FRISTOE — “Yellow Fields of Grace” by Karen DeAngelo, of the Warsaw area, explores her journey through guilt and bitterness when the unexpected happens to her child and her ultimate surrender to the power of God that mends her broken soul.
The book begins with humor and moves into a “brutally honest” look at family dynamics, pressures of womanhood and redemption through the love of a child.
Originally from Long Island, New York, DeAngelo and her husband Joe decided in 1978 they wanted to move into the Midwest to raise a large family on a farm. Joe would run his business as a auto electronic specialist from their new Missouri home.
Visions of having a large family were soon displaced when DeAngelo was told she was sterile.
“The comedy of it is when I was diagnosed sterile, I was in the room with a Catholic nun in the hospital,” she said with a New Jersey accent. “So, I was in the room with this cloistered nun, who was elderly. She was behind the curtains; it was a Catholic hospital (and) she never spoke to me the two days I was there. The doctor came in and said ‘listen you are completely sterile you’ll never have kids … you’ll never produce a child.’
“I’m sobbing and sobbing and this nun she whips back this curtain and she sits up on the bed and she goes ‘Karen you listen to me, and you better listen good, cause I’m only saying this once. You pray to the Heavenly Father to have those babies you want and you’ll have them,’” DeAngelo added. “And, she shut the curtain; I was pregnant by Mother’s Day. We ended up having six kids, and the joke in the family was, the nun never knew when to quit praying!”
When her first child was six months old, DeAngelo and her husband took off looking for the perfect spot to settle. They traveled in July with a tent.
“I have a deep appreciation for pioneers,” she said smiling. “I was never into pioneer history until I moved out here.”
Eventually the couple, now with two young daughters, Dianna and Christina, settled in Richmond in Ray County, eight miles north of the Missouri River.
“This book is a very, very true story,” DeAngelo said. “My first editor said this book is brutally honest and that is what I intended. I wanted it to be brutally honest, I wanted it to tell the other side of the story that nobody ever tells.
“My goal was, I wanted to get people to laugh and I wanted to get them to cry with the truth,” she added. “I wanted it to smack them in the face for their own benefit, to come to grips with what they were dealing with in their lives, and to show how the Lord is all forgiving and all graceful.”
Raised in the Catholic faith, DeAngelo said when she had her second child, Christina, she was filled with guilt because she didn’t want to be pregnant so soon after her first child. Christina was born prematurely at 33 weeks and with health problems; this increased DeAngelo’s guilt.
“I had never accepted this pregnancy and then boom I have this kid early, during a massive blizzard in New York in ‘78,” she said.
DeAngelo was told Christina would probably die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) before she was six months old.
“I felt like God was punishing me because I didn’t accept this pregnancy,” She said. “The book goes into this guilt problem; I was not a Christian at the time. I was raised a Catholic and I had head knowledge, but I still saw God as a punishing God.”
The book takes a turn from humorous to dark when the couple decided to take a trip to Kansas to buy bottle calves to supplement their meager income.
As the family left in the dark, early one morning, one day after Christina made it to the sixth month mark for SIDS, they wrecked their car going 55 miles an hour. DeAngelo’s nose and cheek bones were crushed and baby Christina suffered major head trauma, leaving her brain damaged with a bilateral skull fracture. Christina survived as a quadriplegic who couldn’t speak and required special care.
This sent DeAngelo further into bitterness, causing a crisis in her marriage. Due to the accident, the community began to step in and help. This act of kindness began to pull DeAngelo back from darkness and she worked to create a special school for handicapped children, The Lighthouse Pre-School for Exceptional Children.
Guilt still followed her; soon she had to deal with it. She recalled an incident.
“Now I had this accident and I was sure God was an evil get-even God,” she noted.
In December after the accident, she was asked by a friend’s husband if she believed in God.
“I said ‘oh yeah, I believe in God, who do you think did this mess to me?’” she said.
The couple directed her to a non-denominational church in Richmond where she was finally able to begin letting go of guilt.
During the 35 years following the accident, Christina began to touch the lives of others, especially her mother.
“What I learned through a child who couldn’t walk, couldn’t talk, couldn’t communicate, I became a Christian and I learned unconditional love,” DeAngelo noted. “… We had six children and all five of them are Christians and married to Christians and are raising Christians; all because of one incident.”
DeAngelo said when Christina was 8-years-old she had a dream about her. Christina was running in a field of yellow flowers, but DeAngelo knew that would only be in heaven.
“I couldn’t believe how many lives were affected,” DeAngelo said remembering her daughter. “She couldn’t walk, she couldn’t talk, she had crystal blue eyes …”
DeAngelo is available for speaking engagements at no charge. She will be speaking at noon Sept. 9 at the First Baptist Church in Climax Springs and she will speak Sept. 15 at the Climax Springs Library. She may be reached at 816-529-2413, at www.KarenDeAngelo.com or at [email protected]
“Yellow Fields of Grace,” published by Tate Publishing and Enterprises, can be purchased on DeAngelo’s website or on Amazon.com.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 826-1000 ext. 1481 or @flbemiss.