Sunday morning, May 27, 2007…
After a 3 year battle with an insidious and rare cancer, my sister Hilliary passed away. She was 31, and leaves behind her two beautiful daughters, Gabbie (age 9) and Christian (age 6).
My mother, sister and I have an especially close bond… and the addition of the two girls to our tight circle was a great gift to our lives.
I am in awe of my sister.
Many of you know she was in a car wreck at 16, had severe head injuries, and suffered from lingering effects the rest of her life.
At 28, cancer was diagnosed (first in her breast and treated, and then in her hip and treated, and then finally throughout her entire body). Though she carried 40 pounds of cancerous tumors in her abdomen, her spirit was light to her final day.
She faced life with calm, courage and compassion. My sister had a deep and unwavering faith… she inspired hundreds of people around her and our family. From the first “lump”while we all awaited diagnosis, to the final hours on her death bed, there was never a moment when she truly worried. She was utterly confident that her “life was in God’s hands” and there was nothing she couldn’t handle because of that. She fought cancer with unimaginable strength to her final hour, but was ready to die if that be her fate.
Some people thought my baby sister lived in my shadow. She was quiet, modest and found joy in many simple things. But I think my sister was a giant, with faith and compassion beyond my reach. She was a quiet leader who inspired people, though she was completely oblivious to this fact.
Unknown to the family, Hilliary made arrangements to donate her eye tissue, the only part of her body truly unaffected by the cancer. Her gift of sight will anonymously go to someone… we hope it’s a young mother that will see her children for the first time. Whoever receives the gift, they will be blessed to see life through Hilliary’s eyes.
My Mom, Jan, is my hero… she is the source for much of what was great about my sister. No mother should lose her child, but my mother also lost her best friend. Not a day went by without my Mom standing beside my sister, catching her when she fell, and boosting her when she needed.
My Mom stood at the foot of far too many of my sister’s hospital beds during her lifetime. And it was always my Mom that lifted her up… it was my Mom’s inspiration and conviction that gave Hilliary the strength when she lacked it.
My sister is not here to comfort my Mom, or to convey what an amazing role she played in her life. On her behalf I wish I had sufficient words, but do not. I hope I relay my sister’s love and appreciation when I wrap my arms around my Mom.
My father was at my sister’s side… his presence was important to my sister, Mom and me. I know Hilliary was happy to see stronger relationships emerge as our family circled around her.
We were with my sister when she died, which she did peacefully and with a smile upon her face. This is not the end of Hilliary Howerton’s life… her impact on the world has just begun.