A Second Chance at Heaven

A Second Chance at Heaven

by Tamara Laroux

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780785217015
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 06/12/2018
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 478,666
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Tamara Laroux has been teaching the truth of God's Word since 1987. She is an inspiring author, speaker, and Co-founder of Life Change International. Through television and multi-media outlets Tamara has shared the Gospel in over forty countries. She is passionate about seeing the broken hearted restored through Christ's love. Tamara, her husband, Rodney, along with their three children have made Houston, Texas their home.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

The Day I Died

The day I died began like any other West Texas morning in late September.

When I awoke, I had no idea I would later try to take my own life and experience an astounding supernatural journey. For the glory of God I'm compelled to tell that story to a society that often glamorizes and dramatizes suicide in TV and movies.

God can bring healing out of even the worst of days. In fact, what became the most extraordinary day of my life started like one of the most ordinary.

* * *

My alarm went off, and I immediately got up and raised the blinds. Outside the air-conditioned comfort of my bedroom, it was already sultry, the rising sun simmering on the horizon like an egg sizzling in a skillet. I brushed my teeth and hopped into the shower. Hot and dry outside again. A quiz in algebra. Just another typical day.

I had just started my sophomore year at Permian High School in Odessa, Texas, home of the Panthers. If you recognize Permian from Friday Night Lights, the bestselling book later written about our championship football program that went on to inspire a movie and TV series, you immediately understand many aspects of my world at that time. My parents had met in Odessa and moved to El Paso after they married. Then my mom returned to Odessa after their divorce when I was about four. Even though West Texas was all I knew, I liked it there. Like many small communities, we prided ourselves on conservative values and liberal enthusiasm for local sports and homemade barbeque.

My life looked good — my life was good — for most of those fifteen years leading up to that fateful day. My family wasn't rich, but we were fairly well-off by small-town-Texas standards. My father worked as a top executive for a major clothing manufacturer, and many of our relatives enjoyed dividends from investments in oil and gas. My uncle owned a big ranch nearby and all of us cousins enjoyed riding horses, racing four-wheelers, and tanning by the pool there. We weren't the Ewings of Dallas, but I had definitely experienced moments of their lifestyle.

I had no logical reason to want to die that day.

* * *

Most people seemed to like me. Quiet and a little shy, I was considered a nice girl, well-mannered and from a good family. Many people told me I was pretty and complimented me on my honey-blonde hair and brown eyes. Based on remarks from some of the cruder boys at school, I knew my figure had matured with the curves of a woman, despite how much I still felt like a little girl. Even though I didn't feel pretty, like most teenage girls of the eighties, I spent way too much time curling my shoulder-length hair and applying my makeup like an artist with a blank canvas.

That day I wore my standard uniform, a pair of Levis and a T-shirt with "Go Panthers!" on it, along with my new pair of back-to-school Nikes. Giving my bouncy curls one last shake, I dabbed on a little more strawberry lip gloss and headed out of the room.

"Good morning, honey," Mom called as I entered the kitchen. "You want some eggs? Or I can make you a waffle if you —"

"Thanks, Momma," I said. "Not really hungry yet."

"Most important meal of the day." She turned on the TV in the living room and returned to the kitchen to pour herself a glass of coke. "You got to eat something, Tam."

Because she insisted, I nibbled a piece of toast with jam made with peaches from our giant tree in the backyard, the pride and joy of my green-thumbed mother. As I gathered my textbooks and homework into my backpack, the morning news jumped from a sound bite of President Reagan talking about the AIDS crisis to an engineer commenting on the crash of a Delta jetliner near Dallas that summer.

"I want to hear this," Mom said and turned up the volume, eager to know if the cause had been determined for the tragedy claiming more than a hundred lives. Such news was personal for us. Her husband and my stepfather, Bill, was a pilot, and although he flew private jets chartered by wealthy oilmen, we still worried about his safety in the air.

As the news story ended, I asked, "When does Dad get back?" I had been calling Bill my dad from the time we moved back to Odessa after the divorce.

"Late tonight," Mom said. "Just a quick trip to Houston and back. Am I still picking you up after school or are you riding with Lori?"

As if on cue, my friend pulled into our driveway and tooted her horn. Lori was only a few months older than me, but she already had her license — and a mom willing to lease a candy-apple red Mustang for her only daughter. Lori and I had grown up together and now enjoyed the companionable sisterhood that teenage girls commit to with one another to avoid being the loner sitting on the bus or in the cafeteria by herself. We mostly talked about school or hot guys — my mom said Lori was "boy crazy" — or who sat with whom at the football game and what they wore.

Although I might have said Lori was my best friend at the time, the truth was I didn't have a best friend. I was too afraid of letting anyone see the real me. If my insecurities, imperfections, and self-doubts were more than I could handle, how could anyone else bear them? I was well-liked and got along well with most kids — jocks, stoners, nerds, band kids, even cheerleaders. So I hung out with a number of different friends and floated on the surface of life, never venturing beyond the shallow end of our emotional pool. We had a good time and shared lots of laughs, but that was it.

They had no idea about the weight of darkness crushing my heart.

"Gotta go," I called over my shoulder as I rushed out the door. "Bye, Mom!"

"Have a good day, honey," she said while unloading the dishwasher. "I'll see you at three."

* * *

Looking back now, I see the rest of that day blurring together in a collage of everyday moments made all the more poignant by my date with eternity. It was as if the surface version of my life — the life based on what I said and did, how I looked and where I spent my time — had collided with my interior world of pain, despair, and overwhelming hopelessness. My emotional avalanche had been building for some time, trying to pull me under, but I had always managed to dig my way out.

But no longer. That day, I was faced with all those feelings of isolation and loneliness, of not belonging or fitting in with any of the hundreds of kids walking the halls around me, of rejection and abandonment by people who said they loved me. It was too much. Like holding on to the chin-up bar in PE and feeling the muscles in my arms quiver before I had to let go, I could no longer bear the weight of my own pain.

If this sounds like the melodramatic angst of an overly sensitive teenage girl, please forgive me. But I'm not sure how else to describe that day to you. In many ways, it was just another day at school. Discussing Hamlet in Mrs. Collins's English class. Solving equations for unknown variables in algebra. Going to lunch off campus as a group of us piled into Lori's car and headed to Taco Bell. The only warning sign came while sitting in study hall during my free period.

In the school library that afternoon, it was as if a new awareness seeped into my consciousness. In the past I had always told myself that things would get better. That my life would change and someday I would be happy. I would leave Odessa and go to college, start an exciting career, meet someone special, and get married. He and I would travel to exotic places together, then start our family, and I would be fulfilled, secure in the knowledge that I was known and loved and free to love others without fear of being hurt.

But sitting at a table in study hall, I looked out the window and saw the truth.

My circumstances weren't the problem. I had a good life despite how depressed and alone I felt. My family loved me. My friends all liked me. My life, my family, school — none of them was the problem.

I was the problem.

And without thinking about it, I knew what I had to do. If I was the problem, I had no hope of ever escaping the unbearable weight shattering my soul. No matter where I went or what I did, I would never be able to outrun my own inadequacy. There was no hope. Nothing would ever change. The ache would only continue to wrack my heart. But I couldn't bear that thought because then there was no hope. No relief. No comfort. No happiness.

That was it.

I was done.

* * *

"How was your day, Tam?" Mom asked as I got in the car that afternoon.

"Okay — fine,"

I said, tossing my backpack behind me.

"You have much homework?"

I shook my head and gazed out the window as we pulled away from campus. The late-afternoon sky looked dreamy and autumn-blue, a hazy shade you only get in Texas in the fall. A few white clouds floated like tufts of cotton batted by the lingering jet stream of some long-gone plane.

I would miss it, the simple beauty of a lazy afternoon. But my decision had already been made. I had accepted it without any desire to reconsider. Just knowing my pain would be over soon already brought relief.

As we passed the football field, I saw the team practicing and envied the players' passion and determination for winning a game that seemed meaningless to me. And it wasn't just the players — the coaches and teachers, parents and neighbors, everyone cared so much about our football team and its record. The Panthers had won the state championship the year before, as well as several times before then, and although the season had barely started, the pressure to win was already enormous. As if any of it really mattered.

"You're awfully quiet today," Mom said. "Everything okay?"

I fought back tears as we pulled into our driveway. Our ranch-style house featured pale reddish-brown brick framed by shutters and trim painted a bright sun yellow. All I had to do was say I lived in the yellow house, and anybody in the area knew where it was. The weeping willow on the corner swayed in the breeze as if crying for me. And then I heard Foxy, our beloved Sheltie, barking from within the house, eager to see me and lick my face with her usual after-school greeting.

"Just tired, I guess."

Mom nodded and patted my knee. "I baked some banana bread today if you want a snack. I'm going to work in the yard for a little while if you need me. Have to cut back that honeysuckle before it jumps the fence."

"Thanks, Momma," I said, aware it would be the last time I'd see her or hear her lovely Texas drawl. "I ... I love you." My voice began to tremble and I grabbed my backpack and hurried into the house. I didn't look back for fear she would ask more questions, but she was already headed toward her gardening shed.

Walking inside, I inhaled that unmistakable, familiar scent that I had come to take for granted. Fresh and citrusy from the lemon cleaner my mother used every day on our tiled entryway, mingled with clean laundry and a wisp of my mother's perfume, all wrapped in the divine smell of fresh-baked bread coming from the kitchen. I sighed, savoring that moment.

Eager for my attention, Foxy wagged her tail and ran around my feet until I petted her and let her lick my face. I hugged her close and then let her out the back door to chase squirrels in the backyard where Mom had just started trimming the vines laced around the old fence behind our peach tree. They both looked happy.

It was all more than I could bear.

* * *

I could no longer contain my awareness of what I was about to do. In my room with the door shut, I let the tears fall as I looked around at the clothes, books, CDs, and pictures, all the souvenirs of my life. A neatly folded stack of clean clothes Mom had placed on my dresser. The birthday card Dad had sent me that year. A bottle of drugstore perfume that matched the body wash in my shower. A ticket stub from the ballgame last Friday night. A small stuffed pink bear from last Valentine's day. A silly cartoon a friend had drawn for me the first day of school. Some loose change in a china teacup painted with roses.

"You don't have to do this," a voice inside me said.

I ignored it, maintaining my resolve, and fumbled through the pages of an old notebook. I knew I wanted to write something to leave behind, but what could I possibly say to explain what I was about to do? More tears streamed down my cheeks. The last thing I wanted to do was hurt my family, but I couldn't go on. Mom would be so wrecked. But I knew her grief would fade over time.

Grabbing a pen, I sat on the floor by my bed and began to write in the neat curly script that any of my family and friends could identify as distinctly mine. "You have such pretty penmanship, Tamara," my elementary school teachers had always told me. Even though I now can't remember any of the words I committed to paper that day, I know without a doubt there was nothing pretty about them.

By the time I finished writing the second page, my hand was shaking. I didn't dare to reread it because I knew I would want to revise it. I wrote from my heart, and it would have to do. Where to leave it? On the kitchen table? On my dresser? Should I tear out the pages or leave them in the spiral-bound notebook? Closing the cover, I noticed some of the words had smeared from where my tears splattered the ink. I placed the notebook under my bed.

Just as I was about to leave my room, something caught my eye on the bedside table that made me cry even harder — the Bible my granny had given me. The thought of her softened my heart. While our family had gone to church on and off, I knew without a doubt there was a God because of my grandmother, my mom's mom. She was the best person I knew, always even-keeled and kindhearted, eager to ask me questions and listen beyond the short answers I usually gave her. Granny often told me about God's love and forgiveness, about his Son, Jesus, who left heaven to save us from our sins.

I had no doubt she believed every word she told me, and I envied the depth and intensity of her faith. But she might as well have been speaking a foreign language, because I didn't know what to do with what she said. I heard her, but I didn't understand her. I couldn't connect the dots between God's love and all the pain I felt inside, and all the suffering in the world. I had no doubt he existed, but I didn't know what difference that really made in my life.

But thinking of my granny made me cry harder. If I was about to find out what happens after you die, shouldn't I try to ask God for his forgiveness? After all, I knew taking my own life was wrong. But surely a God of love would show me mercy. I couldn't imagine him wanting any of his children to suffer with the unbearable weight I carried. Surely, he would forgive me, wouldn't he? I fell to my knees then, just like when I was a little girl saying prayers at bedtime.

"God, forgive me — please, please forgive me," I sobbed aloud.

When I got up, I heard Foxy barking and looked out my window. She was chasing her tail, and I couldn't help but smile. My mother was pulling weeds along the fencerow now. Shards of late afternoon sunlight cut through that still-perfect blue sky.

Leaving my room, I glanced back to make sure the notebook was still peeking out from beneath my bed. My tears hadn't stopped. I felt nothing at all. But suddenly: What was that sound — did someone just come in the house? Both my sister and brother were away. Mom was outside. Bill was at work. I froze in the hallway, grateful I was in my socks so I could move quietly, and listened. There it was again.

* * *

I stood there holding my breath. Nothing — just the house creaking. Foxy barking outside. Wind rustling through the evergreens at the other end of the yard.

Down the hall, I stood in the doorway to the master bedroom where Mom and Bill slept. Immaculate as always, the room looked like a page out of a magazine with a beautiful floral comforter and a half-dozen pillows on the king-size bed. I went to the right side of the bed, Mom's side, and opened the drawer of her nightstand.

Seeing the .38 revolver she always kept there — protection when Bill's job kept him away overnight — both startled and relieved me, like lifting a rock to find the snake you know is there. I was certain the .38 was loaded but checked to be sure. I wasn't about to play Russian roulette and chicken out because the gun's chamber was empty. This wasn't a half-hearted attempt or some cry for attention.

My mind was made up.

I went into the master bath and locked the door behind me. The heft of the gun in my hand felt cool and comfortable. I had already considered logistics and, ironically, knew I wanted to make this as easy as possible for Mom and Bill. I would be causing enough trouble and heartache without making a big mess on top of it. If I did it in the tiled shower stall, the cleanup would be much easier.

I stood in the shower and lifted the gun to my head.

"Lower the gun to your heart," a voice inside said.

"No," I insisted. "I'm not taking any chances of living through this."

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "A Second Chance at Heaven"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Tamara Laroux.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Publisher's Note, ix,
1. The Day I Died, 1,
2. Machete Wounds from Paper Cuts, 15,
3. The Hell I Know, 29,
4. Heaven Can't Wait, 41,
5. Back to Life, 51,
6. Width of a Shadow, 61,
7. Body and Soul, 75,
8. Reentry, 87,
9. What Happened to Me?, 99,
10. To Tell the Truth, 115,
11. The Truth Sets Me Free, 129,
12. Healing, 145,
13. Living in Freedom, 159,
14. Moving and Growing, 173,
15. We All Need Second Chances, 187,
Prayer, 201,
Acknowledgments, 203,
About the Author, 205,

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