In Loving Memory of Kristen Milligan

Today we grieve the death of Kristen Milligan, co-founder of Inheritance of Hope.  Kristen died on Friday, October 26, 2012.  Hers was a life well-lived.

After retiring from her first career of training guide dogs for the visually impaired and deaf-blind to become a full-time mom, Kristen was diagnosed with a rare liver cancer in stage 4 on March 18, 2003 — her 30th birthday.  For the next 10 years, Kristen was dedicated to helping families navigate life-threatening illnesses, beginning with her own children.  She wrote A Train’s Rust, A Toy Maker’s Love to communicate about illness and death with her then four-year-old daughter Ashlea, two-year-old son Luke, and seven-month-old daughter Rebecca.  She wrote another book for children and one for adults about her experiences.  Kristen also was a poised speaker who shared her story with audiences around the United States and internationally.

In May 2007, Kristen and her husband, Deric, launched Inheritance of Hope with the vision that “Every Family Deserves a Legacy.”®  They desired to share their experiences, insights, and resources with many other families dealing with life-threatening illness.  So far, Legacy Retreats® have impacted ill parents, devoted caregivers, and the children in well over a hundred families.

In her writing, speaking, and co-founding of Inheritance of Hope, Kristen’s message was consistently joyful.  Throughout her journey with illness — which included six surgeries, twenty-two months of chemotherapy, and two rounds of radiation — she wanted people to know that she found more joy than harm.  Such joy came from a deepening relationship with God and increasing awareness of God’s work in her and around her.  Kristen claimed James 1:2 as a favorite verse — “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.”

Kristen’s dying days were marked by a profound peacefulness.  She was an inspiration to all who knew her, and she is deeply missed.  Her legacy continues, though, in all the lives she has touched and in the work of Inheritance of Hope.

Inheritance of Hope seeks to spread Kristen’s influence to an increasing number of families in the years to come.  Your gift in memory of Kristen will further her legacy.

There will be three memorial services celebrating Kristen’s life.  You can also click here to read Kristen’s “A Letter to be Read at my Memorial Service.”

Saturday, November 3rd, 10:00am
First United Methodist
325 North Broad Street
Brevard, NC 28712
(828) 883-9026

Sunday, November 11th, 5:00pm
Fishkill Baptist Church
107 New York 82
Fishkill, NY 12524
(845) 896-9386

Sunday, December 23rd, Time TBD
First Presbyterian Church
175 Lake Hollingsworth Drive
Lakeland, FL 33801
(863) 686-7187

Kristen’s obituary can be viewed here.

If you would like to read samples from Kristen’s Bible study for small groups or read other devotionals written by Kristen, please feel free to visit the Devotional Blog.

This Post Has 51 Comments

  1. Chelsi Sheffer

    I feel so blessed to have met Kristen, and shared the memories of the May 2012 Legacy Retreat! We will always cherish those memories we had with her. Her words at the closing ceremony touched our hearts in so many ways and we will forever be grateful for getting the opportunity to experience such an amazing, life-changing trip. So Rest in Heaven Kristen, you will always be appreciated and missed!

  2. Brynna Sumey

    We love you Kristen, but God loves you more, and he is so so happy you have joined him today.

  3. Amy Fisher

    Kristen was such an amazing lady. Her faith and grace impacted so many lives in such a positive and meaningful way. Her testimony, so powerful, served as an example of God’s unfailing presence and love. She blessed my life in so many ways! I keep thinking of her and the lesson she imparted on us all… Consider it pure joy. I rejoice in her healing and celebrate a life well lived. Kristen helped me to grow in my faith and in my own relationship with God. She taught me as much as anyone ever has about living in the moment and about gratitude, about faith and loving God. One night at Girl’s Group, we were talking about beauty, and about beautiful people. I told Ashlea on the way home that Kristen is one of the most beautiful people, most beautiful spirits, I have ever known. I thank God for her and for her family. I am so grateful for all that she is in my life and for all the ways I have been blessed by simply knowing her. She will be missed. You are all in my thoughts and prayers. – Love, Amy Fisher

  4. Peter Cronin

    Very sad to hear this news, thinking of Deric and family, Peter Cronin, Sydney

  5. Scott Sampson

    So sorry to hear about your loss. Kristen was a wonderful person who touched many people in many ways. Prayers go out to you and your family, Deric. You are in our thoughts today.

  6. pkeen

    I have not had the pleaseure of meeting Kristen,however her life and life’s mission has impacted my life. I am offering special prayers for her family today, including those who help IOH.

  7. Joe Whittington

    I have prayed for Kristen and her family for many years. I met her only once at First Presbyterian Church, Lakeland, FL. From what I know of her, from what I have heard of her she has what I call a top down view of life. Instead of wallowing in the valleys of despair that this fleeting life on Earth presents she chose the path of so many who have gone before. She chose the path of faith. She has lived a life of faith in the full and complete promises of God. A top down view which just happens to be God’s view. The legacy she leaves for us all is one of faith in God’s promises – to save us from the cost of our sin. She also leaves us the knowledge of service to God, no matter the condition of our Earthly vessel, to serve those we can touch with the glorious message that God through Christ will save our very souls for eternity. My only regret is that I did not know her more fully. Grace and peace of our God and savior to her husband and children whose cup of grief is deep. Yet no matter how deep our cup of grief God’s grace is deeper still. – Joe Whittington, Stage 4 Follicular Lymphoma 2006, Bone Marrow Transplant 2009, Child of the Risen Savior.

  8. Melissa Hampton Adkins

    May God be with Kristen’s family and the extended family of Inheritance of Hope. God bless all of you. Thank you for the gift you were able to give my family last year

  9. Debbie Stewart

    Kristen was so inspiring. I feel blessed to have met her and heard her story. I will be continuing to pray for your family. Take comfort in knowing that Kristen’s legacy will live on!
    Debbie in Asheville, NC

  10. Karin Falk

    Praying for the family. I recall our MOPS group in NY where she was the speaker for our Tea and Treasure meeting. What a beautiful and inspirational message and legacy!

  11. Shannon Jarrett

    I am so sorry to hear about Kristen’s passing. Deric, my thoughts and prayers are with you, Ashlea, Luke, and Rebecca, as well as your entire IOH family.

  12. Alice

    We love you Deric and your precious children.
    Chuck and Alice Ely

  13. Jackie Price

    I met Kristen thru my sister and brother in law – Janet & Matthew Orwick and knew what a special person she was. She is with god now and at peace. May her family find some comfort knowing she is no longer suffering and with god. My thoughts and prayers are with you.
    Love Jackie

  14. Roy Remington


    I know words can never console a grieving heart, only Chist can do that. “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Thes 4:13-14

    I have been praying for Kristen every since I met you in Tres Dias and she was truly an inspiration to all. Her faith never waivered. Deric, I pray that the Lord will give you peace that surpasses all understanding through this grieving process. I know she will liver forever in your heart and memories. God Bless you and your children.
    In his love, Roy Remington

  15. ccbhc318

    Our hearts are heavy and saddend with the loss of our sister Kristen. Our prayers go out to the countless lives mine being one, inpacted by the sweet and loving spirit of Kristen who showed us what it means to be conent and joyful in the midst of our suffernings and trials. Thank-you Kristen and Deric for allowing us to share in your sufferings. Though removed from this world she will always live in the hearts and the lives of those whoever encountered her. We are so graeful for IOH and the legacy Kristen will continue to carry on in the lives of everyone who participates whether as a family or a volunteer.

  16. Connie Abston

    My prayers are with you and your family. I did not know Kristen. But I knew her through your sister Dale. I know that she was a very special lady. You are all in my prayers at your time of loss.

  17. Katie cole

    What a beautiful strong woman she was! Praying for her family! She will be missed!

  18. De Sellers

    I became aquainted with IOH through a wonderful young lady named Lara Miller. However, this awesome organization which Kristen and her husband inspired will effect so many lifes in such positive ways. Kristen has left such a wonderful legacy and has offered such hope to so many people. Heaven has gained another angel. Thank you Kristen for dedicating your life for the benefit of others.

  19. The Obercorn Family

    This precious lady and her family and their organization blessed our family with something that can never be replaced or forgotten. Her walk with God, her devotionals and her families love for all and constant giving is/are/were amazing. If you were blessed to know her your life is changed for the better because of it, there is no way it could not be. Lord, watch over this family, wrap them in your arms and let them feel peace and be with all of those feeling the loss of Kristen Grady Milligan. Inheritance of Hope gives so much more than just a vacation to families with children facing a terminal illness, it gives them hope and a legacy! Our thoughts are with you and your children Deric.

  20. Pastor Bob

    We pray for you as we have been for a long time. We thank Kristen, Deric and all those from IOH who have made such a Godly impact on hundreds of lives – what a legacy Kristen left. We will never forget the evening that you both spent at Creekside. We pray for you at this very difficult time of loss. We praise God for the Hope that is ours in Jesus Christ – we will be together with our Savior in heaven. The wait until then is difficult and we will pray for His confort and strength as you weather this storm. May His comforting blessing be on you. Thank you Jesus for Your strength and power that you are pouring into Deric and his family now. We thank Kristen for modeling a woman of God.

    Pastor Bob and the Creekside family.

  21. Randy Lillard

    So thankful for Kristen’s courageous and joyful life…..for her vision to help others leave a legacy of hope…..and for the way she & Deric touched our family’s life through IOH. Our Legacy Retreat at Disneyworld is one of our greatest family memories. May God’s grace and joy sustain you, Deric, your children, and all those who both mourn Kristen’s passing and celebrate her life today.

  22. Pallab Gupta

    Last night (Friday) in Youth Group here at FBC, Fishkill, we split up into small groups after going through the “Blessed are the…”. With the High School boys, we were discussing what being being blessed really means and how it is different from the popular notion of equating blessings with prosperity. Some of the boys knew about Kristen and I told them how we have heard her saying in the past that through her pain and suffering, she was still blessed. That gave a good point to discuss on. Little did we know that at that time that Kristen was in the arms of her beloved Jesus.
    Thank you Kristen for showing what “pure joy” is and showing it in your life. Deric and the rest of the family – we continue to pray for you.

  23. Stacy Finley

    When I think of the Kristen and Deric I will remember their greatness, generosity and them giving themselves during a time most of us are trying to figure out what to do.
    Kristen is a true Image of a Godly woman, she is such an Inspiration. My prayers are with the Milligan family. I know there will be sadness and a time of grief, but It will get better.

    “Come for all things are now ready” Luke 14:17


    There will always be a void that cant be filled in a human way but I have found that God sends little “treasures” along the way.In my grief I many times forgot to acknowlege them You too, will all see the light of Jesus even in these dark days. How blessed you all were to have her in your lives as mommy, wife friend and daughter. May God give you the strength and inner joy to carry on her Legacy for many years to come. With great sadness and love and above all PRAYER, Laila Thompson

  25. Kyle & Angel Chewning

    All our love and prayers are with you, Deric, and with your children during this difficult time.

  26. Shari Elliott

    My lifer has become so much richer because of Kristen, Deric and the family. Dearest Kristen has touched my life in so many ways, I will always be grateful to her. Wishing you love love and more love and so many prayers. We will miss you.
    Love, The Elliott Famiy

  27. joanna podlewska-ely

    Deric, Ashlea, Luke and Rebecca, our harts are drawn to you in this time of sorrow. We were blessed to get to know you in NY when we visited Lisa, we’ll never forget Kristen.
    Our prayers are with your family.

  28. Shakira McKenna

    I first came to know of Kristen through my friend, Krista Jones-Brock. I have followed her story for the last seven years and often inquired about her/her family through Krista. I recently exchanged emails with Kim (an amazing inspiration all her own) and am overwhelmed by the profound strength of this wonderful family. Please except deepest condolences from my family. Kristen lives on in each of you and in the fantastic legacy she leaves. LOVE!

  29. Shakira McKenna

    Please forgive my spelling error *accept*, not except

  30. Cassie Kennedy

    My deepest sympathy to her family and friends. I have eternal gratitude to her and IOH for all they did for Lora and my nieces Lizzie and Leia (NY 2011). I am sure she received a hug from Lora on the banks of Jordan on Friday.

  31. Wendy Hollis

    My prayers will remain continuous for you Deric and the children. Kristen was a such an inspiration to so many. Her words of strength, hope in Christ, and the joy of blessings in so many forms from our Savior have been forever placed in us. Through her life I have been able to draw that much closer to Christ and my walk became that much deeper. I can only imagine the glorious place which our Savior had waiting for you and the words “Well done my good and faithful servant”. You will be missed here. Thank you my dear sister.

  32. Jenica Timmes

    Although I did not know Kristin personally, I have had the pleasure of hearing her speak at my church on several occasions. Both myself and my church family are blessed to have been able to hear her testimony. Thank Kristin for reminding us of what is truly important in life! Yours was truly a life well lived!

  33. Graham Daly

    Thank you Kristen. The amount of love and support you were able to give to so many under the shadow of your illness is profoundly inspirational. The positive impact that you and the IoH has had on my family and me is immeasurable. Our love goes out to Deric and family.

  34. achangedman

    My chest actually ached reading this. Kristen…..I’m not sure how to respond.

    Kristen inspired my wife to fight on. She inspired me to do the same. She treated our daughters with such respect, love, and attention…..

    Man, this is tough. Kristen no longer hurts. That is something awesome when you think of it. As the pastor/friend who spoke at Rachel’s funeral said, “Cancer didn’t win. it DID NOT WIN!” I would have to agree.

    Deric, my thoughts are with you and your children. Thank you for doing so much for so many. Kristen, you, and your family are very dear to us all. As you’ve said to me before, and I paraphrase, I say to you “If you need to talk about anything, just call.” I offer the same to you.

    We love you all.


  35. Beverly Laferriere

    I met Kristen through a dear friend of hers and mine,Pastor Don’s sweet wife Peggy. They were good friends and she brought Kristen to my home church to talk to all of us women who were touched in some way by cancer or cancer survivors. Kristen had such courage and love. I am so happy God gave her the extra years with her children and husband. Now she is pain free and working for the Lord until her family is rejoined with her in heaven. Thank you Lord for healing Kristen.

  36. Caroline Diamon

    I was so sorry to hear about Kristens’ passing. She was an amazing woman and I am so grateful for all that she has done for so many people. My friend Ginny Berry was granted a trip to Disney with her son TJ. It was there that we met Kristen,Derek and the rest of the family. I will forever remember all the amazing people we met during that weekend. It has been almost 1 year since Ginny passed and we miss her very much. However I can’t help but smile whenever I see a Disney commercial and think about the fun times and special people that we met in June of 2011. Kristen truly has left an incredible legacy. My thoughts and prayers are with her family. Sincerely, Caroline Diamon

  37. martin5

    What wonderful heartfelt memories we cherish from our Legacy retreat to NYC 2011. Kristen made herself available & was so open about her life. We will never forget our gift from IOH. Thank you Kristen for being a beautiful child of God. You trully have served the Lord. Blessings and prayers to Deric and family. My heart aches for you.

    Carrie Martin
    Pittsburgh, PA

  38. Lara Ford

    Dear Deric, Ashlea, Luke, and Rebecca,
    What a gift to have Kristen, your wonderful wife and mommy, in all of our lives. We will miss her dearly. We grieve with you. We are so sorry. We don’t understand but we trust in a loving God.
    Kristen loved well. She is wonderful example of our Heavenly Father’s love for each of us. What a legacy Kristen has created.
    May God bless you and keep you ever so close,

    Dwight, Lara, Jordan, Taylor and Abby Ford
    Freeland, WA

  39. The Sisco's

    I feel so very blessed to have met Kristen and Deric at our Legacy Retreat NYC 2011. Kristen’s messages of hope and love has brought me great strength as I battle my own life threatening illness. To meet someone who knew directly what fears and concerns I think about daily has brought me some peace. I am so thankful that I was able to learn from Kristen and my heart aches of her passing. My prayers go out to Deric and their three beautiful children – their mom is an amazing LEGACY!

    All our love and support,
    Jenifer Sisco and family

  40. Gwynn Butterfield

    My heart, prayers and love go out to Kristen’s family. What a true gift she was and will continue to be from the Lord. We have all been blessedby her presence among us. Rest in peace.

  41. Bill Chionis

    I have had two days to think about how to respond to this heartbreaking news and am still just coming up short.

    I met Kristen at the 2011 NYC retreat and was immediately moved by her grace, generosity and desire to connect to us all and provide a beautiful and memorable time for our family in the midst of great turmoil.

    This turned out to be the last time our family would be able to enjoy our time together and I am eternally grateful for that time and those memories.

    Words cannot describe how much my heart aches for Deric and his children and family during this time of great loss. I can only hope that they can take comfort in the fact that Kristen’s faith and magnificent spirit will live on forever in the hearts of those families she touched through her amazing work in this world.

  42. heidi

    A life well lived. I hope to deserve those words one day. I thank you Kristen and your family. I thank you for caring for my sister Kristi and her family. I thank you Jill & Jennie for your unbelievable giving in our time of grief.

    Mostly I thank God for giving the world Kristen, even if for just a short time.

    Thank you IOH !!

  43. Mark & Janis Felker

    Janis and I are thankful for knowing Kristen and for her life. We are especially honored that she personally asked us the critical questions as she filmed the Legacy video we made for our kids. Now, she indeed has received her crown of Glory from the Father, and our hope is in Him alone. “…well done thou good and faithful servant.”

  44. Natasha

    IOH started with an idea and you created it into something that has influenced hundreds of lives. Because you shared your love and kindness, my family has wonderful and cherishable memories.
    Kristen is praising Christ now and I cannot wait to see her and my Mike again!
    My heart and prayers go out to her family. Let God carry and comfort you and let Kristen’s memory live on.

  45. Julie Gottlieb

    I only met Kristen for the first time last year and knew of her and her story the year before. What a remarkable women and family. The lives she has impacted in the last 10 years is too many to count. The lives she will continue to impact will last many lifetimes to come.

  46. steve digangi

    There isn’t much more to say than whats already been said about Kristen. So all I’ll say is she got her wings expedited and she is one of God’s angels looking out for her own family and all the IOH families. All who knew her are better off because we got to meet her or know her. Deric and family, please know you are in our prayers.

  47. The Leonards

    I was teary as I told my children that Kristen had passed. They were puzzled, “But Mom, did you ever even meet her?” No, I had not, I think that is part of what makes me sad. We are going on a Legacy retreat in just a few days and I so wanted to thank this woman, this mother, who is giving my family, my children such a wonderful gift. Please know, Kristen, that I am grateful and inspired to be a stronger, better, wife and mother. May God continue to look after and bless your beautiful family

  48. Calvin Chin

    What a privilege it was to get to know Kristen. And of course Deric too. Her peace. Their passion for God. Their hope for healing and passing on the peace of the Heavenly Father inspired and encouraged and loved many communities. Deric, be strong and know that your work is revitalizing many families and giving them a sense of purpose. We at Redeemer mourn with you and will be here always.

  49. Kim

    It was SO great to see you in Lakeland at the last service for Kris. You have and always will have a special place in both Kris and my hearts. Thank you for bringing Kris & Deric together (no one could have cared for her better, or loved caring for her more, than Deric), and always being a friend to us both.
    Love, Kim
    P.S. I would love to meet your family some day soon, so please let me know if you are ever back in Florida or in NC.

  50. Kim

    As her twin sister, I have since birth been Kris’s biggest fan, her cheerleader and her protector (not that she needed one, but I was there being protective anyway). She has since birth been my teacher, my mentor and my best friend. She learned to speak, and then taught me. She learned to walk, and then taught me. She learned to follow God, and then led me. Everything important in life, she taught me.
    A life, and a world, without Kris in it is completely new and unnatural to me. I am having to learn to live without her, a lesson I never hoped to learn. I could easily back away from life and stop living, but Kris asked me to celebrate my memories of her and continue living a full life once she was gone. How can I deny her anything now?
    So for her sake, as well as my family and her family, I am living life and trying to find the joy I once shared with her. I know she would want the same for all of you. God bless, Kim Grady Brock

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