Author Rebekah Gregory believes that God spared her life on April 15, 2013 so that she could share her experiences with others and help them in their personal trials. On that tragic day, 26-year-old Rebekah and her five-year-old son, Noah, were at the finish line of the Boston Marathon waiting for a friend to complete the race.
Suddenly, a pressure cooker bomb filled with nails and screws exploded three feet away from where Rebekah was standing, with Noah sitting on the ground leaning against her legs. Shielded by Rebekah’s legs, Noah was spared the full impact of the blast and suffered minimal physical injuries. But Rebekah’s legs and body were pierced by shrapnel and she suffered life-altering injuries.
In Taking My Life Back, Rebekah traces her spiritual journey from her childhood in an abusive home – her father was a preacher much loved by his congregation, but feared by his wife and children – through her tumultuous teenage years, the birth of Noah, life as a single parent, the aftermath of the blast as she survived 17 surgeries, 65 procedures and the amputation of her left leg, her marriage and divorce, remarrying, and giving birth to another child – something the doctors warned her was highly improbable because of all the shrapnel that remained in her body.
From the onset, Rebekah makes it clear that her life was filled with struggle and still is. She writes, “So, if you expect to read about a perfect Christian life with a pretty little bow on it, you have picked up the wrong memoir. What you will read about is someone who tries to live the Christian life, who tries to walk with God, and who has not always succeeded in getting things right. Life is messy and complicated.”
When Rebekah was asked to testify at the trial of the young man who set off the bomb, she panicked at first, but then realized that she needed to take the stand in order to fight for justice. Her deepest desire was that the terrorist would be stopped from ever hurting and killing people again. Later, when she was asked to make a victim impact statement, she agreed on one condition. She refused to call herself a victim or to live her life in that context. Instead, she called herself a survivor – a distinction that was critical to her physical, mental and spiritual health as she strove toward taking her life back.
As Rebekah struggled to find a new normal, she prayed for God’s help. Her prayers were answered in a surprising way. People at the Premiere Speakers Bureau had heard about her and wanted to help train her to become a public speaker so she could share her story. From the beginning, they made it clear that they understood the importance of her Christian faith to her and wouldn’t ask her to ignore it or lessen its significance while telling her story. As she began a speaking circuit, she discovered that “there is a large audience out there that will not ask me to leave out my faith in telling my story. Some are secular audiences, while others can appreciate my spiritual journey for what it is. I wonder if this audience exists because, in the midst of pain and tragedy, we are all hungry for contact with others who live in Christ. We know the recharging that goes along with genuine fellowship, the feeling of the presence of God’s power that comes most strongly in community.”
Throughout her memoir, Rebekah highlights the ways in which Noah’s love, courage, empathy and childlike wisdom helped her to heal and move forward through despair. But Noah’s journey to healing, though he didn’t sustain many physical injuries, was also difficult as he suffered from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In gratitude for all the support she and Noah received, Rebekah founded Rebekah’s Angels, a foundation which provides support to children suffering from PTSD because of various traumas.
Taking My Life Back is both inspiring and encouraging, a clarion call to refuse to give evil the last word, and to wait for God to bring about his goodness and redemption when it seems that all is lost.