October 26th, 2016, marks the fourth anniversary of Kristen's death. She revised the letter below in February 2012.
Dear loved ones,
As I write this I admit feeling a little sad. Sad because my greatest earthly desire was to grow old with Deric … 17 years of marriage was not nearly long enough. Sad because it is a mother’s job to be there to comfort her child when that child experiences her first broken heart, or when he sits on the bench during a much-anticipated game. Sad because my heart hurts to think I will not be there to share in my children’s joys and inevitable accomplishments, their weddings, or for the births of their own children. Sad to leave my mom and my sister with yet another loss after the premature death of my dad. Despite the sadness this illness has brought, when I consider my life I quickly realize that God has blessed me abundantly … how can I feel anything except overwhelming thankfulness?
I have recently embraced 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, which reads, “Rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus!” I have learned to be thankful, even for this cancer, and today is certainly a day to rejoice. Today I am home, holding the hand of my earthly father and standing in the presence of our almighty and most loving God. No regrets … I have done all I ever dreamed of, and I have been loved more than any one person deserves. I know today I am more joyous than any day experienced on earth, though this is difficult for me to imagine, as my life was most certainly a joyous one. I had wonderful parents, who raised me in a home full of love, security, encouragement, and humor. I had a marvelous twin sister who encouraged me to pursue interests of which I never thought myself capable. Eventually, I discovered the love of my life in a handsome, intelligent, and immensely gifted trumpet player. He has treated me like the princess I never before believed myself to be. I was embraced by his family, who have treated me as if I were always meant to be their daughter, their sister, their aunt. And then our lives were blessed even further by three beautiful little people … Ashlea, Luke, and Rebecca. The sun truly seems to shine brighter every day they are a part of this world.
The past several years have been an adventure for our family. My illness has created uncertainty in our lives, but we have had the privilege of being loved and served by a multitude of generous friends and strangers. From meals, to house cleaning, to the juicing of carrots, to thoughtful cards and faithful prayers, to scrapbooking, and so much more. These selfless acts have not only made our lives more manageable, they have brought smiles and great joy. I long ago lost track of the thank you letters I had sent and those that never made it to the mailbox or even onto paper. Please accept my belated yet heartfelt gratitude for all you have done and know what great peace and joy you brought to my life and to my family.
I do, however, boldly ask for just a bit more. My dear friends, Jill and Lisa, have long insisted that to allow people to serve me in my time of struggle was to bless them. So I am taking this last opportunity to bless you! Though my days of needing you are passed, I ask that you continue to reach out to my family. Though it is a day to rejoice for me, their earthly struggle continues. I understand that it may be awkward, that you may feel uncomfortable because you do not know what to say or do. But I assure you, your presence alone will be a great comfort to my husband and my children. Deric needs hugs more than anyone would guess, and my sometimes quiet children will gain great strength from your expressions of care and support. Allow God to lead you. He knows just what they need.
One last request is for Inheritance of Hope, and for the families that have so touched our lives. You see, Deric and I resisted initiating this ministry, thinking it took all we had to survive our own struggle. When we could resist no longer, we learned that God was pushing us to start this ministry because He knew it would bless us! And it has … so profoundly. More than anything, Deric and I want to continue bringing these families together, loving and supporting them, and introducing to or reminding many of what has given us such great joy, hope, and peace during our trial … our faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Please continue to support Inheritance of Hope as we work to serve these families, whether it be as a retreat volunteer, a prayer warrior, or as a financial supporter. I understand that there are so many causes worthy of our time and money; but, if you know of anyone who might feel called to support a ministry like ours, please share with them the mission of Inheritance of Hope. (Click here to see how Inheritance of Hope is continuing Kristen's legacy.)
Though we have been overwhelmed with thankfulness for the support of so many, I know without hesitation that it has been Christ, and Christ alone, who has given us both a peace that passes understanding and an indescribable joy these recent years. As I struggled with this cancer, determined to stay with my family for as long as possible, I have felt my heart soar with a joy I had not known before becoming ill. How was this possible as the doctors insisted I was dying? I have found that there is only one possible answer … it was the loving hand of God that blessed me and strengthened me and loved me with an intensity I had never felt before entering the fire. Job explains in chapter 42, verse 5, “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.” This has been true for me. This cancer has allowed me to truly see our great and merciful God. Nothing could be more of a blessing here on this earth, don’t you think?
I have learned in my life simply that I don’t know much. In fact, I seem to understand less and less each day; however, there is one truth that has become overwhelmingly clear. Christ is real, and He loves you, and He wants to bring you hope and joy. Not happiness which comes when our circumstances are pleasant, but a divine joy that overshadows whatever circumstances we might face in this lifetime. Ashlea, Luke, and Rebecca … God is not limited by death, and he will never leave you as I have been forced to do. He loves you more perfectly than I ever could, which must be an amazing love, for I have loved you three and your father with everything that I am. Trust God, little ones, as He has great joy and great blessings planned for you! “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans for a hope and a future.”
Lastly, I just want you all to know that I adore you. I have been blessed by God through you beyond measure, and as you hear this I am telling God face to face how thankful I am for each of you.
May God bless you and keep you as you continue your journey, and if God allows, know I will be waiting to welcome you home.