom, how about your heart (laughs)?
Jodi: Well, I want to say this, that I look at Brett and Jake in awe because, um, for a father and a son to go through that, the thing that I always, in my heart, I just wanted Brett to be able to be the dad he was supposed to be and I didn’t want that accident to foil that, ’cause we have this responsibility to raise this kid-
Jodi: … and so I feel like, in the fire, we got shaped-
Jodi: … and we’re closer than we’ve ever been. You know, Jake loves the Lord like we do. We’re not perfect. We continue to make a lot of mistakes. We’re finding our way.
Jodi: But we talk a lot and we pray a lot and, um, and better days do come-
Jodi: … they come.
Jim: You started, uh, an organization to help others. Describe that.
Jodi: So we sort of felt like … it was interesting. We had this moment where we said to our friends, “Okay, stop praying for the Bainters, we’re good, and let’s focus on somebody else.”
Jodi: And so one of the things that happened when we wrote the book, which was just, um, God’s way-
Jim: A byproduct, a God part, yeah.
Jodi: … yeah, God, God part, right, um, that we started to hear from all these other lawnmower accident families.
Jodi: And, um, so we did create Limbs Matter, which is really just a lawnmower safety campaign-
Jodi: … and to spread awareness-
Jodi: … and to talk openly and say, “This happened to us, we’re normal people, and, um, we got through, but we don’t want it to happen anybody else, right?”
Jim: Right. No, that’s beautiful and ma-
Jodi: “You can survive, but we don’t it to happen to anybody else.”
Jim: We, we’ll, uh, uh, put a link there so-
John: We’ll link over there from the website, yeah.
Jim: … yeah, people can connect. But what a beautiful story and, Brett, I’m proud of you, Dad.
Brett: Thank you.
Jim: I know it was dark, I know it was tough, but, man, you made up ground and it wasn’t your fault and God took care of you. And, Jodi, my, my, my, wife and mam of, of the century, way to stand in the gap and deliver God’s love to your family.
Jodi: Thank you.
Jim: Well done.
John: Well, uh, what a story we’ve heard today and, uh, the book that captures all of it in such great detail and with such heart is called Make It Morning. It’s written by our guest, Jodi Bainter, and we’re so grateful that Brett and Jodi could join us today and, uh, hope that you’ll be, uh, getting in touch with us to get your copy of that. And just know that, when you support the ministry of Focus on the Family, you’re helping couples that might be dealing with tragedies like we’ve heard today, or maybe they’re, uh, dealing with wayward children or they’re on the verge of divorce, uh, perhaps an expectant mom is considering abortion. Whatever the struggle is, um, you can offer real hope to real families through your donations and so we’ll thank you in advance and, uh, with a donation of any amount, uh, to support the work here today, we’ll send the book Make It Morning as a token of our appreciation. You can call and donate, our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, or you can do so online at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And, um, Jim mentioned counselors and let me just encourage you to reach out to us to schedule a free time of consultation with one of those counselors if you’re struggling with a dark time in your life or, uh, in your, uh, family ci- circumstances. We would count it a privilege to serve you and, uh, once more, our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team here, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back next time. Uh, we’ll be hearing from Rob Parsons. He shares wisdom for the next generation and will, once again, help you and your family thrive in Christ.