A Vacation, Fear, and Cedar Chests

Contributing writer: Jill Thompson, Inheritance of Hope Volunteer & Family Legacy Director

After 6 years of battling liver cancer, my best friend called me to share the latest news from the doctors. “They said there is nothing more they can do for me. Let’s take a girl’s trip!” There were a few more details in the conversation, but essentially she was preparing for the end of her life here on earth.
We had traveled together often and had experienced many vacations, some with our children and some just as girls. I loved being with my friend, and we always had fun together. However, part of me was dreading this trip. Would we cry the whole time? Was this the last time I would see her? I wanted to stick my head in a hole and pretend like everything was going to be fine forever. I wanted to run away from the hard realities that come with cancer and terminal illness.
All of my fears were quickly dispelled when we met, and this trip became one of the most fun and memorable AND INSPIRING trips of my life. When I walked into our hotel room she pulled out a big binder, and like a kid at Christmas, she went on to share plans she had made for her family should the doctors be right that her time on this earth would be ending soon.  We were two best friends living some memorable and exciting events before they even happened. She was glowing! It made her so happy to take care of her family and to show them love. This binder was a wealth of love for her favorite people!
I should note a few very important details. My friend was not giving up her fight against cancer. She had big plans to pursue alternative treatments, experimental options, and a healthy lifestyle to stick around much longer and shock any doctor who believed otherwise. She also had tremendous faith and a belief that her God could wipe out her cancer easily if He wanted to.

She didn’t create this binder or make any of these plans as a death wish. She also didn’t make these plans as a backup. She knew that whether she died in six months or 60 years that these awesome events were going to take place in the lives of her family members with or without her, and she wanted to ensure she would be ready for them, whether she was physically present or not. She admitted that the worry of not being around for her family was the biggest concern keeping her awake at night. This five-pound binder full of papers, pictures, and plans lifted a great weight off of my friend’s shoulders so that she could sleep easier at night. She used that extra energy she was wasting on worrying to fight the disease in her body.
Our girl’s weekend getaway was awesome. We laughed, cried, watched movies, shopped, and talked. The weekend was a continuation of an amazing legacy for my friend and a springboard to propel my intentional legacy to another level.
My friend, Kristen Milligan, and her husband began Inheritance of Hope, a nonprofit ministry whose mission is to inspire hope in young families facing the loss of a parent, a few years before the weekend I am referencing. Her desire to help her children and husband prepare for her possible absence reached outside of her own family as she sought to help other families in a similar situation to prepare. Beyond that, her life inspires all of us to be intentional with the time we have. Her diagnosis and subsequent prognosis gave her a sense of urgency that many of us are lacking but all of us could benefit from. We only have one life. Whether we live to be 100 years old or 30, we still only have 24 hours in each day, and we don’t get a do-over.  Let’s be intentional with every day we are blessed with!