A Word From the Author

I am Joanetta Hendel and this is my story.

Originally published under a pen name, God Will Teach Me to Fly is a fictionalized account of an intensely profound spiritual journey. The names and identities in this book have been altered—not merely to preserve privacy, but because they are totally irrelevant. The struggles of “Andrea Maresco” and her loved ones are universal themes that do not belong to any one woman or any one family. Rather, the characters who populate this text serve only as placeholders—nameless, faceless proxies—who represent the common challenges of hurting people everywhere.

Joining hands with my namesake, Andrea Maresco, I invite you to journey forward with us into the unknown—and reach beyond the veil into glory.

Triggered by the sudden and unexpected death of two-year-old “Benjamin,” Andrea was thrown headlong into a series of life crises. The years that followed were devastating, heartbreaking, debilitating, bewildering, consuming, chaotic, shocking, disgraceful, messy, transformative, regenerative and—ultimately—redemptive. During that season, the written word became her lifeline, her path to healing, and eventually her sacred mandate. [Read more]

In Retrospect

Weeks preceding Benjamin’s death, there was a “knowing.” I can’t describe it in any other way. I simply “knew” I was to write a book. In fact, I felt the pull so strongly I began making notes for one—a book on mothering, that was what I knew. But that was not the book I was destined to write. Instead the Lord would claim the next ten years of my life to tell a story He wanted to tell. It started slowly at first. A few scribbled notes on the back of a paper napkin. Stephanie’s innocent ramblings in the early weeks after her brother’s death reverberated through our household like shots fired from a pistol. Profound pearls of ageless wisdom disguised as childish prattle pulled cords in my heart and stuck to my soul. Through the fog of overwhelming grief and shock, a clear voice prompted, “This is important. Write it down.” There were a few words here, a few words there, but they grew.

This story is not about death, although death is a pivotal element.
This story is not about recovery, although recovery is a trademark
of its glory. This story is about an impossible journey—
and about a God who provided safe passage.

As the months passed, odd notations on bits and pieces of scrap paper gave way to daily journals—volume after volume neatly stacked in the bottom drawer of my filing cabinet. These copious entries bear silent witness to a transformation of untold force and magnitude—death, divorce, and abuse—each untidy package reframed and neatly bound into victory. [Read more]


Benjamin Maresco’s family lived in a quiet suburban Midwestern neighborhood. The Marescos sent their children to private schools, attended Mass each week, and participated in Little League sports. Theirs was a comfortable, spacious two-story home that housed children, playthings, hopes, and ambitions. Traditions were time-honored and holidays were ritualized. In this house, birthday cakes, Halloween costumes, and memories were homemade. Yesterday’s artwork and today’s sticky fingerprints decorated the refrigerator, and fresh-baked bread sprang from the oven on cue.

Month after month, night after night, mother and child survived in their sleepless prison.

Ben was born into the family on a sunny Friday afternoon in May taking his position as the fourth of five children. His birth was a celebration, planned and orchestrated to take place at home. He was welcomed into the world by his parents, his siblings, and a handful of trusted friends and caretakers. [Read More]