I’ve found Mel Menzies to be an encourager with deep empathy for others, and a fellow lover of books (and a fellow introvert with whom I commiserate at conferences). She has weathered great tragedy with faith and grace, and shares the story of home from a seemingly normal day, when one phone call changed everything.
It is a wedding anniversary I’ll never forget. Twelve years of happy stepfamily life married to the man who had proved to be my best friend. Did we have celebrations planned? I can’t remember. That morning Paul was decorating our newly refurbished kitchen – all paid for by the advance on my book titled Stepfamilies. Perched on a ladder, he was right behind the kitchen door wielding a paintbrush doused in apple-white emulsion, when the phone rang.
Naturally, I answered it. It was my eldest daughter ringing me from North Wales. Funny time of day to ring, I thought, given that it would cost more than her usual evening call. I don’t recall her exact words, only the context of her message and her tone of voice. She’d been to the doctor – a routine visit to the surgery. Only it wasn’t routine!
One of the doctors had been called out to an emergency. A sudden death. That of her younger sister. My daughter.
I was distraught! Paul heard my cry and came rushing in. My daughter – a reformed heroin addict for five years – had died alone in her house, leaving her baby crying in the cot. A single morphine tablet dropped into her drink at a BBQ the night before had caused her to vomit and asphyxiate.
Other phone calls followed. We prepared to make the six or seven hour journey north. Friends came to pray. Most had prayed for years for my daughter’s healing. One, a new Christian who attended the Nurture Group I led, found it hard to take: ‘How can you trust God when he delivers your daughter from a thirteen-year drug habit, rebuilds her life for five years, then allows her to die, leaving her baby motherless?’
I didn’t hesitate. It was as if God spoke through me, answering this woman with a truth she could only accept.
My daughter had sung in the church choir as a girl. Her rebellion, begun when her father left home, took her far from the life I had hoped for her. But even in the depths of her addiction, when she was begging for help to come clean, she professed a faith in God.
In the week before she died, she’d been on the phone to me several times, always in a state of stress.
‘They won’t leave me alone,’ she said. ‘They keep on and on at me.’
I didn’t know then who they were; nor what they were keeping on and on about. But suddenly, with this new Christian lady standing beside me, it all made sense.
If they had had their way, my daughter would have become an addict again, and a supplier of drugs in a part of the country where drugs were not available.
‘She would have been in hell,’ I told this lady. ‘And so would her child. God knew that. That’s why he took her home. To be with him.’
To this day I have never thought otherwise. Seeing my daughter’s body, I told the undertaker ‘that’s not my daughter in there’. Her spirit had departed – and I knew where. Throughout the post mortem and inquest, I never doubted. My daughter is at home. And as we all know, there’s no place like home. Her earthly father may have left but her heavenly father will never forsake her. She’s with him. Her child is now a lovely young adult. And one day we shall see her again. At home!
The story of Mel’s daughter’s life and death is available as an e-book. Written as fiction, to protect the identity of her grandchild, it is entitled A Painful Post Mortem. Profits from the print version raised funds for two charities: Tearfund and Care for the Family. Mel’s latest book, Time to Shine, is available in both paperback and e-book formats, and her second book in the series publishes in June.
Mel Menzies is the author of a number of books and numerous articles. She is an inspirational keynote speaker, who likes nothing better than interacting with an audience or running workshops. Family life is a priority and she and her husband care for two of their grandchildren twice a week. She is an active member of a large and lively Baptist Church, where she runs a Book Club. You can find her online at melmenzies.co.uk.