Ashlea Milligan’s parents Kristen and Deric founded Inheritance of Hope together after Kristen was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. Ashlea has perspective that resonates with the broader IoH family, and through her writing, hopes to shed light on issues surrounding terminal illness and those who are left behind in its wake. She wrote her first installment in this series earlier, and continues to share her thoughts.
Coming to college and discussing childhood with my friends has been a fascinating exploration. My roommates and I come from different backgrounds. While we all grew up under similar circumstances, all American, UNC Chapel Hill-bound children, there are variances that I find striking. Listening to them recount their childhoods is always slightly surprising, and brings out the nuances of my childhood that were contrary to those of my friends. I have begun to recognize how different growing up with a sick parent actually makes your life - the before, after, and during.
|Ashlea and her mom, Kristen|
The gifts that I have received from my Mom following her death have been of immeasurable value, but no more so than the ones I received from her while she was alive. The true value of her gifts have come from the knowledge that she was considering me and my future years before I was. The intentionality that she displayed as a mother is something I intend to replicate, whether or not I am diagnosed with a terminal cancer.
There’s something irreplaceable about intentionality, no matter how small the gesture. I, for one, would prefer a thoughtful, handwritten note over a lavish gift of my own choosing. However, it can be very difficult to find the time and energy to go out of your way emotionally. But, because I believe in the value of intentionality, I’ve found a few fun things to do that make it feel like less of an endeavor and more of a creative activity. The list is quite standard, but I have added a personal twist to make it a little more fun. As a huge bonus, the recipient of your gift will recognize the extra effort put into their gift, and feel all the more loved as a result!
There’s something about childhood that, even in old age, people find reassuring. The nostalgia and sweet memories of looking back at a simpler time in your life are priceless, and remain treasures for a lifetime. So, often times, when people imagine a 12-year-old spending her entire young life watching her Mom battle cancer, the first thought is one of sadness and sympathy. I admit, such a reaction likely would have been my initial one as well, except that when I reflect on my childhood, doom and gloom weren’t major characters, despite my Mom’s liver cancer. Although there were certainly sad times, they were fewer than many seem to think. Perhaps I am too far removed from my own life’s experience (my Mom died a little over five years ago), but as I reminisce now it seems to me that there was far more joy in my childhood than even I might have expected.