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Monday, July 20, 2015

Ashleigh

As many of you probably already know, Ashleigh passed away yesterday morning. I first learned of her passing via Facebook and I just kept refreshing the screen over and over in hopes that maybe someone had just made a mistake. I was thankful to have been pretty much cried out by the time I read Brad's blog post last night.

I am so heartbroken over this news. It's one of those things in life where you just wonder why. It doesn't make sense. There is no silver lining to be found. I just don't get it. And that makes it so much harder to accept as reality.

While I didn't know Ashleigh well, I'm so thankful we reconnected via Facebook a few years ago. I'm thankful for the amazing person she was. For the lives she touched, including my own.

When I first learned of Ashleigh's cancer diagnosis I just wanted to help in some way. She and Brad mentioned via their blog that they'd love help once baby David was born so I held off and at around that time I sent a couple gift cards to them. I was shocked to receive a beautifully hand written thank you note from Ashleigh. It's a note I still have sitting on my desk. It serves as a daily reminder to be thoughtful and to take the time to reach out to others. She had a new baby and a toddler and was literally fighting for her life but yet she took the time to send me that note. It spoke volumes to me and continues to remind me to put things in proper perspective.

I think about Ashleigh daily. I have prayed for her but I have also tried to picture myself in her shoes. We are both 30 years old. We both recently celebrated our 8th wedding anniversaries. We both have babies born only 2 weeks apart. When my days feel stressful and busy and I feel overwhelmed I think of Ashleigh. I think of how she fought to just spend a little more time with her children. How she'd love to be given the time that I so often take for granted. Each day is a gift. It's a cliche but it's so true. Each day was a gift for Ashleigh throughout this past year. She understood that. She appreciated it. And through her journey, she helped me to also appreciate life.

Not only did Ashleigh appreciate each day, but she did it with a positive outlook. She was told point blank that she was going to die. She held on to the smallest percentages of hope. She found the good even in times of darkness. She was a light in the world. She refused to let the negative take over. She remained hopeful and faithful even until the very end. If she could smile so big and brightly through so many trials, what do I have to complain about?

I just can't imagine leaving my children. I can't imagine facing death. I especially can't imagine doing it as gracefully and faithfully as Ashleigh. I feel so unworthy of today. Why do I get to be here when someone so deserving of life doesn't?

It's such a reminder that this world is not our home. It's not where we're meant to be. And although it's scary and so hard for those of us left behind, death is the only way for us to reach our eternal home in Heaven. I have personally always feared death. Following Ashleigh's blog this year has really changed my outlook on it. This post she wrote back in December really hit home with me. God didn't create us to die. It makes so much sense that it would scare us, because it's not what He intended for us.

In a more recent post Brad talked about the gift they were given recently where Ashleigh was told she had just days to live then miraculously improved and was able to go home. I expected the gift to be that time at home, that time together. But instead he said the gift was that she did come so close to death. That having come so close to it, they no longer feared it. They felt God let them see what it'd be like in order to help them accept it and not be afraid when the time came.

Through Jesus we have the gift of eternal life. Through Him we have hope. We have peace. We have comfort. We have knowledge that He is in control and that we will meet those we love again when we meet our savior face to face. When faced with a terminal diagnosis Ashleigh could have chosen to turn to darkness, but instead she turned towards the light and she allowed her light to shine so brightly that it was impossible not to see Jesus all over her story. Her blog is a true testament of faith and I pray that lives will be touched and that people will come to know Jesus through Ashleigh's life as well as her ultimate death.

(This photo was taken of Ashleigh soon after her initial diagnosis)



Please keep Ashleigh's family in your prayers. I can't fathom Zach being left without me to raise our children. Brad is not only grieving the love of his life but also having to care for his two very young boys. Pray for him. For his strength and for him to continue to carry on Ashleigh's legacy of faith and optimism in the tough times ahead. Pray for their sons. I think the hardest thing for me personally is to think about how they won't get to know her, to experience her firsthand. They were blessed with an AWESOME mom yet they will only ever truly know her through the stories of others. They have such a strong foundation laid for them by their parents and I know they will be raised up along a path of righteousness. Majority of Ashleigh's blog posts (either written by herself or her husband) have mentioned that God is in control. He is. Even when we don't understand the outcome, He does. May it all be used for His glory.

Ashleigh's goal was to raise $100,000 for IBC research. You can help her reach her goal by donating here.

You can also contribute towards a gala being held in her honor here (I wish I was in Texas and could attend!)

You can also donate to a college fund set up for the boys via paypal payment sent to: brashleighboys@gmail.com

A fellow classmate of Ashleigh's wrote a song inspired by her story. It's beyond beautiful and you can hear it here.

If you haven't read Ashleigh's blog then I really encourage you to do so. Every post is inspiring, uplifting, and meaningful. You can find her blog here. (I encourage you to start from the beginning!)

I wanted to end with a small piece from one of Ashleigh's blog posts. These are her words and they really show her humor, her positive outlook, and her faith.

I want so badly for a miracle, to be health, to have the life I always assume I would have time to live. I pray. You pray. We all pray for...ice cream...er, wait, I mean healing! (and ice cream too). But that doesn't mean that God will say yes.

Sometimes we don't get what we want in this life. Sometimes the baby we've prayed for, hoped for, spent a whole lotta money towards fertility treatments for, ultimately doesn't come. Sometimes the timeline you had planned for getting married hasn't happened. Sometimes our loved ones pass too soon, or our child gets a bad medical repost, or our house is carried away in a flood. To put it eloquently - sometimes life just sucks. 

Can God still be trusted?

Yes.

Why can God be trusted? How can I trust him? I'll leave the writer of Romans to answer that question:


"Can anything separate us from Christ's love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?...No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life,  neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow- not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below- indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:35,37-39)

Ultimately it comes down to my world-view and belief system that says- this life is not all there is. And in the scheme of eternity, God is absolutely working ALL things together for good for those that love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Even a stage four breast cancer diagnosis.

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