Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sullivan Family Update 2.28.09

I promised that I would forward the continuation of Tom Bowen's posting in tribute to his son, Ben, who passed away on February 25, 2005, due to brain cancer. I am humbled to see that Hannah's story is a part of his tribute.

I have also attached a copy of Hannah's obituary for those of you who will not be able to see it otherwise. Thank you so much for traveling this journey with us!

Tribute Part 2
Yesterday at 1:22pm
As I reflect over the past few years, I see bits and pieces of the “wake” from the storm we faced with Ben. Indeed, it has been impactful – but costly. Lessons emerge that shape perspective and initiate change. The first “ah-ha” moment for us was the importance to seek the truth about our faith. You see, our story wasn’t all that remarkable. Like you, we spent much of our time working and doing what we thought “needed to be done”. We would (from time to time) complain about how time is slipping by – pledge to spend more quality time together as a family… you probably know the routine. I was struggling with guilt because for the past year or so, I had withdrawn from my family and missed out on a lot. [I allowed struggles from 9/11 to wreck my time at home. Thankfully, a good friend pointed me to truths about my faith. Those truths changed my life and behavior.]
Jennifer and I are passionate about identifying the lessons from our journey and becoming what God has intended for us to be. I have learned that through our storm we can accomplish great things – not for ourselves but for one much greater. Ultimately, when we embrace this and make it our practice, many are served – way beyond our own capabilities. I don’t quite understand it all – but catch glimpses of it in the random stories we hear about of lives changed because of our loss and response to it. Tens of thousands of letters and email have flooded our home with powerful examples of this. From medical professionals to politicians, corporate CEO’s to Hollywood stars and all of us “regular” people, we hear of something special that stands out about this journey that impacts hearts from every walk of life. Many have commented on our strength. While we are encouraged by the inference, we realize that it is less about our strength and more about our dependence. At no point has our strength gotten us anywhere. Quite frankly, this has been the weakest time of our lives – full of hurt, pain, disappointment and frustration. Still, we are blessed beyond words and have found great joy in serving through this pain.
There is so much I want to share about this – but find my mind and heart distracted. We have been honored to serve many families over the past few years that are experiencing childhood cancer – and many who are caring for a child approaching end of life. It has been a challenging journey as we have set course to organize this effort and help families across the country. We given everything we have to this and in light of the economy have grown a bit discouraged. Then I met Hannah.
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine introduced me to a family from Arkansas on Facebook. I learned that this family has two beautiful teen daughters – one of which was diagnosed with brain cancer. We reached out to her family, and quickly discovered that they were very special people! As I learned more about this family, I read a story of how their oldest daughter, Hannah experienced a life-changing time at a church youth conference a little more than a year ago. The speaker shared that God uses storms in our life to bring us close to Him and others closer to God. She prayed that she would experience a storm to do just that. Not long after, she was diagnosed with glioblastoma – a very difficult and deadly brain cancer. Hannah’s approach to her diagnosis was one of clear focus. She had the grace to realize that her battle was scary and painful while at the same time riddled with opportunity to serve God. She seized the opportunities with courage. Her family too has a mindset that recognizes that while personal storms cost us greatly, they can also return great things.
A few hours ago, Hannah passed away – not to worry though, she is better now. And while her parents begin to take this new part of the journey in, I sense they realize that the wake of Hannah’s storm is just beginning to reach shore. Good for you, Hannah. Good for you!

God is good, all the time!

Jill & Brad

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