Friday, October 30, 2009

Too Soon...

Early Tuesday morning, I boarded a plane bound for Colorado Springs. Katie Friedman's funeral took place at the US Air Force Academy Chapel in Colorado Springs on Wednesday afternoon.

US Air Force Academy Chapel

During Sara's treatment, we frequently talked about how the trials that we were going through would enable us to offer "been there/done that" support to people experiencing similar situations. I never fathomed that I would be offering that support so soon.

I thought I was mentally prepared for the trip, but found it very difficult to walk into the funeral home, knowing full well what Jon and his family were experiencing. After I learned of Katie's death, it took me a long time to understand the feelings I was having. I had just experienced the death of my loving wife, but the feeling of helplessness from "being on the outside" and unable to help, was a horrible feeling. I now know how you felt for our family, and for that I thank you.

Katie and Sara had many similarities. Both were due with their babies on the same date. Both were married for 5 years. Both were great friends to all who knew them. Both were known for their "infectious" smile. Both loved to be on the dance floor. Both loved their families well. Both loved to travel. Both had their funerals in the same place where they were married. Both had the same song at their wedding ("The Prayer"). And, most importantly, both loved Jesus!

As I was sitting in the crowd at Katie's funeral, emotions arose and I found it hard to believe what had taken place in the past month. Watching the slide show before Katie's funeral, this picture brought on a wave of emotions.

Mary, Katie, Evelyn, and Sara
Korea - Feb 2007

It is hard to believe that this picture was taken almost 3 years ago...it feels like yesterday. How can 2 of those healthy ladies now be gone?

Though most of the trip was wrapped up in sorrow, there was a large showing of friends from our squadron in Korea (where we met the Friedmans). Reunions should not only take place during times of sadness, so we decided that there is going to be an annual 36 FS Fiend Reunion in Florida. Chloe and I look forward to attending.

"For We Are FIENDS!"

One of the neat stories that came from the trip to Colorado has to do with the blog. Katie shared Sara's story with many of her family and friends. There is a group of moms who Katie met online when she was pregnant with her first son, Clark. This group of ladies became good friends via the internet as they discussed their pregnancy stories, birth stories and stories about raising their little ones. Eight of these ladies (who had never met in person) flew in from across the country to pay their respects to Katie and met for the first time. This speaks volumes about the person that Katie was. While at the visitation on Tuesday night, this group of moms came over to me and said, "Are you Brady?" Katie had told them about our story and they have been following the blog. It was great to meet some of the "strangers" who have been praying for us. A chaplain from the Air Force Academy (who was officiating Katie's service) did the same thing (walked up and asked if I was Brady). He and his group of cadets have been following the blog and praying for us, too. Thank you to all of you "strangers" out there who have been following our journey and praying for us. I look forward to meeting some more of you in the future.

Please continue to lift up the Friedman/Wise family in your prayers. Thank you!

Chloe spent the week with my mom in Austin. Here is an updated photo. She is getting big!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Significant Day...


Today, October 22, is a significant day in the Sullivan Household. Today is Chloe's original due date. Today also marks the 1-month anniversary of Sara's death. LIFE and DEATH, JOY and SADNESS, smashed together on one day.

It is strange how the timing of the past month feels completely different when compared to these significant events. I cannot believe that Chloe is already 7 weeks old. That time seems like it has flown by. I cannot believe that it has only been one month since Sara died. That time seems like it has drug on incredibly slowly.

After Sara's funeral, a friend (who has walked the journey of losing a spouse) gave me a book of devotions called Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman. I am amazed at how each night, the entries are speaking directly to my heart. I am sure most of you have been to a church service where you feel like the pastor is speaking directly to you. Well, each night, I feel as if the devotions in this book were written for me at this particular time in my life. The overriding theme in my life right now seems to be peace. Last night, this is what I read.

The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. --Phillipians 4:7

There is a part of the sea knows as "the cushion of the sea." It lies beneath the surface that is agitated by storms and churned by the wind. It is so deep that it is a part of the sea that is never stirred. When the ocean floor in these deep places is dredged of the remains of plant or animal life, it reveals evidence of having remained completely undisturbed for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

The peace of God is an eternal calm like the cushion of the sea. It lies so deeply within the human heart that no external difficulty or disturbance can reach it. And anyone who enters the presence of God becomes a partaker of that undisturbed and undisturbable calm. --Arthur Tappan Pierson

When Sara had her seizure, I was in the process of organizing our office. Now that things are staring to slow down, I have spent numerous hours in the office, going through our belongings. Last night, I found Sara's prayer journal from her time at Wilford Hall. Sara's final journal entry was on September 7, the day before Chloe was born. I took a break from organizing and began to read back through her prayers. I am encouraged by the peace that she had, knowing full well that God was in control. I am also excited for Chloe to get to read her mother's prayers for her, desiring her to live her life as a "Godly Woman." Here is Sara's final prayer in her journal...

September 7, 2009

May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant. --Psalm 119:76

My Jesus-

Thank you for your unfailing love, and that it is and has been my comfort. I can rest in you alone because I know you will never forsake me. You are in complete control of everything and there is so much peace in that. May the peace I have and feel be evident to those around me - may they continue to ask how - and may I share without hesitation that it is you! I love you, Lord and ask that I will be a blessing to you today. Be glorified in and through me. I ask this in Jesus' name.

- Amen

It is strange to read back through her journal and see how excited she was "to see Jesus face to face." I do not think that she knew she was going to die so soon because lots of her prayers were requesting wisdom for us as we "brought Chloe up in the ways of the Lord." However, she was not one bit afraid of death. Every time Sara would pray before our meal, she would start out, "Lord, thank you for another day that is not promised to us..." Reading back through her prayers, she was truly thankful for each day and wanted to live each one to bring GLORY TO GOD. This reaffirms that the "Soli Deo Gloria" saying is perfect for her bracelets.

Back to the theme of peace in my life, I will share with you my journal entry from September 30, Sara's birthday.

"When God places a burden upon you, He places His arms underneath you." --L.B. Cowman

Lord,

As Chloe and I begin our new journey of life together, we are thankful for your provision. Lord, thank you for your word and your calming, peaceful holy spirit. Though I feel as if I should be a complete "mess," there is peace in your plan for my life. Though the thought of raising Chloe as a single dad is frightening, You are with us.

Lord, as I lay in bed alone, I am so thankful for the life you allowed Sara and I to live. Thank you for our time in Korea and Japan. Thank you for all the time I was able to spend with her this year. Thank you that the final words we spoke to each other were, "I Love You" (18 Sept 2009). Lord, I ask for continued strength and faith. Thank you for growing my faith through all these trials.

Lord, I ask for wisdom in raising Chloe and what to do with the blessings you provide. I pray for protection and health for Chloe Grace for her life.

Lord, I love and trust you completely.

In Jesus' Name,

Amen


Today, on her original due date, Chloe is weighing in at 7.2 lbs. She is getting some chubby cheeks and a double (and sometimes triple) chin. She is not sleeping as much as she had been in her preemie weeks, but we are still doing well. Please pray for parenting wisdom for her dad. Thanks.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

SOLI DEO GLORIA...

Contributors to the Sara Sullivan Memorial Fund will be receiving a couple of Sara Sullivan "reminder bands." The bracelets are RED which was Sara's favorite color. They say "SARA SULLIVAN - SOLI DEO GLORIA." Our hope is that these will help keep Sara's story alive. When people ask about your band, our desire is that you would tell them about Sara and how she lived her life, despite the trials she encountered. "Soli Deo Gloria" is Latin for "For God's Glory Alone."

If you would like to order extra bands, please contact Amy Briggs at amybriggs@gmail.com.

Thank you to all of you who have contributed to Sara's Memorial Fund. Please give us some time to get the bands shipped out. God Bless. SOLI DEO GLORIA!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Prayers Requested...

Last night, I got an email from friends in Italy. Some of our dear friends from our time in Osan, South Korea are in need of your prayers. The Friedman Family was stationed with us during our year in Korea, and from there moved to Aviano, Italy.

Katie Friedman was due with their baby boy on the same day that Sara was supposed to deliver Chloe. Yesterday, Katie gave birth to their 2nd baby boy, named Quinn. Hours later, Katie died due to "bleeding complications" from birth. I do not have many details, but ask for your prayers for strength and peace for Jon and his 2 boys, Clark and Quinn.

The Friedmans

I know that I recently experienced the same loss that Jon is going through, but I am having a hard time comprehending this situation.

Please pray for the Friedman family. Thank you.

Chloe's Television Debut...




http://www.myfoxdfw.com/dpp/news/Breast_Cancer_Claims_Young_Mom

The Komen Race for the Cure was an incredible experience for our family this weekend. Fox 4 News in Dallas heard about our story and wanted to spread the word. Chloe and I were on Good Day Dallas on Friday morning and then they put together the video above which aired last night.



Friday Morning Live TV



Ansley (Sara's Niece)


Dallas Komen Race for the Cure

After the race this morning, Team SaraSTRONG was debuted on the Komen Race TV Show on Fox.

I'm so humbled that the media has taken interest in Sara and was willing to share her story with the masses in the DFW Metroplex.

The reporter told me that next year, they want to do an update on Chloe. Thank you FOX 4!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Blessings Abound...


We (Chloe and I) have been AMAZED at the outpouring of LOVE and SUPPORT that we continue to receive.

For example, a "blessing in a baby bottle" was recently delivered to my house.


The Wives of the 435th FTS (my squadron) and the people of Randolph AFB raised money for "Chloe's Milk Fund." The amount donated should cover her baby formula for an entire year...A HUGE BLESSING!

The memorial funds continue to tick upwards and I have high hopes of being able to start some sort of SARA SULLIVAN FOUNDATION that will be able to bless others in their times of need...A HUGE BLESSING! Sara would want that.

I was also contacted by a few photographers who wanted to give of their time and talents to capture Chloe's first year on film (or digital media)...A HUGE BLESSING! Click through the links below to look at the incredible pictures captured by each of these giving women.

Kelly Hornberger (Houston Photographer) - Click Here
Dawn Braun (San Antonio Photographer) - Click Here
Melissa Zihlman (Dallas Photographer) - Click Here
Lidia Boicu (Dallas Photographer) - Click Here

A photograph can be an instant of life captured for eternity that will never cease looking back at you. --Brigette Bardot

I wish I had the words to express my utmost gratitude to everyone who has "been there" for us. These two words will have to do...THANK YOU!

I thank my God every time I remember you. --Phillipians 1:3

From the fullness of his GRACE we have all received one BLESSING after another. --John 1:16

Friday, October 9, 2009

Letters...

Thank you to all of you who have sent letters for Chloe's book and/or letters to me about my beloved wife.

I am going to share a letter (in its entirety) that I recently received from Sara's college roommate and longtime friend, Lisa Waller.

Lisa gave me permission to share her letter with the masses, and I feel like you will know Sara better after reading this...

October 1, 2009

Dear Brady,

Where do I even begin? I'm sorry for your loss? God is glorified even in the midst of suffering? Sara was such an amazing woman and we'll all miss her dearly? Surely, all these things are true. But you were right when we spoke at the memorial service and you said, "I know; what do you say?" There are no words.

I've been replaying several memories in my mind since the day Sara died. I'm sure she has told you this story herself, but one of the best times I had with your sweet wife was in Rome. It was one o'clock in the morning and we were having drinks in the Piazza Nirvona. Our waiter had been flirting with us for quite some time, and when a peddler approached us asking if we would like to buy a rose, our waiter took the liberty of buying a dozen for the two of us. Knowing we were leaving the next morning for Germany, Sara had the brilliant idea to spend the rest of the evening giving the roses away. I've never had so much fun; it felt like we were in a movie. You should have seen the looks of peoples' faces - a couple who was arguing suddenly stopped after Sara surprised them with the first rose. We threw one to a guy on a vespa and he held it up high yelling, "Gratzi!" Several homeless men at the train station woke up the next morning to roses on top of their bags. What a night we had!


Another night we went out dancing at a night club in Florence until the wee hours of the morning. Your sweet, innocent wife accepted an invitation to go have drinks at an apartment of one of the guys we were dancing with all night. When I told her I refused to go and that all they wanted was ... well, you know ... she couldn't believe Italian men could be so forward! Thankfully she listened to me and we made it home to our hotel safely. That was Sara, though, always believing only the best in others, even crazy Italian men!


I also recalled this week a time when we went running on the military base in Liverno, Italy, that same summer we backpacked through Europe. She said, "Lis, I could get used to the military lifestyle. I could be a military wife." I responded, "I could never do that, but I could be a pastor's wife. I could be a missionary." A few years later she married you, the "military" man, and I married Bryce, the pastor.

I also remember being at Max's for the crawfish boil and dragging Sara with me. We had been there no more than 10 minutes when she pulled me into a bedroom and said, "Lis, Brady got soooo hot!" I think it was only a couple of weeks later that she wrote you the letter telling you she was in love with you.
I could go on and on Brady. You, too, know how amazing your wife was and have more memories to share with Chloe than the rest of us. I'm sure it will take a lifetime to sort through them all.

Meanwhile, I hope you know how much we love you and Chloe. We've been fervently praying for you as a family and will commit to doing so in the years to come.
As the Lord would have it, I read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 the morning I flew to Houston for the memorial service. It reads: "But we do not want you to be uninformed brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others 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." Verse 17 of the same passage finishes, "And so we will always be with the Lord." There is so much hope in this, that though Sara's body is sleeping until the Lord returns, her soul is not! Just as Jesus tells the thief on the cross, "Today you will be with me in paradise," sweet Sara is with Jesus right now. Can't you see her smiling?

After arriving back in Billings, I glanced up at a large black and white picture we had enlarged. It is of our wedding and captures a moment of several people dancing to the band. It is one of our favorite photographs because it displays candid poses of dear friends. Sara is in the center dancing. I hadn't noticed it before, but there she is, in the middle of the dance floor surrounded with friends. I think this is always how I will remember her.


Thank you for being such a loving, gentle husband to her. I know the same qualities that Sara fell in love with will translate into you becoming a wonderful father. You already have.
As you grieve, not like those who have no hope, but with the very hope that Sara shared with so many - hope in Christ, know that you are not alone. We will pray and wait with you until the day when we will all be reunited in heaven, with Jesus, and sweet Sara dancing in the center.

Love, Lis

Another letter I want to share with you is from Sara. One year ago (Oct 13, 2008), Sara's grandmother passed away. Sara and I were in Korea for an air show when we received the news, and unable to make it home for the services. Sara had been home a few months earlier and spent a lot of time with her Grandmother while she was in the hospital. Sara compiled some of her thoughts and sent them home for the pastor to read at her grandma's funeral. I think you will find her words interesting, now that she too has "gone home."

Hey there...
Here are some scriptures, and I guess my thoughts. I love you all and wish I could be there with you. I am praying for you all.
-Sara

Mary, Mother, Mom, THE MOM, Grandma, and Great-Grandma. These are all names of the amazing woman we know and love who just recently left this earth to be with our Father in Heaven. As I think about my grandmother I am full of pride and love for the woman she was. I rarely left her presence without learning something new about her or our family. I treasure my time with her. I look back now at the time she spent in the hospital and count it as a blessing.

Because of the situation, my heart was stirred to spend as much time with her as I could, and I count that as a gift from God. It was during this time that I saw Grandma get attitude for the first time in my life and had the privilege of sharing the moment of her taking her first sip of Starbucks coffee ever! You could say I'm a Starbucks junkie, so sharing something I enjoy so much was truly a precious moment for me.


Grandma's First Starbucks Coffee

I also was able to pray with her before one of her daily PT walks, and for me this is the most beautiful thing I could experience with her. Going before God with those we love warms my heart and pleases or Savior, so I am grateful for our prayer for strength as she prepared to walk.

It is never easy to lose someone you love, but there can be a peace when we know that they are in a better place. I feel so blessed to have had my grandmother in my life for as long as I did. She is an amazing woman whom I greatly admire and will dearly miss. I love you, Grandma.

My prayer is that in this time of grieving we will allow our Heavenly Father to wrap His arms around us and comfort us as only He can. We have a God who loves us and cares for us more that we can ever imagine. He knows the number of days in each of our lives before one ever comes to pass.

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. --Psalm 139:16

I praise Him for the little reminders of how much He loves us as we see things that remind us of Grandma and make us smile. I believe these are gifts from Jesus because he cares for us and wants us to experience His joy in this painful time.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight --Proverbs 3:5-6

The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing. --Zephaniah 3:17

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. --Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4

Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love. --Lamentations 3:32

Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him. --Lamentations 3:22-24

For those of you who desire to have your letter included in Chloe's book, please get them sent to Debbie Dunn by the end of October. At that time, she is going to compile the book.

Once again, her address is:

Debbie Dunn
500 Riders Trail
Austin, TX 78733

If you want to email her a letter, you can do so at dunnz@aol.com.

Thank you for continuing to check up on us. Chloe and I are in Dallas this week, spending time with my brother and his wife. Next weekend, we are running in the Dallas Race for the Cure. You can click here to see the Susan G. Komen - SaraSTRONG webpage.

Hope all is well.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

One Month Old...

video

Chloe is one month old. The past month has flown by and she has grown A LOT! From her lowest weight of 4 pounds, to her current weight of approximately 6 pounds, she has gained 50% of her body weight...in a month. If she continues at her current rate of weight gain, she will be 45 pounds at 6 months! Ha.

We are doing great and each day entails a new learning experience for Dad. Last night, while feeding Chloe at 4:00am, I learned that you cannot give up when the baby does not want to burp. I tried burping her for about 10 minutes to no avail. I thought, maybe there is no "bubble" in her belly. Bottle goes back in mouth and 5 seconds later, we have projectile vomit. After a sheet change, clothing change, and sponge bath for Chloe, I learned my lesson...baby MUST burp!

Here are some pics from the past month.

Tiny Chloe

Uncle Brent (Sara's Brother)

Uncle Josh (Sara's brother-in-law)

Aunt Angie (Sara's sister)

Chloe's cousins (Angie's kids)

With Mom


"Lovey" Blanket
(Thanks, Shannon.)


Sara's Favorite Scarf
(Look at pics of Sara above)

But the fruit of the Spirit is LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, FAITHFULNESS, GOODNESS, GENTLENESS AND SELF-CONTROL. Against such things there is no law. --Galatians 5:22-23

Chloe is definitely helping to bring out the fruits of the spirit in my life.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Refiner's Fire...

Chloe Grace

Chloe and I spent the weekend at my parent's lake house outside of Austin, TX. It was a relaxing time, and I was able to spend a lot of time reflecting and digesting what just happened in my life. Life is starting to "slow down" which is nice, but the reality of "the situation" is setting in more each day.

Friday was a tough day on me, as the reality of Sara's departure from Earth became more real. My mom has lots of pictures around the house, and seeing Sara and I at our wedding and during our time in Japan brought back a FLOOD of happy memories, quickly followed by sadness about her being gone.

After spending some time reading and praying, it is clear that there are going to be tough days ahead, but things will get better. A good friend told me, "It is okay to allow yourself to go into the pit (of grief), but you cannot stay there!" As I began going through the 100s of comments left on the blog, I was pulled back out of the pit by reading about the lives being changed!

Music has continued to minister to me and the song "If You Want Me To" by Ginny Owens speaks some truth about where I am at right now. I'm not going to write the words to the song, but click here to listen to and read the lyrics. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QtNzOpKvPfw

Chloe's First Trip to the Lake

Nannie (my mom)

Aunt Camille and Uncle Jason
(Family Friends)

Unhappy Chloe

I am so glad that Sara and I decided to come back to Texas for her treatment. Being close to family has been such a blessing during the past few months...and is even more so now!

As I spent time reading at the lake, I continued to come across references to a refiner's fire.

He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver... --Malachi 3:3a

I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, "They are my people," and they will say, "The LORD is our God." --Zechariah 13:9b

Some of you may have heard the story about the lady who was interested in the refinement process and went to the silversmith to get a first hand look at the process. Here is a quick recap...

As she watched the silversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest as to burn away all the impurities. She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. The man answered that yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. If the silver was left a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.

A refiner's fire is used to purify. A refiner's fire is VERY HOT! A refiner has to pay utmost attention to what he is doing, lest the fine metal being purified will be destroyed.

I feel that the journey from February 23 (mammogram) to September 22 (Sara's death) was the Lord preparing to do some refinement. Before the metal can be refined, it takes a long journey from the mine in the ground to the refinery. Sara's death was the spark that ignited the flame, and since that day, God has been and is "refining" lots of peoples lives!

John Piper preached a sermon on the different types of fires. He says, "A forest fire is devastating and destroys indiscriminately. An incinerator consumes completely ... A refiner's fire refines. It purifies. It melts down the bar of gold or silver, separates out the impurities that ruin it's value, burns them up, and leaves the gold or silver intact." http://www.worshipmap.com/sermons/piper-mal3,1.html

After watching the refinement process, the lady visiting the silversmith had one more question...

...The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, "How do you know when the silver is fully refined?" He smiled at her and answered, "Oh, that's easy -- when I see my image in it."

Typically, change is neither comfortable nor pleasant. However, when the change is due to a purifying or refining process, we can rest assured that the outcome of the process will better in the end.

The refinement process is complete once the refiner can see his REFLECTION in the precious metal.

As stated previously, the pastor at Sara's service encouraged people to not just remember Sara, but to be different because of knowing Sara. I will take it a step farther. Sara was the AMAZING WOMAN that she was because of who Christ was in her. So, don't be different because of knowing Sara, but be different by knowing the Christ that Sara knew.

Thanks for continuing to check on us.