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"Carolyn and the Cross" describes God's purpose behind tragedy

Author Jody Porter embraces his mother Carolyn Proctor, about whom he's written a book, "Carolyn and the Cross.

Author Jody Porter embraces his mother Carolyn Proctor, about whom he's written a book, "Carolyn and the Cross.

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"Carolyn and the Cross"

Five-year-old Jody Porter couldn't understand why his mother didn't show up to comfort him when he broke his arm and was rushed to the hospital.

He began to wake up night after night crying out for her and was becoming more dissatisfied with the answer he kept getting from his grandparents. His mother, they told him, loved him very much, but she had gone away for awhile.

That excuse was better than what the doctors told them they should tell Jody and his sister Becky. As their mother Carolyn Proctor lay in a coma in the hospital, doctors, who said she was in a vegetative state, advised her parents to tell their grandchildren that their mother had died.

Kept alive with the aid of a respirator machine, the future indeed looked hopeless and doubtful for the young mother.

In 1975, Proctor had gone into an Atlanta hospital for a routine hysterectomy. Following the surgery, she talked by phone with her parents in Savannah, who were keeping her two children, and told her mother that her doctors said she would probably be going home the next day.

But all that changed when she began hemorrhaging during the night and ended up back in surgery.

The day before, Proctor had been sitting up in her hospital bed working on papers from her office and chatting with visitors.

But now the young woman lay motionless in a hospital bed in a coma. Doctors told her mother there was little brain activity and that she would not be alive if she was not hooked up to the respirator.

The full story of Carolyn Proctor's near death experience and what followed in its aftermath is told by her son, Jody Porter, who today is a married father of three and a first-time author.

Beginning with his own frightening and confusing boyhood days, Porter has written about his mother's ordeal and her miraculous return to the family that loves her. The Conyers author's debut book has already become the No. 1 selling book at CrossBooks Publishing.

"Carolyn and the Cross" tells the story of how God used every circumstance and event surrounding Carolyn Proctor's life to accomplish His will in the lives of her family and others who have been touched by this story.

"If you have ever wondered how to make sense of tragedy or difficult circumstances, this will inspire you to discover God's purpose behind it all," the book jacket reads. "And if you have ever wanted to give up on the power of hope and love, be ready to have your faith renewed."

Porter, who grew up in Savannah and is now a banker with United Community Bank in Conyers, said he felt compelled to write his mother's story, which has "always been inside of me."

The local, state and national news outlets covered Proctor's story in the 1970s as it related to the case of Karen Ann Quinlan, a young New Jersey woman in a coma whose family's lawsuit to have her removed from her respirator sparked a national right-to-die debate.

Porter said the "real story" is what happened after his mother came out of the coma.

"That's the story that never got told," he said.

The author shares with readers the details of what happened to his family, beginning with his own recollections as a little boy thrust into a confusing time.

The book goes on to tell how Carolyn Proctor spent time with God during those days when doctors said she was in a vegetative state. The book explains how she was miraculously able to share those memories with her son in years to come.

"Carolyn and the Cross" is also the story of Jody Porter's grandparents, Julia and Bernie Proctor, who would not give up on their daughter and who took care of their grandchildren.

Julia defied doctors orders and insisted to them that her daughter would get better. Bernie built devices for Carolyn, who had to use a wheelchair after coming out of the coma. He made an alphabet tray which she used to communicate sentences by pointing at letters.

"Carolyn and the Cross," the story of one family's faith and determination and the miraculous work of God, was not an easy story to tell, said Porter.

"Writing that book, subject matter aside, was the most difficult thing I ever had to do," he said. "The second most difficult thing was reading that book to my mother. She had no idea I was writing the book. I had been working with my grandmother because I was young and couldn't remember everything."

Porter said when he read the book to his mother she had some flashbacks and memories. She cried through most of the book, but insisted he keep reading. She smiled during the chapter which discusses how God uses everything for His purpose.

Porter's grandfather passed away two years ago after battling a stroke which left him paralyzed on the left side of his body. Porter's grandmother took care of her husband to the end, At 84, Julia Proctor still goes to see her daughter every day and has lived a life that amazes her grandson.

"I can't put into words the admiration and love I have for my grandmother," Porter writes. "If God has a book about love, I know that within those pages her name is written.

"I tell people all the time when they say, 'So sad about your mom' or 'I can't imagine what you must have gone through,' that I have been blessed in life beyond all measure because I was fortunate enough in life to have two moms: mom and grandma."

Porter's book was published by CrossBooks, a division of Lifeway and is available online through CrossBooks, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, in paperback, hardback and e-book formats. The author and his wife, Leanne, are the parents of Kathryn, 13; Kinsley, 20 and Courtney, 22 and are members of the First Baptist Church of Covington.

"We all have personal stories," Porter said. "By sharing my mom's story, my greatest hope is that if it could help someone struggling with their own story, it was well worth it."

Beth Sexton is a freelance writer based in Snellville. If you have a story idea, contact Karen Rohr, features editor, at karen.rohr@rockdalecitizen.com.