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.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Last week was our 8th Anniversary.  There's not too much to show or tell - this year's anniversary dinner was a pretty low-key event for obvious reasons.  In spite of everything, we had a lot to celebrate.

A simple meal from EatZi's with some of Ash's favorites - green beans and shrimp

Since her metastatic diagnosis, Ashleigh and I have often discussed that the last year has been pretty amazing.  Despite being a year marked by cancer treatments, most treatments had relatively few side-effects and up until two months ago we have predominantly been able to live our lives unaffected by cancer.  We have watched David grow through his first year into a speedy crawler with a toothy grin and infectious laugh.  Noah has blossomed into a wonderfully verbal and happy (if stereotypically contrary) two-year-old.  We have been loved and supported by family, our Sunday School, friends, neighbors, and strangers alike in ways we would have never dreamed.  We have reveled in simple joys as God has been teaching us to never take for granted a new sunrise.  And our love has grown deeper and more mature as we have lived out "for better or worse" in real life.

We had a great conversation over dinner about an a capella competition that doesn't exist - possibly inspired by recently watching Pitch Perfect 2 together.  Still, it was the most interactive conversation we had in a few days, and I relished it.  We discussed whether Redline was going to win (I assured her they would).  Maybe it's not the healthiest thing to play along with delusions, but I wouldn't have tried to jolt her back to reality (and the associated confusion and uncertainty) for anything in the world.

Something Ash got in her head somewhere along the way was that she wanted to wash each others' feet as part of our wedding ceremony.  For those not familiar - this is based in a story in John 13 where Jesus washes his disciples' feet as a way to show how we should love and serve one another.  The wedding planner initially balked at the logistics - removing footwear is not something attempted in a typical Baptist wedding!  Still, you won't be surprised to learn Ash held firm to her vision and I (the dutiful husband-to-be) tried to support her.  I think the result was great; we weren't front-and-center while this occurred in the ceremony, we did it off to the side while an A cappella group performed "Take my Life and Let it Be".  We re-watched our wedding video on our anniversary and I'm still really happy with how that turned out - shout-out to Jason, Shane, David, Nikki, Matt, and Rachel, our awesome GT A cappella buddies!

7/7/07 - We each wound up with one foot cleaner than the other

Each anniversary since then, we have repeated the symbolic act of washing each others' feet.  It served as a yearly reminder to us that our goal in marriage was to serve one another, to put the other's needs before our own.  This year the foot washing was a bit less symbolic than in previous years.  I helped Ashleigh walk back to bed after dinner in the picture above and she stepped in some spilled dinner along the way.  A perfect segue into our tradition!

The reason I tell the story is what happened next: I washed her feet and put away the basin, fully intending to let her end of the tradition slide this year since she wasn't really in a physical or mental state to reciprocate.  In a rare moment of lucidity (and, after 8 years, a not-so-rare moment of Ashleigh letting me know in no uncertain terms that I was being an idiot), she demanded I bring back the basin. :-)  Despite the pain and limited range of motion for which I would have gladly given her a pass, she insisted that tradition be followed - she wanted to communicate to me that she still, even now, wants to put my needs in front of her own and serve me, insofar as she's able.  That, ladies and gentlemen, is a love that deserves at least 62 more anniversaries to celebrate adequately.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Amazing People and Exciting Plans

In my last rather somber post I mentioned that despite a downturn in Ash's health, there are still many reasons we have to continue to be excited for the future.  Many of our big "praises" currently are closely tied to some amazing individuals who have been going above-and-beyond to honor Ashleigh.  The ball is rolling on some exciting plans that I want to share with you.

Just about all my posts reference that I'm not a big Facebook guy.  Still, if you are someone who makes regular use of that tool I might ask you to consider re-posting, or sharing, or whatever it is the kids are doing these days.  There are a few initiatives in the works to honor Ash that are in process, and I want people to be aware of them.

The first is an awesome T-shirt Fundraiser spearheaded by the amazing super-mom Andrea over at the blog Momfessionals.  Ever since the passing of the tutu Andrea has been a real friend of our family and has used her status and influence in the blog-world to help us out at every turn.  She is a great example of how to use whatever sphere of influence you have (whether that's cancer or just being an "average" mom) to effectively express faith in God.  I wanted to get this in front of you today, dear reader, since the deadline appears to be wrapping up soon.  Thank you, Andrea!

The famous tutu.  I should really post some pictures of Ashleigh wearing this out on a date with me - she got so many stares of open avarice from teenage girls who think she looks like a princess (and I agree)!

Along similar lines, there is a whole committee of folks actively working to make Ashleigh's dream of a gala event a reality.  The progress these folks are making is truly phenomenal and a fulfillment of Ashleigh's vision.  She couldn't plan it better herself - and that's saying something!  We have a date: August 13, 7-10 PM at the home of a truly gracious lady in Preston Hollow.

The Gala Location!

I'll share more details here as they come available, but for now save that date!  Several influential friends in the cancer community that Ashleigh has made along the way have been instrumental in helping make this happen, along with two different fantastic event planners and a group of Ashleigh's close personal friends.  The folks of Ally's Wish are helping to make this happen, and many many people and organizations are donating to the effort.  It's shaping up to be exactly the swanky shindig that Ashleigh dreams it will be (though I think everyone involved would shy away from wanting it called a 'shindig').

Tickets will be $100, and I'll publish the Eventbrite registration page as soon as it's up.  This is significantly less than the cost for a 'typical' society-event; Ashleigh wants it to be accessible for our friends to attend as a thank-you for all that they have done for us over the last year.

All of these efforts feed in to one goal that Ashleigh has: she wants to raise $100,000 for research into her specific type of disease.  Triple-negative, inflammatory, metastatic: any of those adjectives in isolation are bad news in the cancer world.  They are all indicators of aggressive, deadly disease and none of them receive very much attention from funding sources.  Ashleigh's post on Pinktober covers some of the issues at play - suffice it to say (in an admittedly sweeping generalization) that the rarer, more aggressive types of cancer are generally under-funded but are actually what kills people.

On top of directly funding primary research, Ashleigh wants her legacy to be funding research for many years to come.  So the funds we raise will go into an endowment that will pay out each year to directly fund research projects that would otherwise be overlooked and unfunded.  Our hope is that this will allow our cancer charity of choice, the IBC Network Foundation, to have a consistent source of funding they can count on each year, indefinitely.

To this end, the central page we are tracking all progress towards our goal is here.  The T-shirt funds, gala donations...everything is going to funnel to that central progress bar to track our progress against our $100K goal.  If you won't be able to attend the gala in August, consider donating there, or send a check directly to the IBC Network in Ashleigh's honor.

I can't say thank-you enough to all the individuals who are making strides like these to honor Ashleigh...though you will likely grow tired of hearing me try over the next month.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Deja Vu All Over Again

Hi Folks.  Many apologies once again for the long delay between posts.  We wanted to give you all time to revel in the joy of Ashleigh's previous post, and give ourselves and the doctors some time to investigate and process recent developments.  It's unfortunate that when you realize I (Brad) am the one writing the post, you can pretty much assume it's not going to be great news... 

Current Status

We were admitted to the hospital a little over a week ago because Ashleigh had a persistent fever she just couldn't seem to shake.  The severity varied greatly - generally it would rise through the day (sometimes as high as 103, but typically more around 101) then break overnight.  You will recall that fevers are generally bad things if you're on chemo due to a depressed immune system.  However, Ashleigh's immune system (specifically her ANC for the medical folks out there) was actually a bit elevated - either because of the booster shot she gets after chemo, or potentially as a response to an infection.

Over the last week despite the doctor's best efforts (and the involvement of the infectious disease team - think a real-live "House" without the surliness or limp) we haven't been able to pinpoint the cause of the fevers.  Since there seemed to be no infection to blame, the leading theory is that they are a direct symptom of the cancer in her liver.  The good news is they have been predominantly non-existent for at least the last few days.

Just like our last hospital admission about a month ago, what started as an isolated concern (the fever) seemed to rapidly spiral into several other issues.  Over the last week her "functional status" has decreased significantly - we're about back to where we were at the worst point last time with regard to her lucidity (or lack thereof).  She is regularly in pain, and the drugs it takes to manage that have their own deleterious effects as well.  The latest concern has been her platelets.  Healthy platelet counts are generally around 150, and anything below 20 represents a significant risk for bleeding.  I've lost count at this point of the number of platelet transfusions she's had - somewhere around 5 or 6.  Despite that, her counts regularly bottom out in the 6 to 8 range.

So we are facing some serious issues, and doctors unfortunately don't have all the answers.  Still, we have hope in God, who we know does have all the answers. 


I would be remiss in this update if I didn't mention a few specific prayer requests:

+ Continued prayers for a miracle - that God would heal Ashleigh completely
+ That Ashleigh's mental state would improve
+ That her pain would be well-managed
+ That her platelet count would stabilize and not require more infusions
+ For wisdom for the doctors to continue to work out treatment options
+ Wisdom for us through difficult choices ahead

We have several things to be thankful for, praise God for, and even be excited about - but I'm going to update you about those in a future post :-) 

Deja Vu

It's ironic that we posted the last update about Ashleigh's miraculous recovery on the night we were admitted back in the hospital - simply because waiting around to be admitted in the emergency room gave us time to do final edits.  I am thankful beyond words for the intervening week between the two hospitalizations - to have Ashleigh at home and 100% "with it" mentally and physically was a real gift.  She and I discussed it, and I think the last hospitalization will end up being a very gracious gift from God, actually because Ash was so close to death.

What I mean is that we have never really feared being dead, simply because we believe that "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord" (2 Corinthians).  However, I think we both still feared the actual dying part.  But if dying looks like Ash made it look a month ago, it's really not that scary.  She was out of it, sure, but always in good spirits, slept a lot, and as comfortable as we could make her.  What I'm saying is that her last brush with death gave us both the confidence that, when the time comes to face it again, we will be able to face it together, unafraid.

So there's a lot about where we're sitting right now that looks very similar to how things looked a month ago.  Last time God heard our prayers and allowed Ash to recover at a neigh-miraculous rate.  We hope He does the same thing this time around.  After a pretty crazy month of highs and lows, there is only one fact that we can continue to rely on, one solid ground where we still find sure footing: God is still in control.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Remember that time I almost died in the hospital....but then DIDN'T?!?

Yeah, I don't totally remember it either so this post will be mostly made up of first-hand eyewitness accounts and some super depressing pictures that will probably make you cry. They made me cry. But then again, everything makes me cry, even with my super-duper happy drugs!

I read over the blog posts Brad wrote while I was in the hospital (way to go Brad! way to stay on top the blog and be totally awesome like that! goooo Brad go!!). Then I spoke with some friends that flew in town to be there to help me (and the boys) while in the hospital.

The two posts immediately preceeding this one were intentionally somewhat vague about how I was ACTUALLY doing at the time. I think the main motivation was that we didn't need 100 people in the waiting room of the hospital - but we DID need 1,000,000 prayers. So Brad tried to deliver accurate reports on my status without actually saying in so many words that the doctors thought I was dying.

If you've been following our story since the chemo days (oh, those good ol' chemo days...), you'd remember that I was one of the really twisted ones that loved getting chemo because I knew that I was being given something that could fight the cancer. So same deal now: I was excited to get the treatment plan (...ANY treatment plan) executed. We spent a lot of time hemming and hawing about what to do first. While we were trying to make a good decision, the cancer was filling up my lungs with fluid and my liver had a 6 cm met on it (I've never, ever heard of something like this before, ESPECIALLY in a week). I feel like I'm running out of ways to say I have the most aggressive breast cancer possible.

Somehow in the time it took to sign paperwork, or whatever else it is you do to get onto a clinical trial (looking back, what were we doing anyways?) - I took a nose dive. A great big nosedive. My body was shutting down. I was no longer coherent. I literally couldn't see straight.

The doctor was very forthright with my family and me - or, as much of me as was actually there. The options she gave us were: A) don't take the chemo and die peacefully at home (5-7 days), or B) take the chemo, my liver potentially fail (there was a high risk my liver wouldn't be able to handle the chemo at that point), and die in the hospital (1-2 days).

The Sunday after I was admitted, folks brought the boys by to see me - and, we thought at the time, perhaps to say goodbye.

We originally didn't share these photos since they look so sad.  But now they are a testament to how amazing my recovery has been - Thank you Jesus!!
 So this is how I saw my options: if I was dying either way, at least the chemo gave me a shot, however small. So I said go big or go home: chemo!

Thankfully when you are in this stage of dying they give you some excellent drugs that make these decisions not as stressful/scary. I was at total and complete peace. And mostly out of it. I feel bad mostly for Brad trying to make those types of decisions with a clear mind. Of course, I'm not sure I would prefer the reverse, either. :-)

Each day after the infusion we waited for the gauntlet to fall. For all my numbers - blood counts, liver function - to start tumbling. Instead, every morning I asked, "has my liver failed?" They kept telling me no. Something was working. Jesus performed a miracle in my body and instead of getting worse, day-by-day things improved. I had doctors with the most shocked looked on their faces - one even actually used the word "miracle". So I'm here. We don't know how long I'm here for, but I'm here right now- and I will take it!

Another visit just before discharge from the hospital - what a difference a week can make!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Continued Improvements

So the last time I posted (which to me doesn't feel that long ago) I left you with a pretty big cliffhanger in the form of a prayer request for an upcoming brain MRI.  We had that MRI on Tuesday and...



Sorry to those of you who assumed the worst due to radio silence.  I wish I had a better excuse, but this is probably what you should expect with me at the wheel instead of Ashleigh.  Thank you for your continued prayers, they are most assuredly working.  Not just for the big praise above, but also in lots of other ways I'll summarize in the next few paragraphs.

The rest of the week has resulted in continued improvements in Ashleigh's alertness, cognizance, energy, and pain level.  We had a catheter installed (inserted? placed? "installed" sounds too engineer-y) on Wednesday to drain some fluid around Ashleigh's right lung.  While there was some increased pain associated with that, it has ultimately resulted in her breathing much easier and getting off of supplemental oxygen entirely.

Her liver function has continued to improve, so it's no longer a concern as of this time.  Her counts are staying pretty steady thanks to booster injections and some platelet infusions.  Best of all, she's up and walking around frequently...really, more like doing laps around the floor to build up her endurance.  If you know Ashleigh you won't be surprised by her insistence to always do "just one more" trip up and down the hall before resting.

With the heavy caveat that we're still taking things one day at a time, the plan right now is to do her second chemo infusion on Monday then get her transferred to an inpatient rehab facility.  She would get lots of physical and occupational therapy there with the goal of continuing to increase her energy and independence to eventually get back home.

There are probably lots of other things a more exhaustive update would touch on, like the difficult tension between trying to plan for the future vs. the significant uncertainties that still exist around Ash's prognosis.  Or, around how the boys are handling this; for the first time, I think Noah is really in tune emotionally with the fact that something is "not right".  Of course as a 2-year-old he is pretty confused and can't understand why momma isn't her usual play-on-the-floor self...but then as a 31-year-old I have a hard time processing it sometimes too, so I can't really fault him.  Anyway, the point is there are still many many things we are praying for, like:

+ That logistics would work out for the plan I mentioned above (insurance and some doctors still have to approve this course of action)
+ For Ash's pain to continue to subside so we can wean her off the IV pump
+ For her to continue to gain strength, independence, and increased mental cognizance
+ For sweet time with family and friends, especially with the boys (we're going to try to take them for a visit tomorrow morning)

In closing, I'll leave you with a few pictures from the last week:

 The Boys visited on Tuesday with my sister (Ash's Brother and Sister-in-Law in the background)

 The great view out of Ashleigh's room
First Baptist Dallas's Fellowship Class was kind enough to bring their Tuesday night Bible study to Ash!  She's been a part of this group for almost 5 years now.  We're very thankful for these ladies.

Best friend from college, best friend from high school, and hair gel (Ash wanted a Mohawk).  Ash is super sad to be missing our friend's wedding this weekend, but she was nice enough to come visit Ashleigh on her way to the altar.  Congrats Kris and Dan!

Today a great friend from Florida brought Ashleigh's favorite food from Melbourne, Dakine Diegos.  My sister and her daughter visited, too.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A Good Day

I wanted to share a quick update since so many folks have been so diligent to pray for us over the last 24 hours.  THANK YOU for the prayers and other forms of support sent our way.

Over the last year Ashleigh has posted periodic "Praises + Prayers" updates to the blog that all follow the same format, and I tried to match that format in the post yesterday.  At the risk of breaking tradition without clearing it with Ash first, I'm going to do something slightly different tonight.  I want to share how today God answered specific prayer requests that I posted yesterday.

ANSWERS to Prayers:
+ Ash was a ton more alert today, laughing and visiting with family in the hospital room.  She was even able to walk all the way down the hall to the lobby on her floor and visit for a few moments there as well.  She was much more her usual self, telling stories and making everyone in the room laugh
+ Her pain was much less severe and much more controlled.
+ Her liver function looked about the same - no drastic changes, which is the best news we could hope for over such a short timeframe

Since you guys were so great to help get those crossed off the list today, I have a few more for you:
+ Ashleigh has a brain MRI scheduled for tomorrow morning.  Obviously the prayer request here is that we don't see any evidence of metastasis
+ The doctors are still worried about her pleural space; we have a procedure scheduled for Thursday to get a permanent catheter installed.  I'm tempted to not even post this one yet since Thursday seems like an eternity away, but just in case I don't get a chance to update between now and then you can be praying that goes well.
+ Her blood counts (e.g. white blood cells, platelets, etc.) were pretty low today from the chemo on Saturday, so she got a platelet infusion.  There will be increased risk of infection over the next several days, so pray that her counts stay high and she doesn't get an infection.
+ We're going to try to get the boys there to see her tomorrow morning, in the hopes that she's as awake tomorrow as she was today.  Pray for sweet time together as a family.

We have a talk about our experience with cancer that we've given a few times now to various groups.  One of the points Ashleigh always tries to make during the talk was how she's learned to enjoy each day as it comes.  She would always say something like:
 I woke up today without pain.  I am able to play with my boys, and am here talking to you.  If I die from cancer, those things won't always be true.  So why would I let the fear of what may happen later steal my ability to enjoy what I have today?
 Even in the midst of being in the hospital with all the uncertainty facing us, Ashleigh had many long moments today where we were able to laugh and enjoy the company of family.

Today was a good day.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Praises + Prayers (6/14/15)

Hi Folks.  I wanted to provide an update to all of you faithfully following the blog.  First, do me a quick favor: take a deep breath, and promise not to freak out.  Promise?  Good.  Here we go...

We were admitted to the hospital last Wednesday because Ash was experiencing some pain on her right side.  I won't bore you with too many details or the play-by-play chronology of the last few days, but here is the synopsis:

- Her pleural effusion (cancer in the lining of her lungs) is worse
- She has new liver mets, and indications are they are starting to affect liver function
- Her hips and back are hurting, making it difficult to even get out of bed (likely from bone mets)
- Her right side is hurting (some combination of liver mets, pleural effusion, or other issues)
- She has been pretty "out of it" due to anti-anxiety drugs and pain meds she's been on

We started a new round of chemo last night.  While it is the only option available to us that has a chance of treating her cancer, there is also a high likelihood it could cause liver failure.  So our options were to chance it with the chemo, or go home to hospice now.  Those of you who know Ashleigh and have been following the blog over the last year won't be surprised by her decision: "Go big or go home".

So with that as the background, here is where our heart is:

+ That her liver was well enough to receive chemo at all (this was debatable for ~24 hours)
+ That she was well enough to come downstairs to the lobby and see the boys for a while today
+ For awesome doctors and nurses who have supported us over the last few days and last year.  Specifically for our main oncologist, who is a literal God-send to us.  She is the perfect balance between hopeful, supportive, realistic, and always straightforward with us.
+ For an amazing outpouring of support and love from our family and friends.  Help taking care of the boys, help with logistics, with food, and everything else we could possibly need
+ For a wonderful nanny solution for the boys (thanks to those of you who helped look!)
+ For my wife's continued good spirits, good humor, and hope.

+ That the chemo would be very effective at killing cancer
+ That Ashleigh's liver would process the chemo without additional stress
+ For increased times of alertness from Ash
+ For her pain to be well-managed, or preferably non-existent
+ That God would continue to get more glory from her life than from her death...but that either way we would be faithful to proclaim the hope we have that comes from our salvation in Christ.  The certainty of eternity with God, especially in the face of death, is the only reason any of us are functioning at this point.

 Two final points.  First, remember when you promised not to freak out?  Well you promised.  All our immediate needs are being taken care of.  No one needs to take drastic action (e.g. jumping on an airplane to come see us) and for the love of all that is good in the world please don't blow up Ashleigh's phone with texts, no matter how well-intentioned.  She's not in a condition to respond right now.  Please email either of us or call or text me.  My natural inclination is to avoid over-sharing like the plague, but I want to give you an update so you'll know how to pray.  I'm trusting you to not freak out - we aren't.  Which leads to point 2...

Second, whatever the outcome is from here forward, we want to continue to emphasize that God is in control.  Just earlier today our doctor was in here explaining that we really need to temper our hope that the chemo would be effective (she said maybe a 10% chance).  Ashleigh very deliberately and lucidly said "my hope is not in chemo, or in you (looking at the doctor), or in him (looking at me), but in a life well-lived and in eternity with God." Our faith allows us to face this situation head-on, not because of some cultural expectation or some psychological effect, but because of who our faith is in: Jesus.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Cancer sucks, People rock

The past three weeks have been the most difficult weeks for me physically, emotionally, and mentally. I can feel the cancer spreading throughout my body through pain, breathing, sleeping, and overall discomfort. My brain is not operating like it should. My thoughts feel like I'm trying to run underwater; everything is fuzzy and disjointed.

Is this what dying of cancer feels like?

Even while I'm at the lowest of the low so far cancer-wise (I'm VERY aware that cancer gets way lower than here), the people around me have stepped it up once again to encourage and uplift me in unimaginable ways.

In general, I make it a rule to not mention on the blog gifts or nice things folks do for me because I don't want anyone to feel like their specific gift wasn't "good enough" to make it on to the blog. But I want to break my rule for one half second to share some cool stuff that has been going on!

Ally's Wish

Similar to the Make a Wish Foundation, Ally's Wish is a foundation that grants wishes to terminally ill young mamas (like me!). A blog reader nominated me and my wish was accepted almost immediately!

My wish is to throw a really big party (you know how I love a good party!!!). I've named the party the "Life Gala" and it would be a fundraiser for my under/no-funded types of breast cancer that seem to target young mothers - inflammatory, triple negative, and metastatic disease. My goal is to raise $100K in one night! (Go big or go home, right??)

There is a ton to be done and we want to throw it sooner rather than later since I seem to be deteriorating quickly. Ally's Wish is working on getting me an event planner so I will have minimal involvement. Once some of the basics are ironed out, I'll be reaching out to y'all to let you know where we need help (because we will need a TON!!).

This seems really simple, but I don't have any clothes that fit. I lost my pregnancy weight 6 months after delivering Noah, and actually GAINED weight through my cancer treatment since delivering David. Gaining weight through breast cancer treatment is very typical (and annoying!).

So every day I sit around in the biggest PJs I own (pretty much maternity ones, in fact). Some of my friends got together and took me on a shopping spree. They bought me much nicer clothes than I even had before, and the best part is- they actually fit.

We found outfits that are both comfy AND cute. Getting out of bed and having a cute outfit on has made me feel better mentally, too. I've been strictly advised not to lose weight right now (very bad prognosis factor for cancer). Part of my friends' strategy was to buy me jeans that are 5X more than I have ever spent on jeans. Now there is no way I'm going to lose weight and not fit into those jeans!!!

Maybe it is a moving to the suburbs thing or maybe it is because I don't have even the slightest modicum of control over my life right now, but I have been OBSESSED with getting my yard to look good. I have thrown so much money at my lawn maintenance company to make it look fantastic and for some reason it just hasn't worked. (Maybe it's God teaching me that I really don't have ANY control over ANYTHING.)

I casually mentioned this to my neighbors (who I just adore bytheway). They have a fabulous looking lawn. In the last week, they had their lawn company come and put this fancy-dancy topsoil on top of my lawn, fill in all the flower beds, filled all the pots and hanging baskets. ANNDNDND I've been wanting to put a rug and pillows under/on the rockers we have. And they did that too! And it looks like I picked it out myself. It is so me.

It is surprising how much joy that lawn project brought to my life.

There are other big projects like these going on right now too but I want to wait until they are further along so I can show pictures with them.

Can you see how fabulous my life is? A husband that is stepping up and taking so much responsibility on, my parents and in-laws that just keep giving and giving of their time, countless souls begging the Father for more time for me, my precious, funny, and healthy little boys, people that take time to look beyond their own crazy lives and to-dos and figure out ways to make me smile, physicians and nurses that are bending over backwards to figure out how to borrow more time for me, the list goes on and on and on. 

"Remember you are immortal until your work is done." - Jim Elliot

My work here on earth is not done. I don't believe God is through with me yet. Let's all keep praying that God would get more glory out of my life than out of my death. And please, oh please, pray for wisdom and open doors, for the next step to be clear and soon. Love y'all.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Pictures from the Hospital

Researching trials with Angela in Houston
Thanks Angela for staying so late even when you had to go back into work that evening- you are the best!!!

on the drive from Houston to Dallas (where we went directly to being admitted). I was in 9/10 pain- felt like labor pains, except instead of knowing you were getting a sweet little baby at the end, I knew it was cancer taking over my spine- yippee!


I'm goal oriented, even while in the hospital.
Nurses were always surprised to learned that I had written my own list of goals while there.
(apologies for the TMI...) 

The large windows in the room made for great makeshift white boards to keep track of trials...
...and to-do's / the schedule

Took an ambulance to get my radiation simulation done since I was an inpatient. It was fun!

The Boys Came to Visit - yay!!!
Who says you can't take care of a baby while in the hospital? Cuddling with David is the BEST!

David loves to stand and bounce, bounce, bounce!!
Noah was all over the place climbing everywhere. Maybe this is why they have a minimum age restriction for visitors. (that the very nice charge nurse made an exception for)

And when the boys couldn't visit, we skipped on the super fancy TV/video system in my room. 

Discharged from Hospital

(I should try and get a more complete blog post on the hospital visit out soon. Just things have been crazy and I haven't been able to write. So here is a drug-addled bullet point blog post to just quickly get something out there tonight.)

+I was discharged tonight. The doctors were able to get me off of IV drugs and on to just oral ones I can take at home. I'm on an embarrassingly high amount of pain killers. But they are working and I'm comfortable which is amazing. (Every day you wake up without pain thank Jesus for that- don't take it for granted)

+I've been overwhelmed with trying to figure out the next step for treatments. We have a ton of leads for trials (PD-1 and PD-L1 mostly). With being in so much pain this weekend and now being doped up on pain killers, my brain is not able to handle staying on top of all the phone calls and research and to-do's needed to figure out what to do next. So my amazing friend Julie​ (who happens to be a radiation-oncologist) booked a flight this afternoon and is coming in right now to be my captain and figure everything out for me. Thank you Jesus for Julie.

+Coming back home to the boys was very painful this evening. Every little cute, adorable, smart, fun thing they do just made me cry tonight thinking about leaving them so soon. Emotionally this is hard to deal with.

+My oncologist gave me two months left to live if we did nothing / if nothing ends up working with the trials (which have a low probability of working). I'm having so much fun and I'm not ready to leave the party yet. I'm doing my best to submit to God's will and know that his plans are always better than mine, but it still doesn't take away the sadness of leaving my family so soon.

+I feel so horrible about making so many people around me so sad. Brad losing his wife, the kids not growing up with their mom, my parents being crushed, my friends being heartbroken, even readers on the blog saying that I've made them cry- I'm so, so, so sorry everyone. I like making people laugh and be happy and have fun. Making everyone sad is the pits.

+I'm really trying to stay focused on keeping my eyes on Jesus. Even in the middle of the storm, if I'm reading my Bible and praying, my heart is full of peace and joy. I still have hope for a miracle. One of these drugs has a low probability of working, but if it does work it could change my situation dramatically, and for a very long time. I feel more loved and cared for than ever before. Thank you to everyone that has reached out and loved on me. (Don't forget Brad- he needs love too! Guys, make sure you ask him how HE is doing too.) :-) I'm thankful for all the many, many blessings in my life. Too bad just one little bummer thing could take it all away very, very soon.

Friday, May 29, 2015


It's been a while since I've written a post in my voice.  Most of you regular readers probably didn't even know I could do this.  It's, 10 months since my last post?!  I could say something about how this is Ashleigh's blog, how she's the one with cancer, and that she's the one folks really want to hear from...but the truth is, this is about the frequency that I would naturally post even if this was my blog.  Those of you who know me won't be surprised by that...and it probably gives you a healthy insight into how Ashleigh and I work together.  She's the one who can actually stay on top of keeping a blog current on a weekly basis, and I'm the one...well, I'm sure I contribute something around here...

Never fear though, as the editor-in-chief of most of Ashleigh's posts, my voice tends to find its way in if there's something to contribute (pro-tip: any sentences you find that are double-spaced after the period are actually me typing, because I value tradition unlike you heathens who single-space your type).

I've had this post in mind for a while now, and the events of today are as good an impetus as any to publish it.  Two years ago (almost to the day), Ashleigh was wrapping up her time at MIT, and she was asked by her classmates and friends to speak at a storytelling venue called "The Yarn".  We worked together to build a fitting summary of our years in Boston, and this was the result.  Ashleigh wants me to point out that much of the content was written by me, so humorous things that I wrote as self-deprecating might have come out a tad...regular-deprecating when she said them; especially comments related to my admitted lack of...let's call it "academic rigor" undergrad.  Regardless, I think you'll find that many of the themes here - shared with a group of "Sloanies" (MIT MBA students) over two years ago - are eerily applicable today.

As you'll read below, at the time we had several stories of how God had faithfully come through for us in uncertain times.  As of today, we have several more recent stories of how He has answered (or not answered) our prayers in ways that don't completely make sense to us.  But the central themes are unchanged and even underscored by recent experience: that we don't have control over much in life, despite the "illusions of control that we comfort ourselves with, but at the end of the day we don’t have a cognitive category for...cancer taking a mother [from her children]".  That death is an inevitability that should cause us to consider weighty matters of how we view this life and eternity.  And that, in spite of everything, "God is STILL GOOD.  And still in control.  We just don’t always see everything He can."

So without further ado, here's the video of Ashleigh giving her summation thoughts of our time in Boston (and a transcript below).  I hope you appreciate the continued relevancy of her comments as much as we do...

It was the fall of 2007 – my last year in undergrad at Georgia Tech – the night before the Senior career fair.  I had a long list of companies I’d researched, ready to wow them with my resume, knowledge of their business, and my non-regional diction.  You see, I’d started Georgia Tech as a biomedical engineering major, honestly, because it sounded prestigious.  Then BioChemistry happened, and things went really bad.  But around that same time, someone pointed me to a magical area of study called Industrial Engineering, where you could tell OTHER people what to do, improve processes, and make plans, and even use MATH to do it.  Ever since I single-handedly planned my 8th birthday party - I made a list of invitations, a grocery list, and schedule for my mom to take me to Party City and everywhere else I needed to go for favors, decorations, etc - I’ve been what you might call a “planner”.  And to combine my natural penchant for process optimization with engineering, and do that professionally…well, that was the dream.

So I’m about to head to the career fair, with a pretty decent resume that I’d worked hard for.  I had also recently heard of this profession where you didn’t really work for a company that “did” anything, so much as told OTHER companies HOW to do what they do.  A “consultant”, they called it.  So I saw this as the culminating achievement to cap off 18 years of hard work at school, and I went hard after it.  Consulting firms liked me, and I certainly enjoyed getting wined and dined at interviews.  It seemed like I was well on track towards being a jet-setting professional consultant with all the perks.  The only problem was…well, I was in love.You see, my wonderful husband (who I should mention has been a hard-working successful engineer for 7 years now), didn’t share my same passion for “hard work”, or “going to class”, or even “passing grades” in undergrad.  His resume didn’t quite shine like mine.  But I knew I wanted to marry him – we were engaged at the time.  I was understandably frustrated that my employment options that I’d worked hard to keep broad and exciting were functionally limited by the career options and work ethic of someone over whom I had so little control. AKA My job search was limited to wherever he could find a job.

So this tension between what I felt I “deserved” in a potential job and what I was apparently going to be limited to, combined with the self and society imposed expectations to be a happy homemaker wife and not necessarily a career woman, built and built through recruiting season to the night I’m describing.  When, after a particularly long session of hashing out our future plans with Brad, I turned and yelled to the entire sorority house: <yell here> “Listen ladies, it doesn’t matter how good you do in school.  Just look pretty and work on finding a good husband, because that’s all we should aspire to”. <dramatic pause>

So I initially had a few minor issues with finding my identity - balancing professional and personal life.  I’m sure that’s a struggle that many of you can relate to tonight. But there’s a partially obscured, and unexpected, moral to this story – if you’re not careful you’ll miss it behind “follow your dreams and everything will work out”.  The reason why I give you this window into a time in my life when I didn’t know how things were going to turn out – when I honestly didn’t see a WAY they could turn out – is to explain to you what is ultimately the guiding force behind the path I’ve taken in my life.

There were just so many variables even in that one little life transition that I couldn’t control – where Brad could get a job, which companies were hiring, which cities we could live in, whether he would decide I was crazy enough that he didn’t want to marry me anyway…too many variables for me to optimize, too many for me to plan for, and I couldn’t handle it.

Fast forward to this semester, and there are even more variables I can’t account for in the optimization that is my life – both minor variables like when papers are due, but major ones too.  If I had stayed just 15 minutes longer at the Boston Marathon finish line last month, where I was hanging out with my 3-month-old Noah, who knows what would have happened.  I was right there.  Then later that same week I was walking home from Walker Memorial to Eastgate at the exact same time that the gunmen were making their way from Stata to 3rd street after having shot Shawn Collier.  We followed a parallel path not 100 feet from each other – what if they had turned towards Memorial Drive?

Then you have other things outside my control that marked my first year at Sloan – my Aunt died of cancer at 42, leaving behind 4 beautiful daughters – my cousins – between the ages of 8 and 14.  Then you have a situation like Nikita’s passing earlier this year, and she was involved in our Bible study with Sloan Christian Fellowship.  And you’re left asking, what could I have DONE?  What can I DO?  Do I even have any control over ANYTHING in this life?

The perhaps unique perspective I want to share with you tonight, is that the short answer to that question is “no, we don’t have control.  Over much of anything, really”.  We have illusions of control that we comfort ourselves with, but at the end of the day we don’t have a cognitive category for dealing with pressure cookers exploding in the street at a road race, or cancer taking the life of a mother not much older than I am, or a fellow classmate being here one day and just…gone…the next…or even something comparatively simple like forecasting where we’re going to live and what we’re going to do for work next year.  Even if we have signed offer letters with 6-figure salaries, even if we think our families are happy and healthy – there’s not one of us in here whose world couldn’t be shattered by one phone call.

I want everyone here to humor me for a second – find your pulse.  Everyone do it <pause>.  Most of us take completely for granted that our hearts just…beat.  But what I want to impress on you tonight, the best example of how not-in-control we really are, is this simple fact: someday that pulsing you feel won’t do that anymore.   It’s not morbid – denying that fact is intellectually dishonest bordering on willful ignorance.  The Bible says that we are nothing but a vapor – a mist that is here today, gone TODAY.  It also says that a man who lives like he’s never going to die is the height of foolish self-delusion, because if there’s one undeniable fact that we’ve all been faced with this year between Nikita and the bombings and Sean Collier, it’s that we are all going to die, and that none of us have any real control over it.

So where does this leave us?  I mention “The Bible says”, both because I believe what it says and to demonstrate that it has a bearing on our everyday lives, the struggles we face.  I am here as a logical, thinking, fellow-classmate to declare that I believe even though we have almost no control over what happens in our lives, there is a God who IS in absolute control.  And here’s the great news – He’s also absolutely loving, and caring.

I can tell you how things ended up after that blow-up at my sorority house all those years ago – like so many other times in my life I could tell you about, God orchestrated all the details in ways I couldn’t have planned better myself.  Brad got a great engineering job and I got to be the jet-setting consultant.  Then, in another big transition we really struggled through, God brought us to Boston when we thought there was no logistical way we could ever leave our hometown.  I could fill another 10 minutes with the hurdles He overcame there.  THEN, he blessed us with a baby boy three months ago, when our biggest reason for not wanting to come to Boston was that it would delay us being able to start a family.  He continues to work out all the details in amazing ways that would take another whole Yarn to describe to you.

I recognize that my examples of God’s provision leave a gaping hole – that He has seen us through all the big transitions in our lives, that for whatever reason I left the finish line just in time; but what about when the stars don’t align with jobs, or all the folks who didn’t leave the finish line when I did?  What about the handful of dear friends I have who have really struggled to get pregnant, while Noah came along almost just by thinking about him.  I certainly don’t DESERVE any of the good things God’s given us…quite the contrary.  I don’t have the time to give an appropriate treatment of God’s Sovereignty and the nature of evil (and really that’s more my Husband’s deal – talk to him if you’re interested in that debate), but my point is even when my aunt died and left 4 girls behind, and even in tragedies like the marathon and Nikita’s passing, my faith allows me to believe that God is STILL GOOD.  And still in control.  We just don’t always see everything He can.

If you tuned out as soon as I mentioned “The Bible” and “God”, I want you to tune back in for a second, because here’s a few applications of what I’ve been talking about that I think we can all get behind, regardless of worldview.  First, recognize that every interaction you have with fellow Sloanies is an interaction with another warm-blooded, feeling, human being like you.  So often many of our interactions reduce to transactional surface-level pleasantries that incentivize us to pretend everything’s great: “yeah, I’m working for that startup; sure, I can connect you with him on Linkedin; oh, I think I might head to New York after that banking/consulting job”.  Meanwhile maybe there’s another Nikita behind the face in front of you, slowly breaking apart.  The culture we should encourage at Sloan should look at your fellow classmates as more than future networking connections and job leads, but as human beings who all struggle, and that’s ok.

Secondly, I encourage you take some time to think about your mortality.  It’s not a happy subject, but our death is an inevitability that bears some thinking about.  If we’re honest, everything else should take a back seat until we get this one figured out.  In the face of recent tragedies it is intellectually dishonest to ignore…I certainly thought about it again after being at the marathon, and after being close to where Sean was killed.  Whatever you do with your conclusions should help inform how you live your life, down to your day-to-day life here at Sloan.  The worldview to which I ascribe finds hope in the face of the inevitability of death because we follow the teaching of the only man who died and then came back to tell us about it.  So death still scares me sometimes, but a lot less because I trust that God – Jesus – knows what he’s talking about.  If you’d like to talk more about my faith, my husband or I (or any leader in Sloan Christian Fellowship) would love to talk with you at greater length.

We are not in control – God is.

We can’t see what’s going on under the surface, so take time to get to know your classmates on a personal level.

And yes, we’re all going to die, and we don’t know when – so we should let that affect how we think and live today.

These are the things I’ve been reminded of in my time at Sloan, the things that have encouraged my faith and allowed me to help lead Sloan Christian Fellowship through a difficult year.  Sorry they’re not the most light-hearted topics to talk about at the Yarn, but I think all the more important that we think about them BECAUSE of their weightiness.  Thank you.