“A life precious to God”

Karen Palmer

ISBN: 9781912726271

154 Pages

Published Jul 2020

Christian Life

Paperback £8.99 Kindle £5.99
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‘everywhere she had been there grew flowers’

When Karen and Gordon are asked how many children they have, they tell people two – it’s just easier that way. But the truth is that there will always be three…

Their first child, Jennifer Grace, was discovered to have multiple abnormalities before birth. Faced with the invidious choice of termination or continuing the pregnancy, they chose the latter, and a beautiful baby girl was born to them, only to die hours later.

Sharing the struggles and doubts they have faced, Jennifer’s parents show how loved she was and how her short life was used to bless many lives. Blending recent reflections with contemporary journal entries and letters, this is a rich testimony to God’s goodness and intimate involvement in our lives. It is evidence that even when tragedy strikes, every life is precious to Him.

  • To write about bereavement, especially a newborn, requires a very delicate touch. Those drawn to read are often either hurting themselves or know someone going through a similar trauma. Above all they want such writing to have a ring of truth to it that allows them to connect. I found myself drawn into the raw narrative, nodding my head in agreement. To make that link requires both honesty and vulnerability. Yet, alongside that, Karen brings her professional skills as a doctor and psychiatrist, and is able to helpfully self-reflect.

    In Jennifer’s story there is no toning down the contrasting emotions, the contradictory thoughts or the imagined and feared scenarios. The faith that lifts the book is not a superhero faith but a learned experience of faith found through pain, not through an avoidance of reality. Supported by family, friends and her local congregation, Karen and Gordon are able to walk together through a year that changed their lives and the lives of those around them, and they invite us to join them on that journey.

    The Very Reverend Colin Sinclair, former Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland
  • This book is the record of the loss of a child, probably the most demanding experience this world can offer. The chapters are special because they are written by a doctor who understood the perils of an abnormal pregnancy, the wife of a minister of the gospel who shared the pain, and the daughter of another minister and his wife who had lost an infant son many years before. The book is also special because it is based on diaries kept at the time which bring out the authentic anguish and the surprising joy of the events before and after the birth and death of Jennifer Palmer. The grief is documented, but so are the indications of God’s presence, love and care for Jennifer and her family.

    David Bebbington, Emeritus Professor of History, University of Stirling; former Deacon at Stirling Baptist Church
  • Jennifer Palmer’s life by the world’s measure would be seen as insignificant. She was born on 3rd August 1993, with an unknown fatal condition, and died the same day. However, God continues to use the testimony of her short and precious life and death. With soul-searching clarity, Karen Palmer, Jennifer’s mother, writes her story here. She honestly shares her pain, anger, hopes and joy, while directing us to a loving God. Jennifer: A Life Precious to God is an invaluable book for anyone who has experienced the death of a baby, or indeed is in a caring and supportive role to grieving parents.

    Judith Keefe, Founder of Under the Rainbow
  • I commend this beautiful book, which is both movingly sad and full of hope, because it will help those experiencing grief and especially any who have experienced the death of an infant. It certainly will do that, but in addition it is a testimony to the power of community in the face of human mortality and loss and to what it means for us to be the body of Christ in the world.

    Dr Stephen Chester, Lord and Lady Coggan Professor of New Testament, Wycliffe College, Toronto, Canada
  • This is a beautiful book. It begins in heart-rending tragedy, but what unfolds is a testimony of hope and celebration. It’s the story of how one young couple’s hopes for a perfect baby were brutally crushed, and how, in the agony of their heartbreak, God spoke to them of the preciousness and importance of this tiny, damaged life growing within. It’s about their faithfulness to that voice and its invitation to love and protect and nurture the fragile life they co-created, and the transforming and healing power of that love – in their own lives and those of many beyond.

    This is not a heroic story – although there is great courage and grit here. Rather it’s a witness to the way that communities – church, friends and acquaintances – and the kindness of strangers can sustain us when we are at our most vulnerable and dependent. It’s a story that goes right to the heart of the Christian faith and reminds us that God so often uses what we might reject or discount to embody and reveal His unconditional love and gentleness.

    Karen Palmer writes beautifully, and with honesty, humility and humour. I found this a hard book to put down: it’s a gripping read, and, like Jennifer’s brief life, its resonances will travel far and wide and deep.

    Dr Margaret Masson, Principal of St Chad’s College, Durham
  • In 1993, Rachel and I lived about a hundred yards from Karen and Gordon in Ruchazie. They were cherished friends and mentors during the almost six years we lived in that troubled and treasured place. We wept and walked and worshipped with them through the months described in this book. When, years later, we welcomed a pregnancy ourselves, with accompanying fears and decisions about tests, Jennifer’s story was very present for me. In some ways this is a polished gem of a book, honed by years of reflection, and in other respects it reads as raw as the grief it records. Although it touches on crucial medical–ethical issues, it is not an argument but a testimony – a testimony of faith, hope and love. It, like the woman who has written it, is brimming with tenderness and honesty and faith. I am so glad to have read it, and I recommend it to you unreservedly.

    Rev Dr Doug Gay, Lecturer in Practical Theology, University of Glasgow; Kirk Minister

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