Thursday, August 6, 2015

Atlanta Events

I referenced in a previous logistics post the fact that some additional plans were in the works for ways to help remember Ashleigh.  Here are some updates.

A group of good friends (Ashleigh's sorority sisters at the Georgia Tech chapter of ADX) has organized a satellite gala event in Atlanta.  It's being held on the same evening as the Gala in Dallas, and there has even been talk of a virtual connection between the events.  We'll see if smarter IT minds than mine can make this a reality, but in the meantime if you can't make it out to the Dallas Gala please consider attending the one in Atlanta. 

The link to sign up for tickets is here:

Invitation for the Atlanta Gala

For those of you who have already bought tickets to the Dallas Gala, I'm looking forward to seeing you there next week!

Also, there will be a short memorial service held in Atlanta on Saturday August 15 at 2 PM, at First Baptist Roswell (the church I grew up in).  I'll be there, so if you live in Atlanta and weren't able to make it out to Dallas for the memorial service I would love to see you.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Looking Forward

Looking Back

It's been almost a week since Ashleigh's funeral.  I almost said "my wife's funeral", but she's not my wife anymore.  The marriage vows say "til death do we part", and those vows have been fulfilled.  I'm very thankful for the fact that together we fulfilled them about as well as anyone could hope, given a shortage of years.  I have very few regrets, we had a whole year to say goodbye, and we loved each other well through the end.  For such a horrendous disease, Ashleigh only had about two weeks out of 13 months since her diagnosis where her quality of life suffered.  So I'm thankful for many things.

Jesus was clear about marriage as an earthly, not heavenly, institution (Matthew 22:30).  As new and foreign as it was 8 years ago to call Ashleigh "wife", now I have a whole different set of habits to unlearn.  I still call this building "our house", though it's suddenly much more vacuous than it has ever been.  If I were a director doing a biopic of this stage of my life, I would set the tone with several long, silent pans of the empty rooms and hallways after the boys are asleep.  I miss wearing my wedding ring; I often find myself absentmindedly going to fiddle with it, only to be reminded why it's not on.  I know no one would fault me for wearing it a while longer; I recognize my desire to press on is mostly self-imposed.  Well, it's what Ashleigh would have wanted for me, too.  To be uncomfortable, get out of the house and be around people, and generally embrace life moving forward.

Were it not for the boys I'd be tempted to sell everything I have, buy a motorcycle, (learn to ride said motorcycle), and ride until I hit an ocean.  I'm thankful for the boys, they're keeping me grounded.  A cross-country motorcycle tour (or equivalent boondoggle) would just be a kind of escapism.  I'm also thankful for so many friends reaching out and being welcoming and understanding, despite the fact I'm not particularly effervescent company right now.  I'm thankful for sympathy cards from so many people.  So many of you wrote in your cards how they feel like an insufficient gesture, but I assure you they are not.  Your words of encouragement and of Ashleigh's impact and legacy buoy me up.

It's been predominantly a week of logistics - cutting up credit cards, cancelling subscriptions, closing online vendor accounts.  I know it surprises you that it's helpful for an engineer to retreat into logistics.  Still, the last friends and family have returned home and at some point I will have to step back and survey the new shape of my life: as the dust clears, see what has become of the structure with one of its central load-bearing beams removed.  At least the foundation is intact.

Before Ashleigh died I told myself I wouldn't do this - turn to the blog or facebook to post morose and introspective thoughts as though loss had made my thoughts somehow weighty or worth sharing.  I scoffed at other people who over-shared like this, but now I'm eating my prideful words.  It turns out the reason I never felt compelled to over-share is that I always had a loving, listening ear nearby with whom to share my innermost thoughts.  So I appreciate you humoring me this once as I'm missing my usual outlet.

After the gala and a few more posts I still plan to wrap up the blog.  Not only was it Ashleigh's blog, but I'm somewhat afraid of what I might post without her editorial oversight.  That is a small example of the more general fear I hinted at above: what does life look like without Ashleigh?  If (ok, when) I do something embarrassing, who will help me laugh at it later?  What if I dress the boys in mismatched outfits for church?  How can I ever hope to make good decisions without Ashleigh to construct the objective function?

There are two books that have been comforting during this time, and I would commend them to your reading.  I have been tempted to post large portions of each of them to the blog, but I will spare you that (and myself the risk of copyright infrigement).

The Weight of Glory - an essay by CS Lewis whose central thesis is that our feelings of nostalgia point to our in-born desire to be a part of a heavenly, eternal frame.  He exposes man's desire for eternal things, and points out that desires don't make sense where they can't be fulfilled - that a man may starve to death without bread, but the feeling of hunger indicates at least that we come from a world of eatable things.

A Severe Mercy - a memoir by Sheldon Vanauken about the loss of his wife.  I hope it is not entirely hubris that causes me to see similarities between the love he writes about and the love Ashleigh and I shared.  "...he chuckled at the memory, and then, in the instant, tears were burning in his eyes and rolling down his cheeks.  That was always the way of grief: laughter and tears, joy and sorrow.  Almost from their first meeting they had been in love..."

I'm also planning to re-read Lewis's A Grief Observed.  Doubtless I will quote it here if I find it as relevant as I expect.

There are two stories I would share with you from Ashleigh's last week on earth.  I'm tempted to keep them to myself, as though a miserly attitude about memories would make them last longer.  If Ashleigh taught me anything through this blog, it's that sharing thoughts and experiences is what makes them meaningful and grants them longevity. 

Three nights or so before she died (I was on the night shift then), we were alone in her hospital room.  I was sitting next to her bed holding her hand and talking to her, not really expecting a response.  She opened her eyes and very lucidly asked me "what about the boys?"  A mama-bear to the end.  I assured her that the boys would be well-loved and well-cared-for by me and an army of others.  She closed here eyes and nodded, and I thought that was the end of the conversation.  But then something odd happened.  She turned her head to face to the opposite side of the bed and put her arms up in an empty circle, as though hugging someone's neck.  She sometimes did this to me or Jim when we leaned in close to tell her something.  She nodded again, smiled briefly, then said "ok then, I guess it's time to go".  She dropped her arms and went to sleep.  Say what you want about terminal delirium or drug-induced hallucinations.  This was the second-to-last interaction I had with her where I know she was lucid.  And I believe that there was Someone Else in the room with us that night, holding her other hand.

The next night, two nights before she died, there was only one very brief moment where she woke up.  She didn't open her eyes or talk to me or shift positions.  You see, one of the things that I frequently did by her bedside was sing to her.  Mostly hymns or songs from our past.  I was singing "How Great Thou Art", and for about two bars during the refrain, she started singing.  I went looking for a video clip to link to the title of the hymn, but nothing I found did justice to my memory of it.  She joined me on the high harmony, as perfectly and clearly as any duet we've ever sung together.  Then she fell back asleep.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Live Stream of the Funeral

Hi Folks,

Wanted to post a quick update to let you know that if you would like to watch Ashleigh's funeral tomorrow online, the address is

Again, the service will commence at 10:30 AM tomorrow.  I look forward to seeing some of you tonight.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


The official obituary is up on the Turrentine Jackson Morrow website.  It points people to the blog, so if you're already here you obviously don't need to go there just to get directed back here.  Still, if you'd like to leave a memorial comment on the funeral home website you can do that there.  Note that there is also a link on that page to send flowers, but please see the logistics post for our memorial preferences.

The obituary is copied below for your reference.

 Ashleigh Royalty Range, age 30, of Allen, Texas, passed away on July 19, 2015.  She was born on November 23, 1984 in Dallas, Texas to James Malcolm Bruce and Rebekke (Gillyard) Royalty. She lived her childhood in Carrollton, Texas and later moved to Melbourne, Florida, graduating from Satellite High School in 2003 where she wasValedictorian and voted “Best All Around”. On July 7, 2007, Ashleigh married Brad Range in Melbourne, Florida. In 2007 Ashleigh graduated from Georgia Tech with a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering with highest honors. She had a successful career at Alvarez and Marsal as a business consultant as well as in the human resources practice of Dr. Pepper Snapple Group. In 2013 Ashleigh earned her Master’s Degree in Systems Engineering and an MBA from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was the recipient of the Miriam Sherburne award, a prestigious award given to students who promote and support the Sloan School of Management community. She invited Jesus into her heart at the age of 9 and lived for Him throughout her life, as was evident by her unconditional love for others. Ashleigh became an advocate for inflammatory breast cancer research and journaled her fight with cancer at Ashleigh was an avid runner, participating in marathons and triathlons. She was known for hosting parties and a passion for singing. She was an active member of First Baptist Church in Allen, and a previous member of First Baptist Churches in Carrollton and Dallas. Ashleigh was a loving mother to Noah (2 ½) and David (1); she will be greatly missed by all that knew her.

She is survived by her husband, Brad Range of Allen, Texas; sons Noah James and David Bradford; parents, Jim and Bekke Royalty of Allen, Texas; brother, Andy Royalty and wife Christi of Greenville, South Carolina; grandmother, Nancy Royalty of Hernando, Florida; mother and father in-law, Alan and Jane Range of Marietta, Georgia; sister-in-law, Marjie Posey and husband Jordan, and their daughter Julia, of Alpharetta, Georgia.

Ashleigh was preceded in death by her grandparents, Bryce Royalty, Jim and Marquita Gillyard.

A funeral service will be held at 10:30 a.m., Friday, July 24, 2015 at First Baptist Church, 201 E McDermott Drive, Allen, Texas. Interment will follow at Restland Cemetery, 13005 Greenville Avenue, Dallas, Texas. The family will receive friends during a visitation, being held from 7:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m., Thursday evening at Turrentine-Jackson-Morrow Funeral Home in Allen, Texas.

Memorials may be made to the IBC Network Foundation c/o Terry Arnold, PO Box 908, Friendswood, Texas 77546, or visit her blog at to donate online.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Logistics Update

I will post Ashleigh's full obituary as soon as it's online at the funeral home website.  For now, I wanted to give you a quick update on logistics so those of you making plans can continue to do so effectively.

To friends who don't live in Dallas TX (and even those who do), please hear and understand that we understand other obligations, plans, and financial constraints - that for those of us not in a casket, life goes on.  Eventually.  What I'm trying to say is you shouldn't feel any obligation to move heaven and earth to attend Ashleigh's services.  Your name will not be stricken from our list of friends if you can't make it work.  That said, if you are able to attend I would love nothing more than to see you, trade fond memories and hugs alike, and celebrate Ashleigh's life.

For those out of the country or otherwise unable to attend, we will be broadcasting Ashleigh's service live online.  I'll post the web address once we get the details worked out.

For folks in Atlanta, my parents are planning to do a memorial service at their church in Roswell at some point in the mid- to late-August time frame.  Again, details as they're available.

And the final option for folks unable to attend services this week would be to plan for the gala as an alternative.  I think given a choice between a funeral and a party, Ashleigh herself would rather attend the gala.  There have also been some noises about the potential for a satellite gala in Atlanta, so I'll let you know if that comes to fruition.

But in the near-term, here are some more details for this week (some of this is re-hashed from last night, so apologies for repetition):
  • Visitation will be at Turrentine Jackson Morrow funeral home in Allen TX on Thursday night from 7 to 9 PM
  • The funeral service will be Friday morning at First Baptist Church Allen. at 10:30 AM
  • Graveside service will follow immediately at Restland Cemetery (likely ~12:30 PM).  I know it will be HOT by this time, so I promise this part will be quick.  
  • After the committal at Restland, there will be lunch served back at the church (~1:30 PM or so)
There are two options for memorials:
  • The IBC Network Foundation c/o Terry Arnold, PO Box 908, Friendswood, Texas 77456.  Or online via Ashleigh's FirstGiving page.
  • Noah and David's college fund via direct transfer to the PayPal account, or via the PayPal link here.  (link should be fixed now).
We have some blocks of hotel rooms reserved for Thursday and Friday nights if you're coming in from out of town.
  • Option 1: Hilton Garden Inn, $89.  Ask for Amy Persyn at 973.649.2933 or
  • Option 2: Homewood Suites, $129 Thursday and $99 Friday.  Larger rooms available at two levels: $134 Thursday and $109 Friday or $144 Thursday and $129 Friday.  Contact is Rebecca Rohwer at 214.383.6673 or
  • Option 3: Holiday Inn Express, $129 Standard King or $139 Suite.  Contact Lisa at 972.727.2000 or
In all three cases you can reference the Ashleigh Range memorial.  There is also a Hampton Inn slightly farther north from us near the outlet malls.  Finally, there are a limited number of spaces available for "couch-surfing" with local me directly if you're interested.

As always, thank you for your continued prayers.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sunday Worship

Dear Friends,

I know this is old news by this point for most of you on Facebook.  As much as I would have loved to make an official announcement before it went viral, I recognize that particular wish is a tall order in the era of social media.  I especially apologize to those of you who I would have liked to call in person before you heard through the grapevine.

This morning at 8 AM was a bright, sunny, Sunday morning in Dallas Texas.  It promises to be one of the hottest days of the year so far, but behind the windows of UT Southwestern is was a cool 70 degrees.  The view of the Dallas skyline was especially beautiful in the morning light, with just a few fluffy white clouds in the sky.  All over the city and country people were getting up to attend services where they would worship God - by singing hymns and praise songs, by listening and learning more about God, and by giving their time, talent, and money in service to God.

For all those reasons, this morning at 8 AM was a fitting time (if there ever is such a thing) for my wife to breathe her final breath on this Earth.  She traded singing hymns with a praise band for a choir of angels.  She traded hearing about God from a preacher for looking upon the face of her savior.  Instead of giving her time, talent, and money, she gave her life for the glory of God.  And she was there in time for the for the early worship service in heaven (in stark contrast to our usual punctuality).

We Christians use a lot of platitudes to describe death; phrases that, despite their underlying truth, become saccharine and trite in how they seek to make death's reality and apparent finality more palatable.  "She went home"; "she went to be with Jesus"; "She passed away"; I've even heard "graduation day" used to describe this.  I was there in the room, so let me be perfectly clear: she died.

Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?     -1 Corinthians 15:55

The use of this passage at funerals has always struck me as slightly misguided.  Where is death's sting?  It's right. here.  I'm feeling it's sting as I try to make arrangements, answer a hundred "how are you doings?", and most of all when I sit down with my two-year-old and try to explain how it is that mommy can love him very very much but that she won't be here with us any more. How hard she fought to stay with us.  How even though she was very sick, now she is all better.  How she is in heaven with Jesus.

But the promise of the passage is not diminished just because it points to a future state.  And the truth that Ashleigh is in heaven with Jesus is more deeply true and comforting than just being something you tell a two-year-old.  And the present sting of death is actually a temporary inconvenience.  You may know the end of 2 Corinthians 4 from the T-shirt fundraiser:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

But what you may not know is what immediately follows it in chapter 5:

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling... So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.

And that is Ashleigh.  Whether here or in death, her aim was to please God and point people to Him.  Her "earthly tent" - her body - was destroyed by cancer.  But she is celebrating now in an eternal building built by God.  She is enjoying her eternal weight of glory.

There are many logistics in the coming days.  Let me share some with you.  We will have a visitation at Turrentine Jackson Morrow funeral home in Allen TX on Thursday night.  We will have a funeral Friday morning at First Baptist Church Allen.  We will have a graveside service immediately following...somewhere.  I will post more details as they are available, but I wanted to get the timeline nailed down so you could "save the date" so to speak.

In lieu of flowers, you can donate to Ashleigh's FirstGiving page to help meet her goal to raise money for IBC research.  Or if you'd rather, you can donate to Noah and David's scholarship fund by donating to the PayPal account as a friend (if you also have a PayPal account), or you can donate directly here if you don't have a PayPal account.

The gala will go forward on August 13 as a tribute to Ashleigh in her memory, so we can meet her goal of raising $100,000 to research her disease.  More details to come.

Finally, the blog will continue for the foreseeable future as a way to communicate what's going on with me, the boys, the gala, funeral services, obituaries, etc.  There are a few posts from Ashleigh still in the 'draft' folder that I'll get around to editing and posting at some point.  There are a few more posts that I'd like to write.  At some point we will wrap up the blog (since it's Ashleigh's blog), but in the meantime you should continue to check here for updates.