LYNN - The power of faith is being shown in the life of Jacob Eaton, the broken survivor of a head-on vehicle collision that claimed the life of both his wife and unborn child just a few weeks before the child’s birth.
Eaton, however, is not alone, for he is being surrounded by his church family and friends at Lynn Church of God, where the Eatons worked in the youth ministry and praise team the past 1 1/2 years.
Eaton did not officially know that his wife Breanna Lashay, and unborn daughter had been killed until Monday morning, March 9, two days after the head-on collision Saturday, March 7, that occurred as the couple was driving towards their home in Carbon Hill from a women’s spiritual conference in Cullman.
Jacob was driving their 2016 Kia Forte on Highway 69 around 10 p.m., when it was struck by a 2008 Ford Taurus driven by James Long of Columbia, Tennessee, according to troopers with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.
Bre, as church members call her, and her unborn daughter lost their lives at the scene, with Jacob transported from the scene to UAB Hospital, family and friends stated.
Chris Stokes, who with his wife, Alisha, are ministers at Lynn Church of God, had attended the conference with the Eatons and were the ones that came upon the accident on Highway 69 as they were traveling home.
“At the time, we didn’t know what was going on,” Chris recalled. “At that point, my wife tried to message Bre and I tried to call Jacob. We couldn’t get them.”
The Stokeses were held up in traffic about 70 to 100 yards away from the accident, when Alisha got out of their vehicle and ran to see if the Eatons had been involved in the accident.
At the time Chris and Alisha were on the scene, first responders were working to free Jacob from the car.
“We didn’t know Bre’s status at the time,” Chris said. After learning that Jacob was responsive and in good spirits, the Stokeses headed toward Walker Baptist Medical Center in Jasper to be with Bre after hearing she might have been transported there.
“On our way to Jasper, we got the call that she had passed and the baby had passed,” Chris said. “I was driving when I heard the news. I couldn’t drive anymore. I just stopped my vehicle. We were just crying out, Why?!”
At this point, Chris and Alisha decided to go on to UAB to be with Jacob, where they would remain at vigil.
The first couple of days after the accident were critical for Jacob, who experienced surgeries for fractured bones. Therefore, Chris decided the time was not right to inform him that his wife and daughter had passed away.
However, on Monday, March 9, Chris broke the news to Jacob as he lay in his hospital bed, having undergone multiple surgeries, including one on his pelvis scheduled for later that day.
“He was awake. He wanted to know about his wife and little girl,” Chris said.
“We had been praying for God to prepare his heart to receive this news he was about to receive,” pointed out church member Candice Tittle.
“I grabbed him by the hand and I said, ‘Jacob...you’ve been asking a lot of questions over the past couple of hours about Bre and the baby.’
“He grabbed my hand and said, ‘...I already know what happened...The Lord told me what happened.’ He looked at me and said, ‘Everything is going to be OK. I know where they are at.’
“His attitude has been one of great faith...It really speaks to his faith in God... It’s been one of optimism. He is telling us everything is going to be fine, that we’re all going to grow from this,” Chris continued.
Jacob said it was God’s will for he and his wife to get pregnant with their baby, but it wasn’t God’s will for him to see his baby, church members said.
Chris and Alisha had spent a lot of time with Jacob and Bre the weekend of the accident, laughing and enjoying good fellowship while eating out, as well as time spent at the women’s conference.
In fact, some of the last moments they spent with the Eatons as a couple were at the conference, where Bre led the final song, “There Ain’t No Grave to Hold My Body Down.”
“Man, I tell you, when she sang that song, she sang with such power, I thought that roof was going to blow off that place,” Chris recalled. “It just erupted.”
“After church, we hugged and said our goodbyes and I love you’s and all those things you do with people you love,” said Chris.
As Jacob slowly recovers from his tragedy, he has his church family by his side helping him.
“Our focus now is healing for the church,” Chris said. Plans are for a counselor to come into the congregation to help the church recover emotionally from this loss.
A church team will also be assigned to assist Jacob, caring for both the inside and outside of his home.
A GoFundMe page has been set up for Jacob, which can also be accessed at the Facebook page of Chris and Alisha Stokes, as well as the Lynn Church of God’s Facebook page to help Jacob with medical bills, as well as everyday bills.
“There is already almost $8,000 in less than 24 hours that has been donated,” Chris said, noting the donations are from not only the church but the Lynn community, which has also been drastically effected by the loss.
Church member Jeff Stokes, father of Chris, noted the Eatons loved working with the kids.
“They were four weeks away from being mom and dad,” Jeff said. “Bre and the little girl are fine. Jacob is the one who has lots to deal with. He is the one who is going to need us.
“Last Sunday she sang a special song (with the praise team). She did a wonderful job,” Jeff added.
“When I started to leave, I walked up and, just to tell you the different age, I said, ‘Bre, you tore that up.’ She said. ‘What does that mean?’ Jeff laughed.
Ironically, the Eatons had struggled to have a child. “This is a child our church prayed over,” noted Tittle.
Tittle added that her son, who is 17 and a member of the youth group, had been shy around people until he met the Eatons.
“He had gotten to where he would open up to them to confide in them,” Tittle said.
Concerning Bre, Tittle added, “Kids 5toward her. She contacted me recently about coming to watch my daughter play ball, just taking time out for her. Fixing to have a baby and caring about watching my kid play softball.
“The kids knew she loved them,” Tittle continued. “She had a genuine concern and care. You have to be able to relate and be compassionate.”
“He had a very good relationship, could communicate with the young people,” church member Jerry Thorn added. “These two were extremely good about relating to the kids. If they needed to be firm, they were firm, but the kids knew they were loved by these two people.”
The Eatons had been attending Lynn Church of God the past two years.
Chris remembers Jacob being in his youth group when he was youth minister in Nauvoo, Chris said.
“He grew up, got married and we got to meet his beautiful wife for the first time at a ball game. Then they showed up at church the following Sunday, and the rest is history,” Chris said.
After the couple was at Lynn Church of God for a year, the Stokeses felt they had leadership potential, so the Eatons became youth ministers, with Bre becoming a member of the worship team, Chris added.
“They were people who had servant’s hearts. It never was about them,” he added. “It never was about them. It was always about everyone else and trying to better the Kingdom of God.”
“You could just tell they had this love between them and the rest of us,” church member Pat Thorn added. “It was already there when they came to our church.”
Jacob, despite his extensive injuries, has been proud of how good people have been to him. One question he has asked was the condition of the people in the vehicle that struck them.
Long, the driver of the 2008 Ford Taurus, had been injured and transported for medical treatment, according to troopers.
“Jacob is teaching us how to really have faith in times of adversity,” Chris said.
In fact, Jacob’s attitude is comparable to the current marquee on the Lynn Church of God sign facing Highway 5.
The sign reads, “Stay positive even when it feels like your life is falling apart.”
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.