On the last day of her life, Sally was celebrating. She had just finished Year 12 and was in the car with her best friend and their boyfriends when the four died in a head-on collision.
Younger sister Betty Sharpe was grief-stricken and, desperate to find out if Sally was happy in the afterlife, she went to a séance, a meeting that claimed to enable communication with the spirits of the dead.* “The answer was spelt out ‘I am happy here’,” Betty says. But where was "here"?
Several months before she died Sally attending a local church and had her life to Christ.
Betty recalls Sally waking her up and begging her to go with her to the Sunday service. But Betty just wanted to sleep.
The two girls had been very close, growing up two-and-a-half years apart as the youngest of five. Their parents divorced when Betty was 11.
They had relied heavily on each other as they moved around with their mother after the divorce, boarded with another family for a year, and moved to a large unfamiliar high school.
"I was hurt and angry by all that was happening in my life over which I had no control," Betty recalls.
"At 14 years old, I felt insecure and anxious. I was not interested in knowing about God. I thought I was an okay person. I had not done anything really bad and I assumed I would go to heaven.
"By this time I depended on Sally a lot. Mum worked shift work but Sally was always there for me and was a wonderful support. She took on a lot of responsibility in Mum's absence. I loved her dearly," Betty remembers fondly.
After Sally's death Betty spiralled into an abyss of sadness, pain, and confusion. The next three years were a mixture of intense grief and anger filled with questions
"My attitude to life and a future started becoming passive and unmotivated," Betty says.
I went through the motions of a teenager – school, part time work, friendships, parties etcetera – but my grief was consuming me and I became more and more withdrawn, losing myself in books and TV.”
Her concerned mother encouraged her to attend a local church youth group. Betty went, thinking, “Well, this is how I can meet some boys!”
But God had other plans.
The first night at this youth group Betty found answers to her questions. Eternal life after death, it turned out, had nothing to do with her being a good person. It was all about her receiving the gift of Heaven Jesus had won for her when he died on the cross to pay the price for all the times she had messed up.
“For the first time I heard answers that made sense to me about the meaning of life, and what happens after death, and how we can be sure of what is truth,” she says.
"There was absolutely nothing I could do to make myself right with God.
"But this incredibly powerful and loving God who accepted me right where I was at, with all my frailties and insecurities, had done everything that needed to be done for me to come into a relationship with Him. His precious Son’s death on the cross secured my position as His daughter for ever and ever," Betty declares.
"God's great love and acceptance of me, and all the mess that came with me, drew me irresistibly into the arms of my Heavenly Father."
The following passage became very special for her: "For God so loved the world that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
"The truth of this verse gripped my heart and I went home that night and quietly accepted Christ as my Saviour. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that this truth was the answer to all that I had been searching for through the difficult years," Betty concludes.
Years later, Betty and her husband John would go as Christian missionaries into the jungles of Indonesia, and today she is still serving Jesus faithfully as a member of an organisation that helps churches in third world countries. •
* Séances can cause deep spiritual problems and this newspaper in no way endorses them.