The timer on the homemade bomb dropped to zero just moments after Rebekah Gregory told her son, Noah, to play at her feet. It detonated three feet behind her while she watched for her friend to cross the Boston Marathon finish line. Debris flew into Gregory and the onlookers around her, but Noah’s body was miraculously shielded from a fatal blow.
Rebekah Gregory’s book, “Taking My Life Back,” tells both the story of that day—one that took her leg and almost took her son—and stories from Gregory’s past that help you realize just how much you have in common with a bombing survivor.
1. We have all experienced life explosions.
“I always start my speeches by telling the audience that most people in their lives will never get blown up by a bomb. But life blows up in everyone’s face, and I can almost guarantee that it happens more than once.”
While you likely haven’t ever been three feet away from an exploding bomb like Rebekah Gregory, you have probably experienced a life explosion: You’ve lost your job, a family member has passed away unexpectedly, divorce, cancer diagnosis, car accident…or some other unforeseen and terrifying event.
The explosion in Boston wasn’t Gregory’s first. She experienced abuse as a child. She became a single mother at 20. She endured a very painful and very public divorce. And just a few months before Boston, she was held at gunpoint in a parking lot. But the constant throughout each of these explosions was her stubborn faith in a God who had a plan for her—despite life constantly blowing up.
2. We must choose to believe in God’s goodness.
People are always asking Rebekah Gregory how she can believe in God with all the bad things she’s been through. Her response is always the same: “How can you not believe in God when you hear all these things that have happened to me?”
Rebekah Gregory developed a strong faith despite being raised in an abusive home where her evangelist father routinely came home from preaching and beat her. It was something she carried through each difficult event she would face.
“I feel like every time I have tried to deny God in my life, He has revealed Himself to me in such a powerful way,” Gregory says.
Like when, in the wake of a devastating divorce, God brought her college sweetheart back into her life, leading to a beautiful marriage and a healthy daughter.
And she saw how God protected her son the day of the bombing by positioning him at her feet. She even believes the bombing has made her better, allowing her family to draw closer than ever.
“At the end of the day, I was three feet away from a bomb, and I’m here to tell about it,” said Rebekah Gregory. “I don’t understand how somebody doesn’t believe in God.”
3. Joy is a choice we must make when we are fearful.
Every single day since that fateful Boston morning, Rebekah Gregory has had to wake up and choose joy. When she finally made the decision to amputate her left leg after dozens of surgeries to try and save it, she vowed to approach each day with gratitude.
“When I reach for my prosthetic, I can either be angry I have a fake leg because someone blew it off, or I can use it for an opportunity to be thankful that I have a daily reminder that my life is short and I’m going live it to the fullest every single minute.”
When the days get hard—and they do get hard—it’s Gregory’s children who remind her not to live in fear.
“I feel like every time I leave my house, I have to tell myself, ‘Okay Rebekah, just because you’re walking outside your house does not mean that someone is going to try to kill you today.’”
But she’s determined.
“I can’t live my life in fear because I can’t teach [Noah] to live his life in fear. We have to do the things that scare us.”
4. Parenting can feel impossible.
Rebekah Gregory’s son, Noah, was only five years old when the bomb detonated three feet from where he played at his mother’s legs. Miraculously, her legs shielded him from what would have been a fatal blow to his small body. Now nine, Noah is a normal boy who loves to play and get dirty and sometimes tell people he got blown up by a bomb.
Boys will be boys.
But Gregory faces the same challenge parents all over the world are facing: How do you explain the often terrible state of the world to someone so young, impressionable, and innocent?
“I have been very open and honest with him, and I try to reiterate that we are here for a reason.”
Gregory emphasizes the blessings that have resulted from their tough times.
“I hope that this makes him a better person in the long run because I know it has made me a better person. I took things for granted before and just tried to get through the day, not really thinking how short life is.”
This experience, Gregory says, made her understand that being successful and working a lot were not what her son needed. What he needed, she realized, is her time, attention and love.
“I hope I can pass that on to him and maybe he won’t worry so much about the trivial issues. Maybe he’ll realize how beautiful life is and how we don’t need to take a single second for granted.”
5. Her story, like yours, provides healing when shared.
Rebekah Gregory has a story of God’s protection that started long before the bomb detonated at the Boston Marathon. Her new book chronicles a life full of God’s mercy and grace, pulling her back to Him whenever she looked away. She recognizes the importance in sharing our stories, no matter how many or how few explosions they contain, because they ultimately point to God.
“I am not a preacher. I can’t quote the entire Bible. All I can do is share my experiences and let you see for yourself that there has got to be something bigger out there.”
“Taking My Life Back: My Story of Faith, Determination, and Surviving the Boston Marathon Bombing” is available online and in stores. You can follow Gregory at rebekahmgregory.com.