My story: choosing to trust
Actress Beth Ellis who lost two adult sons in desperately tragic circumstances, tells Sharon Barnard about the decision that changed her life forever ...
Actress Beth Ellis who lost two adult sons in desperately tragic circumstances, tells SHARON BARNARD about the decision that changed her life forever ...
Not surprisingly for an actress and former TV presenter, the spoken word has taken centre stage all through Beth’s life.
And reading her autobiography The Choice, it struck me that the words of two people in particular were instrumental in helping her along the road to discovering Jesus and putting her faith in him.
After an “idyllic childhood in Singapore” until the outbreak of war, it was at grammar school in St Albans where Beth’s scripture teacher Miss Mitchell laid the foundations of that faith as she brought the Bible stories to life for her pupils. Saul’s conversion on the Damascus Road prompted the 14-year-old to pray that God would speak to her too.
“Hers was the first seed planted in my spirit, ready to be watered many years later,” Beth tells me.
“Her storytelling stayed with me for the rest of my life and encouraged me to talk about her with so many others.”
Beth, now in her late 80s, describes her two years of drama training at RADA with the likes of Roger Moore, and treading the boards up and down the country. She writes about meeting and marrying actor James Ellis of Z Cars fame, living in trendy Notting Hill, and the birth of her three beloved children Amanda, Adam and Hugo.
Finally, she relates the tragic deaths of her two sons when they were adults.
The first tragedy hit the family in August 1988 not long after Beth’s 60th birthday. Adam, her elder son, had been found stabbed to death on a towpath of the Grand Union Canal where the 28-year-old was peacefully fishing.
It was the words of local vicar Rev Bruce Collins, “Adam’s faithful friend and prayer partner” that led her to make a life-changing decision. He gently challenged Beth about how she was going to respond to her son’s death. She needed to make a choice, he said.
Beth chose to put her trust in Jesus Christ, leading her to train as a missionary with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in her 60s – and that faith has sustained her ever since. Her travels to South Korea, China, the Philippines and Mozambique, working there with street-children, came to a close on joining the staff at YWAM’s Midlands HQ.
Then, a few years ago, Beth received some more devastating news. Her son Hugo, also a Christian and a talented drama teacher who had suffered bouts of clinical depression, had jumped to his death.
“I’m taking life one day at a time now,” she writes, looking back at that difficult time. She also quotes a line from a book that she had recently re-read and took to heart: “Faith is walking in darkness and simply refusing to quit.”
How would she encourage those who are reaching out to others, who are holding on to their faith by their fingernails?
“By being there,” she says, “and mainly listening to their concerns, perhaps suggesting praying with them. Loving them and not getting into any contentious arguments.
“I would also pray for them privately on my own, asking for the Holy Spirit to take over.”
Through tragedy and pain, Beth has discovered that she can still trust the God she first heard about from her teacher whose imaginative storytelling brought the Bible to life.
“It is only with the intervention and encouragement of everyone that God has sneakily slipped into my path, at every bend and crossroad along the way, that I’ve arrived here,” she writes, “knowing that his ways and truths are fundamentally the choice I chose to explore in 1988.”
- Beth’s autobiography The Choice (From footlights to faith) is published by Beth Ellis Books ISBN: 978-1-910181-23-2. For further information please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
- PHOTOS: Top: Beth playing Judith Bliss in Noel Coward's Hay Fever; Above: family at Beth's 80th birthday party - Beth is bottom right