SARAH BETH, BY THE BOOK: McCulloughs to donate books to Children’s in honor of late daughter

Published 9:40 pm Friday, February 14, 2020

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The conversation should have been between two old souls.

But, it was between two little girls, ages six and eight.

On the night of November, 29, 2019, Sarah Beth McCollough, 6, shared her vision of heaven with her cousin, Jaci, so when the time came, her family would know she was in a wonderful place, a place where there was no more pain. Sarah Beth wanted her family to know that one day she would welcome them to her heavenly home where they all would be forever more.

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Sarah Beth died on Friday, December 27, 2019 at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham.

That Christmas morning had been wonderfully blessed, said her mother Gail McCollough, AMSTI/ASIM project coordinator at Troy University.

“Sarah Beth was so happy and it was the best Christmas ever,” McCollough said. “Then, later in the day, she began to complain with her stomach hurting and the hurting wouldn’t go away.”

Sarah Beth was taken to Children’s Hospital and placed on the 9th Floor, which was as familiar to her as her own home. There, two days later, Sarah Beth died.

But her mom said the precious 6-year-old was not afraid of dying.

“Sarah Beth had told us she had seen heaven,” McCollough said. “She told us about seeing a man with bright blue eyes who said, ‘You may come to God the King.’ She also saw a green, grassy hill and a man at the top in a white robe. And, there were a lot of people and they were happy and music was playing. So she was not afraid.”

That vision had come to Sarah Beth just before she received a liver transplant that would give her a better chance at life.

Gail and Ronnie McCollough adopted Sarah Beth through the foster care system. Her two brothers also came to the family through the foster care system.

“Ronnie and I wanted children but thought that would not be possible,” McCollough said. “But we were blessed with a daughter, Shelby. We thought then we would have more children but that was not to be.”

So, they looked to the foster care system and the opportunity for possible adoptions.

When the McColloughs had the opportunity to bring Sarah Beth into their family, they didn’t hesitate.

But in a short time, Sarah Beth’s eyes went from white to yellow. She became jaundiced and blood work was done in an effort to determine what was causing the yellowness in her eyes. Before Sarah Beth was a year old, she was diagnosed with cirrhosis.

“Looking at Sarah Beth, you couldn’t tell anything was wrong and she lived a normal little life for a while,” her mother said.

At age 3 and six months, Sarah Beth’s little body began to give way to what was wrong.

She told her parents that she had been to heaven, “but I don’t want to talk about it.”

At age 4, Sarah Beth underwent a liver transplant that was necessary to give her a chance at life. The first year after the transplant went well. Sarah Beth was able to attend pre-kindergarten and enjoyed being with friends and the adventures that books held.

But on Christmas day 2018, Sarah Beth’s body began to reject the transplanted liver. All through January and February of 2019, her body continued to reject the liver. She was admitted to Children’s Hospital 10 times for one thing or another.

At the end of February 2019, Sarah Beth’s body stopped rejecting her liver and it began to heal. 

The healing process was slow but encouraging. Sarah Beth’s family was constantly in prayer for her and so many others prayed for her. Sarah Beth continued to bring happiness to all those around her.

On Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, November 29, 2019, Sarah Beth and her cousin, Jaci, spent the night with their grandmother. In the middle of the night, Sarah Beth woke her cousin and told her she had met her angel.

She shared the meeting with her cousin, but didn’t want her to tell her parents until she had gone to heaven.

Sarah Beth told her cousin that her angel, Grace, told her a crown and robe were ready for her in heaven.

“Sarah Beth said my grandfather took her to a long table and to her chair that was next to mine and her daddy’s waiting spot,” McCollough said.

For Sarah Beth’s family, the vision she shared with her cousin was very comforting.

“It brought such peace and comfort to know what two little girls had shared and to know that Sarah Beth was at peace knowing that a table was set for us so we could all be together one day,” McCollough said.

For the McColloughs, Ronnie and Gail, their children and all those who love Sarah Beth, there is a void that will never be completely filled. But knowing that Sarah Beth will live on through the love and generosity of others is comforting.

On Monday, a truck will be loaded with 900 books for children and youths to be delivered to the 7th and 9th floors of Children’s Hospital in Birmingham.

“When Sarah Beth was on the 9th floor, her greatest joy was to visit the book wagon and select a book or books to read,” McCollough said. “Friends here at AMSTI/ASIM, Troy University, and throughout Troy and Coffee and Pike counties have donated books to Children’s in memory of Sarah Beth.”

The McCollough family is deeply grateful for the love and support shown to them and Sarah Beth during her short lifetime. And they are appreciative of the generosity that will keep Sarah Beth’s memory alive through the books that will bring comfort and joy to children on the 7th and 9th floors of Children’s Hospital in Birmingham.