Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tears By The Sea

As a pastor’s family, we are often given the honor of being involved in the different passages of life that affect various members of our congregation.

Ten days ago, one of those passages came in the form of a memorial service for a church member’s daughter, Allison, who died of brain cancer at the age of forty-seven. She left behind a daughter in her teens and a son in his twenties.

We’ve been to numerous funerals and memorial services in our almost thirty years of ministry but this one will stand out in our hearts as being one of the most meaningful. (The following pictures are being shared with the family’s permission.)

After a church service that was packed to the walls and resonate with robust singing (Allison had requested a non-somber funeral), we went with Allison’s family and a few friends to a nearby beach for the scattering of Allison’s ashes.

Allison was an avid horsewoman and the family had arranged for one of her best friends to carry her ashes along the beach on horseback.



Steve and another pastor read Scripture and prayed . . .


. . . while Allison’s friend and Allison’s ashes kept watch.


And then at the place where Allison had spent so many contented hours, her ashes were scattered . . . _DSC0093

. . . and her memories were gathered._DSC0086

Having accomplished her loving, lonely task, her friend turned her horse and rode away--but this time, without Allison._DSC0103

Then it was time for family and friends to walk to the edge of the water and lay their roses down with the ashes._DSC0107

A certain beloved (and weeping) cancer warrior joined them._DSC0059 _DSC0114 _DSC0116



After Sarah had completed her sad and beautiful task, she walked over to stand near me. As she and I glimpsed each other’s tears, we both came to the realization that we were not just there as a mother and a daughter; instead, we were present in that moment as two cancer sisters who’d come to the sea to honor a third sister, whose beautiful life was cut short by an enemy that each one of us had done battle with.

Sarah and I stood and embraced for a long time, crying and praying and remembering. The cleansing air, the grief on the wind, the eternal waves—it was a moment she and I will not soon forget.


My tears continued as I saw Allison’s son say his final good bye. As I looked at him I imagined my own dear Nathan—so near his age—and I could only imagine what his feelings would be if breast cancer had taken me the way brain cancer had taken Allison.


The day held such beauty . . ._DSC0151

such sadness . . ._DSC0144

such hope._DSC0164

As we all finally turned to go, I looked back and noticed one single rose.

Representing one single life.

Well lived.


The Rest of the Story

Just to give you a bit of the “story behind the story,” here is a little background about Allison and a very special mission in her life.

allison collage

The following article about Allison’s Mission is from the
CHES Toy Drive in in Cape Hatteras, NC.

Many families have special Christmas traditions that are passed down and enjoyed year after year. Certainly one of the more enjoyable traditions the CHEC family enjoys is the annual CHEC toy drive. Every year, the CHEC lobby is filled with toys to be given to little ones on Hatteras Island. And every year, there seem to be more toys than the last, thanks in large part to another tradition started by a very special person.

Allison Fagley taught the children at her day care, Friendship Bridge, the importance of giving and they began their own Christmas tradition. Each year, the children would have bake sales to raise money that they would then spend on gifts for others. To the delight of CHEC employees, each year Allison and the Friendship Bridge van would pull up to the office. A seemingly endless line of young children would file in, with gifts they purchased for others their own age to add to the collection. Emails would fly out, “the children are here!” and employees would come to the lobby to see the kids and help them bring in the
toys that they had collected.

Something has been different the last two years. Though the CHEC lobby still fills with toys, there is no van, no parade of children with gifts. Allison was diagnosed with brain cancer and has been in that battle for years now. She had to give up the day care she ran for 20 years and move away from Hatteras Island to be closer to family.

However Allison’s tradition of giving continues. Parents of past Friendship Bridge students and friends of Allison still have the bake sales, still buy the gifts and still bring them to the CHEC lobby. Like many family traditions, the people and places change but the tradition itself remains.

Allison shown with her day care students after delivering toys in 2008


And finally, here are a few pictures from before and during Allison’s cancer journey. The picture in the bottom left corner is especially meaningful because her family told us that in the last few days of her life, Allison used a large wooden cross as a “telephone” with which to talk to Jesus. (You can’t see the cross in the picture but it’s what she’s holding in her hand.)

They said she would sometimes talk for thirty minutes at a time and always seemed so peaceful when she was done. It’s inspiring for me to think that even in the midst of her suffering and the muddling of her mind from the advancing cancer, she was still aware of God’s presence in her life and was able to talk to Him and find His comfort and peace.

allison use collage

But now? She has no cancer, she has no pain and she is finally able to talk to Him face to face.

And here on earth, our hearts have been made forever rich by the memories we will always treasure—memories of ashes and roses and tears by the sea.

20 Had Something To Say (Just click here!):

sharon holweger said...

this is the most moving thing I have ever seen. thanks for sharing such as sad time with all of us. prayer for that family and for all her friends. I know it was a very thought provoking time for your family too.

Lisa said...

So beautiful and heart rending at the same time. What a glorious thought knowing Allsion now sits at the feet of Jesus pain free and made whole in her death. Its also a rebirth into the Great kingdom that awaits all those who know and belive that Jesus died for us.

Shannon said...

That was so beautiful and moving...thank you for sharing!!!

MaryH said...

Through my tears, I am honored that you shared that experience - what a beautiful way to celebrate Alison's life. God love you and Sarah.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, I feel like I was there through you beautiful words and pictures. God Bless Alison's family and friends.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely, heart-wrenchingly beautiful, Becky. A couple of summers ago, when Adam and I volunteered at the Lighthouse Retreat, there were several baptisms in the ocean. There is such raw power, such a connection with God, there where water meets earth. I told my boy that it was possible that a few drops of water from the time when Jesus walked this earth, from baptisms over the ages... those may have been mingled with the water that washed our friends' sins away. And that water may have come back ashore at Allison's memorial, carrying away the remains of her earthly tent but bringing ashore the promise of eternal life. I know her family will appreciate those photos, as one who shot a military funeral for friends of mine last summer. While it seems strange to photograph a funeral or memorial, it brings great comfort to those left behind. So many comforting things that NEED to be remembered, so many acts of love and remembrance, and prayerfully, a vision of the bridge that will one day connect them forever. What is that saying... that as we stand on this shore tearfully waving "goodbye", there are those on the other who are jumping up and down and shouting "Here she comes... finally home!"

Guerrina said...

Beautiful and powerful ceremony.... Love the picure of Allison on the phone with Jesus...find that very powerful and, in my odd way, very reassuring.

fanny said...

A beautiful and touching story about a lovely, brave woman. My
prayers for her family and friends.

Novella T. May said...

Thank you for sharing your sorrows and joys with others. I am blessed to have read and viewed the memorable pictures. I will remember the beauty of the body of water where Allison's ashes were scattered in her honor.May God continue to bless each of you and fill your hearts with lasting joy as you remember how much God loves each of you.

Anonymous said...

Truly, as you said Becky, a life well lived. God has already granted me more years than Allison had...but it's made me wonder. Will I leave the lasting legacy that this dear sister has left in her short time on this earth? Thank you for sharing Allison with us. Jojy

Bec said...

Oh my goodness, what a beautiful and heartbreaking story. Your photo's and words made me feel like I was there, I could even feel the cold wind.

Carrie said...

Thank you SO much for sharing Allison's story, & in such a beautiful way!! My child (the one sitting in Allison's lap on the right side)was blessed to have an angel as a daycare provider for 4+ years. We miss her dearly but we know she is home, pain free & forever at peace w/Jesus. Allison lives on in my daughter, who is 8 years old, by the many life lessons she taught her. My family will always be grateful for the time we had with her. "Miss Allison" was an amazing, loving & caring woman...I could go on & on. I cannot thank you enough for your beautiful story of "Tears By The Sea"!! We miss her SO much but the angel on earth is, now, an angel in heaven. Thank you again & God Bless <3

Anonymous said...

So beautiful. I was so moved. Thanks to you and Allison family for sharing it with us.

Becky a few question because you have not talked about it recently

1) Does Sarah still use her ear aid (Not sure of the ENglish word the thing she uses for her hearing)
2) I remember you mentioned in a entry that you had contacted her doctor about something with symtomps and late effects?

Trine :)

OneLifeLiveIt said...

truly moving

The Pennington Point said...

Wow. It makes me stop and breathe....such powerful things are going on while I am here feeding kids and cleaning house. Thanks for the reminder that life is precious, friends are a blessing. Lisa~

Anonymous said...

This is beautiful...

Debbie said...

Very touching story with beautiful photos. Thank you for sharing this awesome lady's life story. She undoubtedly instilled love, thoughtfulness, and valuable life lessons to the many young children she cared for and they will take and use these lessons throughout their lives which are enriched from having known and loved her.

Jessica Kramasz said...

I think this is one of the most beautiful posts you have written. Very touching.

TiffanyH said...

What a beautiful way to remember someone so loved! Working with patients with cancer, death is all too familiar to me, I SO love seeing all the pictures of Sarah, and hearing about your lives! I am so glad that God chose to heal both Sarah and you!! I will keep Allison's family in my prayers!

Anonymous said...

I may be behind in reading this post but no matter it may be one of the most beautiful pieces that I've seen.