Maya Angelou once said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story.” I would humbly add that the agony intensifies when the story is an untold testimony of God’s healing from what many would deem an insurmountable loss.

Such was the case for Alicia S. Jones, author of the newly released book Sentenced to Live. In this poignant and reflective memoir of her life as a young wife and mother, Jones genuinely reveals the intense depth of her distress and sorrow after having lost two sons to miscarriages: Cameron in 1995 and Christian in 1997.

She boldly bears her heart and soul to readers, opening up about some of her darkest moments to ultimately share how God birthed a ministry out of her grief.

Jones also intimately describes the immense joy that she and her husband, Greg, have shared in raising their daughter, Genesis, who was born with cerebral palsy and is now 21.

Many people who have met Jones have been inspired by her testimony and encouraged her to write about it. It wasn’t an easy task at first, as she began writing in 2006, but she persevered because she wanted to minister to women and married couples who have experienced the heart-rending pain of losing a child.

“As I have shared my story, the more I talked about it the stronger I became,” Jones says. “I specifically remember talking to a young lady at one of my previous jobs about my miscarriages. She was shocked to hear about all of the hardships that I had gone through, and I believe my story helped her to view her pregnancy differently. I ended up planning her baby shower.”

Showing kindness and doing good deeds to assist others has always been imbedded in Jones’ character. A proud Baton Rouge, Louisiana, girl, she experienced the delight of a bayou upbringing in a loving and close-knit African American community.

“You couldn’t hide in my neighborhood,” Jones recalls, laughing. “The first block and a half was my family, a cousin down the street or an uncle next door. You could go to a family member’s house for anything you needed, like borrowing cooking ingredients such as flour, oil and sugar.”

For many Southern girls, cooking is a right of passage. Jones’ grandmother, Iceola, who was a school dietitian, passed down her superb culinary skills, showing her protégé how to master the Louisiana Cajun classics of red beans and rice, jambalaya, fried catfish and shrimp etouffee.

Sentenced to Live

Jones also fell in love with sports, playing volleyball in elementary school and running track in middle and high school. At home, she drew strength from her mother, Yvonne, who worked as an educator and raised her and her brother, Derek.

The source of that strength came from the teachings of Jesus Christ that Jones learned as a child growing up in Elm Grove Baptist Church.

After graduating from high school, Jones enrolled in Southern University in fall 1988 and planned to become a nurse but ended up changing her major to psychology. She and Greg got married while she was in college, and upon completion of her degree, they moved to Los Angeles.

Jones got a job working for a family preservation agency, and Greg was a minister of music at a large Los Angeles church. As a young, professional couple, they wanted to start a family, but little did they know the difficulties they would endure with the eventual loss of two baby boys.

When Jones became pregnant with Genesis in 1998, this would begin the trying and maturing of her faith that is the central theme of her book. Although Genesis was born with special needs, her mother calls her daughter her “miracle child.”

“For me, I had never gotten to the point of taking a child home,” Alicia explains. “Genesis was not supposed to live. I remember praying, ‘God, if you will just allow her to live, I promise to do everything I can to take care of her.’”

Taking care of Genesis has been a journey of trials as well as triumphs. As people read Sentenced to Live, Jones hopes to encourage them to press through loss and hard times.

“I have learned that there is purpose behind the pain,” she says. “I am alive to share my story with Genesis, and we are witnesses of God’s faithfulness.”

— Jessica Johnson is a lecturer in the English Department at The Ohio State University at Lima. Contact her at and follow her on Twitter: @JjSmojc. Click here for more columns. The opinions expressed are her own.