I know there were some of you who weren’t able to make the memorial so I wanted to give you an opportunity to have a copy of the message I spoke. I hope you are blessed.
This is something I’ve been praying about for some time. I think we always knew that this day would come, but at the same time, we had always hoped it would be just a little later. I’ve often wondered, what do you say to a family that has just lost a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a cousin? Quite honestly, I don’t think there’s anything I could say that fully encompasses the magnitude of the hurt of everyone here. This has to be one of the toughest times in anyone’s life. This one is particularly tough for me as well as I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of Holly’s life for the last 12 years. I personally feel as if Holly is as much my sister as she is yours.
Holly was an amazingly special young lady. I remember seeing Holly when she was just a baby. Being only 18, I will admit that I was a little bit scared by her. Not because she was scary, but rather that she was so frail and fragile that if I was to do anything incorrectly, I would break her. After 13 years and all that she went through, I’d have to say that was the least of her worries. It seemed like nothing I could do, or anyone else for that matter, were going to phase her. Holly has shown through the years that she’s probably stronger than all of us. Here lately, I’ve been hearing more and more stories where her family is reminiscing of the early times with Holly. I have to say I thoroughly enjoy hearing them because they speak of Holly’s character, despite all the struggles.
I was able to sit down and talk with Donald the other day. It was wonderful. He told me of how when she was born, there were so many issues that the doctors didn’t quite know what was going on. He told me of how every different doctor seemed to have a different diagnosis on her condition because some book had a picture and Holly happened to match one or two of the symptoms. He also mentioned how hard it was because she never really fit into anything. I won’t pretend to understand the frustration of having a child that has numerous problems and no one can tell you what’s wrong. What I will say is that I know for sure God doesn’t make mistakes. Holly was created perfectly for who Holly was supposed to be. James 1:17 states, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.” I’d definitely say Holly was a perfect gift. On top of that, it wasn’t a coincidence that Holly ended up with this family. God knew exactly what He was doing in giving you this little angel. Despite this, it still must have been hard seeing Holly with the many problems she had to face on a day to day basis.
I am reminded of the time that she was taken to Houston for a seizure study. The unbelievable thing is that in a matter of hours they found that she has hundreds of seizures. She dealt with this reality for the last 13 years. As terrible as they must have been for her, one of my favorite memories was seeing Holly laugh. Holly couldn’t laugh like you or I. She wouldn’t hear a funny joke and crack up about it. Still, when she laughed, the entire room joined in. We all knew it was a seizure causing it, but at that point, it didn’t matter. We always wondered what it was that set it off. I choose to think it was one of Darr’s jokes. Maybe we’ll never know, but the memories will always be with us.
Another of my favorite things about Holly was that she always brought out the best in everyone. You seemed to forget how insignificant all your troubles were when you were with her. She had to deal with more in her short time here than we could ever have dreamed of. Luckily, she had an amazing support system. Whether it was her parents, her brother and sisters, or her nurses, Holly always had people who fought for her. In our eyes, she was always just another little person. I remember going through different nurses and trying to find some that had personalities that fit with her and the family as well. Luckily, we ran across some great ones that made an impact on more than just her. We thank you for being a part of that.
I have to say that seeing how people interact with her leaves an impact on you as well. It was always fun to watch Keisha and Mrs. Brenda and how they talked to her just as if she were one of their own kids. I would be lying if I didn’t say that the way the family interacted with her didn’t have some effect on me. I remember Sandra having some problems with the insurance company and she went all the way to Fox 7 On Your Side to make sure that Holly got all the special care she deserved. I remember watching Donald and how he used to come in from working outside and give her lots and lots of kisses. You could
really see the love. She was truly lucky to have such wonderful siblings as well. I can’t count all the times that Brittany, Tiffany, Darr, and Heather would all take shifts to watch her because she was sick. I have to say that Brittany in particular and the love that she shared for Holly was amazing to me. To see the undeniable love that she had for Holly probably played a huge role in why I chose her as my wife. It was also grand to see my kids grow up around her. I believe that in watching them I have an even better understanding of what unconditional love truly is.
Some people probably looked at Holly and didn’t really understand her. I’m sure that it was difficult for some people as she couldn’t fully communicate like you or I can. Still, she had her own way of communication. I’m sure all of us here have more than once experienced one of her “love kicks” when she was just done. Holly always made sure she was getting what she wanted and what she needed.
Sickness was always a part of her life. In going through pictures the other night, it was crazy to see how many different times she had gone to the hospital. The most interesting thing about her sickness to me was that she seemed to get sick on command every time her parents needed to go away for a few days. It was like she was saying to them that she knows she’s the boss and they need to stay with her. Despite all the times she got sick, Holly always fought through it all. She was always strong and courageous, even when we weren’t. Holly fought so hard for so long and finally God freed her of her burden.
I know that it may seem as if she was taken from us too early. Just as God didn’t make a mistake when he created her, I can assure you that his timing was perfect in taking her as well. I am reminded of the scripture 2 Timothy 4:6-7, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Holly’s race may have been shorter than ours, but I think we’d all agree that her race was plenty tough. She had so many obstacles in her way, but managed to keep pressing onward despite it all. She has defied the odds from the very beginning. Being told that she only had 6 months to live, or 5 years, or 10 years, whatever it was, Holly just kept going. Even in worst of times, she was amazing. She must have had her own special sense of humor. I don’t quite know if there is an angel of death or not, but if there is, Holly has pranked him once or twice. It’s almost as if she has gone all the way to the brink, knocked on Death’s door, and ran away. Maybe she was saying, “Ha ha! I fooled you!!!” Either way, Holly refused to go easily. Even in her final hours, you could see evidence of this. Holly’s stats would drop, but the next thing you knew, she was climbing back to normal.
Despite all these things, Holly has gone. The hard part at this point is that we all feel an emptiness inside us. The question is now how to do we fill the void that is left in our hearts when it hurts so badly? I think we all know that we should be rejoicing because Holly is in Heaven now with a new body and is now able to do things that we take for granted every day. She is now able to dance, sing, run, and play. Still, our minds and souls are broken because she has gone. The hurt that we feel is very real. As a Christian, I have hope that one day we’ll meet again. I know that the sacrifice that Christ paid for Holly on that cross is the same exact sacrifice that he has offered to you and me. In the book of Romans, chapter 5, Paul writes, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” I like that this passage tells us thatwe receive peace from God. Not only that, but we have the ability to rejoice in this fact. That’s where we are now. We are rejoicing in the fact that Holly has been able to enter into His presence as a new creation. Her sufferings have ended and she is now peaceful. The most important part of the story isn’t finished. Jumping to verse 8, “…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” The word justified in this text means that we are made just in His sight. That we become blameless, spotless, without sin. The best part is that it doesn’t say anything about your effort. We are never saved on account of how good we are, how hard we work, or how religious we are. The only thing that saves us is the blood of Christ.
So then what about the void? As hard as it may sound, it’s not our job to fill that void. Christ has already paid the price to fill the void in our hearts. It’s okay to miss Holly. It’s okay to have unending love for Holly. There may be times when you feel lonely and in despair because she’s gone. It is in these times that I believe God is waiting for us with outstretched arms. He’s longing to comfort us and to be there for us in our moments of need. He waits for us to run to him and desires to create the kind of peace that only he can give.
I also know God works through people to accomplish His work. It is in these times that we should also reach out and lean on each other. We all loved her more than anything. It is because of this that we need to rely on each other for strength. There will be good days and bad days. In our bad days we need to comfort one another because that’s what Holly would want us to do.
I also feel we should grieve however we need to and for as long as we need to. There isn’t a right or wrong way. Some of you may feel hurt, some anger, some distress, and some guilt. We shouldn’t live with a “Coulda, shoulda, woulda” attitude, and I don’t believe Holly would want that for us. We all could have done more here or there, but we must cherish what we have had.
I also believe that there are times Heaven and earth intersect. We often tend to think of heaven as some far off place. I believe that there are times when we get lucky enough to experience a little bit of heaven here in this world. For all of us, being able to love Holly is one of those experiences. It is in our memories of Holly that we will all carry that little piece of Heaven on a daily basis. Let us all focus on the future and how we can take what Holly taught us and share it with the world. It is in these moments that our memories of Holly can still live on forever.
As many of you may know, this past month has been crazy for our family. First, we had the death of Holly. Later that week we found out that my father-in-laws best friend was hit by a semi and has been in the hospital since. Then this past Wednesday night, my father-in-law was involved in a head-on collision. I say all this because I know that we have no idea when our time is to come. Anyone reading this may not wake up tomorrow. I wanted to share a video with you because it has been a blessing to me and I pray it will be a blessing to you as well.
James Ashley, DC