A Gift of Grace—Caitlyn’s Story

We all have a story to tell and this one is about a very special girl named Caitlyn.

Waiting, waiting, listening to her labored breathing. This beautiful, wonderful child who loved people so greatly, and caused them to love her, was straddling that mysterious line between life and death. Then, ever so quietly she left them and stepped across into eternity. She was gone, and tears flowed and hearts ached to the point of pain. Caitlyn Bibb was finally home. Home with Jesus. Born with a genetic disorder known as mitochondrial myopathy, a disease that would take her life just a few weeks after her 21st birthday, which far exceeded the predictions of some experts.
As I sat and interviewed her family for this story, I knew that some of my questions would bring up many painful memories. But at the same time, many precious wonderful memories might be recalled. Although she appeared to be a normal healthy baby, by the age of three years the family realized that she was not physically developing properly. Her eyesight was very limited, and she could not see details around her clearly. Even though she could see shapes and light dimly, she was legally blind. She grew, but her body didn’t have the strength it needed to work properly. When it was time, a motorized wheelchair was required. Imagine that, a blind child in control of a wheeled machine! I heard some amazing stories that night about her love for moving fast in that chair.

Her body may have been weak, but her mind was sharp, and she was fiercely independent. She wanted to try to do a lot of things on her own, even when it was obvious that she needed assistance. She wanted to go and do things others her age were doing, like AWANA and youth group and her family did their best to make many of those things happen.

She loved church and participated in all the activities that entailed. At the age of seven or eight, the Spirit of God and the Word of God began to touch her heart. She realized that she was a sinner and that Jesus wanted to make her His special child. While at home, she talked to her dad, Charlie, and within a few minutes this physically and spiritually wounded lamb asked Jesus to come live within her and make her heart new.
Although blind and in a wheelchair, she had a very special gift. She was definitely a “people” person, and in fact, Caitlyn had a magnetic personality. But it was much more than that. If you spoke to her, she raised her hands to you for a hug. She had a great capacity to love people and she showed that all the time. Yet even greater was her ability to make people love her. If you got close, she would cast her net of love over you and you were hooked. It seemed that people had no choice but to love her because of the “love spell” she would place on them. Everyone absolutely loved Caitlyn and she loved them right back. It was true to say that she had wrapped the people in her life around her little finger.

When Caitlyn started to attend the middle school ministry here at Southside, she met Chris Clark, one of the volunteers, who is now our Director of Media at the church. She lost no time in finding a special place in his heart. Chris’s connection to Caitlyn eventually led him to fall in love with her older sister, Chaley. It seems that love web ability runs in the whole family as Chris and Chaley married a few years later.

Caitlyn loved dressing up and having her hair and make-up nicely done. Her mom, Connie, dad Charlie, and older sister Chaley, were all happy to make that happen. The family all worked hard to bring joy and comfort to this delightful young lady.
As Caitlyn entered her teen years, she became more acutely aware of her life limitations and that sometimes led her into depression. She wanted to be free and independent of her disability and actually be able to date one of her many “boyfriends”, for example. Her ability to attract people meant that she always had a substantial list of potential suitors. Thank God that the loving support in her life never wavered, but held strong, and the comfort of her Lord and Savior was with her through it all.

She was blessed to attend the Georgia Academy for the Blind in Macon, Georgia. It was hard work for her, but she was determined to earn her high school diploma. She made good friends and actually graduated in May of her 20th year. She was so excited about this wonderful accomplishment. Of course, she was joined in celebration by her many friends and family.
It was shortly after these events that God’s grace moved in another direction. He was calling her home. She began having seizures and her body and brain began to deteriorate, and her abilities eroded. To some it seemed she had just run out of strength to fight her disease and had settled in for the end. She was suffering when she told her folks that she wanted to be with Jesus and that her late grandfather was calling her to once again sit on his lap. God’s grace had truly changed directions, as He called her to Himself on that December day.

I was sitting around a table talking to the family about Caitlyn’s life as I watched her mother, Connie, lovingly cuddle her sleeping granddaughter, Katie Joelle Clark, to her heart. At the same time, tears of sadness flowed down her cheek as she recalled Caitlyn’s life. Over the years of her brief life they gave her all their love and the strength of their hands. Although she left their arms that fateful day, she has never left their hearts and minds.

Psalms 34:18a The Lord is near those who have a broken heart.
As I witnessed this scene that was a mixture of joy and sorrow, my mind moved to a heavenly vision of dimly lit earthly eyes that were now eternally clear and a weakened body that is now forever strong. I know when this family gets to heaven their first stop will be a face-to-face meeting with their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Next will be a visit with the forever healthy Caitlyn Danielle Bibb. Like the old song says, “Oh what a day of rejoicing that will be.”
Isn’t God’s grace a wonderful thing?

Roger Allen Cook

I love to write stories about God’s grace. If you have a story I should consider, please contact me at:    roger.cook@southsidefamily.com  


Written with thoughts of Kyle, Kevin, Greg, Libi, Caitlyn, and all children and their families who face major childhood illnesses and disabilities. It is amazing how God uses them to bless our lives with their love and remind us of how much for which we have to be thankful. Do you know of a family in these circumstances who needs you to faithfully remember them in prayer?

Dear Lord, I need Your help.
As You know my child is ill.
My heart is heavy within me.
I come now seeking Your will.

You have given her to me
Showing Your grace so plain.
I know You want the best for us
Even when I witness her pain.

Oh, God, my child is so fearful
Of doctors and tests and such.
Though I desire to help her
I find I am afraid just as much.

She tries to understand it all
And just why she must endure.
She looks to me for comfort,
But I can’t provide the cure.

You know all about suffering
Watching Your Son on earth,
Bleeding and dying for our sin,
Providing for the new birth.

 Give me strength in this crisis
As I stand by my ailing child,
To hold her while she is crying
With arms so loving and mild.

Please send to us each hour
A touch of Your special grace,
And help my child to trust You
In all the trials we face.

Hold her hand, hold her heart,
This tender lamb so small.
Oh, lead us Gentle Shepherd,
And love us through it all.

Roger Allen Cook

II Corinthians 12:8-10 8For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.