As Ashley said earlier in the week, two year-old Ashlynn McClure from Byhalia, Mississippi lost her battle Sunday night. Ashlynn was diagnosed with a triton tumor (an agressive form of sarcoma I believe) 13 months ago and, after the initial treatment, the tumor returned in December. She was two-and-a-half years old. Ashley has become friends with the McClure family, particularly Heather, while at St. Jude. They held the funeral today and Ashley felt strongly that she needed to be there. I didn’t want to go. I try to ignore pain and hope that it will go away. I do it in the little things and the big things. This was a really big thing. All of our other friends who have lost their battles have lived far enough away that it was unreasonable for us to go to the funerals. But the McClures live much closer. Ever since Ashley told me she wanted to go, all I have thought of is how hard it must be for the McClures. I didn’t want to see it first-hand. I didn’t want to see a father grieving the loss of his daughter. I didn’t want to see a child-sized coffin. I didn’t want to hear the music nor a pastor’s message. I don’t want to know what it’s like to bury a child. I want to ignore it and hope I never have to see it. Because as I said, my tendency is to put our family in their spot. What kind of suit would Ingram wear? What tie would he wear? Would I take the tie off before the casket is closed? Would kind of music would they play? These are the things I couldn’t get out of my head this week as I thought about all of the decisions the McClures are presumably answering. My thoughts have been entirely selfish. The only people I should have been thinking about for are the McClures: Ashlynn, Kyleigh, Heather, and Russ.
I do not think I am capable of describing what I saw today. I was overwhelmed by this family’s strength. I couldn’t believe it when Ashlynn’s father, Russ, got up to speak. But he didn’t just speak. He stood there like a rock, celebrating Ashlynn’s life and glorifying the Lord. He talked about Ashlynn’s love of animals (anything expect bugs or the mechanical dinosaurs at the zoo). How much she loved to play with her big sister. He talked about how tough she was and how the doctors were amazed at her resilience despite her tumor-ridden little body. He talked about how much she loved to ride around in her daddy’s truck. He talked about what a wonderful little personality God gave Ashlynn, and all of her quirks that they will miss. He said that Ashlynn would stand there and say “hold me…hold me…hold me” until he realized she was more persistent than he was going to be. And so he would hold her. All of could think of was that I bet he would do anything to hear that again. It reminded me that we have to live every day like we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. When my kids ask me to play with them, I better not be too busy because I’m not guaranteed to get that chance again. There will be a last time for every parent that a child will ask them to hold them, or to play in the floor with them. Rather that’s because the child gets older, passes away, or the parent passes away; there will be a last time for everyone. Russ spoke with gravity and levity. God is surely the strength for Russ and his family. There is no other explanation for how a father can be as solid as he was today. He questioned where Ashlynn got her unusual strength, but it was apparent to everyone in that church today where it came from.
In the program they passed out at the funeral, there is a poem which looks to have been written about Ashlynn.
Eyes so gentle, eyes so blue
We know Jesus is holding you.
Oh what a surprise, what a way
You surprised us on that day in May.
Mommy’s Sunshine, Daddy’s Girl,
You lit up this great big world.
Puppies, kitties, dinosaurs
Giraffes and horses, that’s our girl.
Babies, Barbie’s, Minnie’s shoes
Movies, dress-up, princess too.
Play with sister, play with friends
Play at Ishee’s, never ends.
On a cold December night
Princess carriage, smiles so bright.
Wave and smile, our girl’s so free
In our minds, this just can’t be.
How is our God’s glory shone?
In her light, in their home.
My God, my Jesus, we just can’t see
Why you want her more than we.
Your plan is perfect, we didn’t know
This is how you’d make her whole.
May your beauty shine so bright
As we weep, we hug, we cry.
How big, how awesome are Your ways
Your mercy, grace, it is so great!
Keep her close, our girl so sweet
Until again one day, we meet.
I love you, JoyJoy
We have to beat childhood cancer. For all of these kids. Our prayers will continue to go out to the McClure family.