Surviving

        Four-month-old Tyson was usually up by now, but Tami tiptoed across the floor anyway. As she peered into his crib, terror and grief gripped her. She screamed and pleaded at the crib's edge until Greg, her husband, rushed into the room. Seeing Tyson's lifeless form, he swept his only child into his arms and ran to their car. Within seconds they were racing toward the emergency room.

       As a child Tami dreamed of the day she would marry and have children. This dream had helped her cope with the ever-present alcohol that had torn her family apart and left her insecure and lonely. When she was 16, her dream began to take shape when she began dating Greg Niko.

        "Greg was the man of my dreams," she says. "He was all that I never was: popular, athletic and confident. Even though we were not married when I became pregnant, I was completely happy. For many girls this would be a crisis, but this was my dream. My life was finally going the way I wanted it to."

       Soon after discovering she was pregnant, Greg and Tami were married at a courthouse. Greg took a job in construction while Tami worked in retail. On December 10, 1980, Tyson Allen Niko was born. Though both were working full time, Greg and Tami spent every free minute with their newborn son.

       But when Tami arrived at the hospital on March 29, 1981, doctors told her Tyson had died of sudden infant death syndrome. Greg and Tami were ushered into a room and allowed only a few moments to say goodbye to their son. The next day the young couple faced the task of planning Tyson's funeral.

       A Christian friend referred them to a local church where they met Steve Minton, a pastor who now ministers in Idaho. After discussing funeral arrangements, Minton asked if he could pray with the young couple. Tami agreed, reluctantly. "I did not want to pray to this God who had taken my baby," she says. "But, now I can see that Steve's prayer planted seeds of hope in my heart."

       On the first of April, Tyson was laid to rest. After the memorial service, Minton asked if he could ride with Greg and Tami in the hearse to the gravesite. As they drove, Minton read Scriptures and shared God's love with the grieving couple. His words brought unexpected comfort to Tami.

        "At the time I really didn't want him with us," says Tami. "I don't remember a word he said, but what I do remember is that he stepped out of his comfort zone and entered into our world. That meant a great deal to me."

       Two weeks later, Greg and Tami attended church - a new experience for Tami. As the pastor spoke, the Holy Spirit moved on their hearts and both made commitments to follow Jesus Christ. "This was the first time I had ever heard that Jesus Christ had died for me and all I needed to do to have eternal life was to ask Him for forgiveness of my sins and ask Him to come and live in my heart," says Tami who embraced her new life in Christ by attending church, Bible studies and a SIDS support group.

       Greg wrestled with feelings of guilt and spoke little of the pain he was enduring. One night when Tami returned from work, she found Greg tear-stained and asleep on the couch clutching a framed picture of Tyson.

       One night in November, Tami returned from work to an empty house. After waiting for Greg for several hours she fell asleep. Later, she was awakened by, a rapping on the front door. When she answered the door a police officer informed her that Greg had died after being hit by a car.

       A few days later, Tami, 19 at the time, buried Greg next to Tyson. Angry, she turned her back on her newfound faith and blamed God for the deaths of her son and husband. "My world crumbled down around me and I walked away from God," she says, regretfully. "I started drinking to numb my pain, but that was not enough, so I started taking drugs. Eventually I became a walking dead person."

       She moved to another city and rented an apartment with a girlfriend. She continued to embrace a destructive lifestyle as thoughts of suicide consumed her. Early one morning, after partying all night, she covered her living room window with a thick blanket to block out the light. Hung over and in the depths of despair she cried out, "Lord, either I am going to kill myself now or You do what You did for me after Tyson died." Suddenly, an overwhelming peace that she had only known once before fell on her. "He never really left me," she says, recalling that morning. "It was I who walked away. Immediately, He forgave me and started a new work in my life."

       Over the years God restored Tami's faith and continues to be her strength. Through God's grace Tami says she experiences freedom each day. "It was hard to look at myself in an honest light at times," she says. "But, once I let Christ meet all my needs, He began to work in me. I never really knew the meaning of freedom until then. All of a sudden I was living it-He set me free."

       Today, Tami is standing before the congregation she is a part of at Green Valley Christian Center in Watsonville, Calif. As she shares her testimony, her eyes meet Rick Noonan's, her husband of 10 years. Next to him are their two daughters, Taylor Rae, and Morgan Mae. In Rick's arms is their son, Parker John.

        "Looking back, it's hard to believe where God has brought me from," Tami tells the congregation. "Jesus has made my life new and He has created a new heart in me. He has come to give all of us life and life more abundantly. And it is that abundant life that I now live."

Reprinted with permission by, Pentecostal Evangel, May 13, 2001.

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