Family of Faith
Baton Rouge native tells a story of love, kindness, and endurance
By Sarah L. WebbPosted Feb 20, 2013
In 2003, Richard Gipson Gayle, known simply as Gip, joined a new friend on a dove hunting trip in South Georgia. Only three weeks into his freshman year of college, a time when many students anticipate the joy of years to come, Gip’s future almost vanished when a hunter accidently shot him in the head at close range with a 12-gauge shotgun.
Gip was airlifted from Vidalia, Ga. to the nearest trauma center in Savannah, where doctors performed an emergency surgery. Meanwhile, Gip’s parents were five hours away in Atlanta when the Vidalia Sheriff called them with the heart wrenching news. Doctors didn’t even expect Gip to survive the night.
Gip not only survived that night, but in May 2012 he finally graduated from college. That epic, nine-year journey from tragedy to triumph became the subject of And Then Came Angels, a book written by Gip’s mother, Beth Morris Gayle. Beth will return to Baton Rouge, her hometown, to share her experience at The Red Shoes on Feb. 22.
“I never planned to be an author, and I don’t see myself that way,” said Beth. “I’m just a mom who has a story to tell.”
Beth has already told their story to other families at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, the place where Gip recovered. According to Beth, the Shepherd Center was the place “where in our hearts we feel they brought our son back to us.” Those families urged Beth to write her story so people everywhere could benefit from its lessons of hope and perseverance.
“Obviously this recovery was not overnight,” Beth explained. “This was long-term. We had a lot of obstacles. Gip had over 20 surgeries and procedures. He had many, many setbacks where he had to start all over, again and again and again. He had to learn to walk three different times within the nine years after the accident.”
For Beth, writing the book became yet another difficult journey requiring faith and perseverance.
“It was very difficult to relive a lot of those moments, but it was a true story so I had to tell it truthfully. That meant reliving a lot of what I was writing about.”
Just like those who gave her hope during Gip’s recovery, people continued to encourage her throughout the process of completing the book and getting it published in September 2012.
“I would take six and eight month reprieves from writing, emotional breaks when I just said I can’t do this,” Beth said. “I would stop and I would tell myself and God that I can’t do it. And then I’d get another call from another family, and we’d go to meet with them, and there it would be: You have got to tell this story. Time and time again that happened, and it really drew me back in, and eventually I finished.”
At its heart, the story is not about Gip’s traumatic accident, or the pain he and his family felt for so long.
“Past that is where the real story begins,” Beth said. “Because that’s where you’re lifted. That’s where I tell how we got through it. That’s where I tell how family and friends rallied around us, and those are the earthly angels I’m talking about.”
The Red Shoes is a fitting venue for Beth’s talk. Red Shoes Executive Director Wendy Herschman describes it as a center for personal and spiritual growth. The Red Shoes originally opened 14 years ago as a non-profit to give women a safe place to express their voices. Over the years, male participation has increased, which is primarily due to the inclusive nature of their community.
Because Beth is from Baton Rouge, it wasn’t long before The Red Shoes got requests to bring her in as a guest speaker. Though the Gayle family has lived in Atlanta for nearly 30 years, Beth and her husband Richard still have profound loyalty to their roots.
“I was born and raised in Baton Rouge, so that is still home,” said Beth. “And we still bleed purple and gold. I don’t care where we live; we are bleeding purple and gold over here!”
It doesn’t take long to see how Beth and her family endured crisis. Faith, prayer, love, and laughter are part of their daily lives. Her speech is glittered with the free laughter and never-met-a-stranger tone that folks from Baton Rouge expect from each other.
On Feb. 22, Beth will read excerpts from her book, show videos of Gip’s recovery, autograph books, and give time for others who want to tell their stories. She said people can expect that night to be about faith, humor, and sharing.
Register for the Feb. 22 event at www.TheRedShoes.org.
Learn more on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/AndThenCameTheAngelsByBethGayle.