- Joshua Cantrell - Joshua Cantrell - Chance Harman - Kassidy Foster
Updates on Joshua

June 22, 2010
Leaving Home

By now most everyone is aware of recent events in our lives which mean we have to relocate.  A.J., Isaiah, and I arrived here in Bloomington, Illinois yesterday after a couple of hectic weeks of preparation to rejoin Travis, who has been here since May 22nd.

It is probably a good thing that I did not try to write this update during the past few weeks…  It has been a little harder for me to adjust to this change (and will continue to be).  However, when we arrived at the Redbird Arena on the Illinois State University campus, where Travis will begin his college coaching career, I knew that God placed us here for good reason.

Many of you know that Travis had the privilege of working with the women’s basketball team at the United States Air Force Academy during the ’05-’06 season.  That was a great group of women both on the team and on staff.  They loved our boys and spoiled them rotten.  Joshua was so proud of his daddy on that sideline and never wanted to miss a game.  Many of our family’s memories have revolved around sports, both before and during our time in Floyd.

Though we are very disappointed that Travis will not be on the Floyd County sidelines anymore, we are trying to keep open hearts to the possibility that God has that special plan in store for the Cantrells—plans that we never would have had the strength to pursue three years ago or even one year ago.  It is a big deal to leave all of our family and many friends; to leave the final earthly dwelling place of our child; to leave a safe haven where people love and protect us.  However, we know that God is everywhere, and we have faith that He will continue to bless us and the relationships we have come to cherish with friends in every place we have ever lived.

We thank God for each and every day He allows us to take up space here and hope we are doing it right!  May He bless you all until next time…


P.S.  We’ll be on Facebook, and if you want to check out Travis’ interview at ISU, visit

September 17, 2009
Joshua's 6th Birthday

Today is Joshua's birthday, which we are also taking the opportunity to make the "grand opening" of our facebook page.  I chose this profile pic because this was the first day of life as we know it-- as parents.  It's so bittersweet because I realize when I look at the expressions on our younger faces, that we never fathomed the greatest love we'd ever known could also cause the greatest pain of our lives.  For those of you who have kids, you understand.

Though it will bring a few tears, September 17th will not be a sad day for us.  Because we were lucky enough to be Joshua's parents, we were drawn closer to God by the hope of heaven, and have found a lot more in that promise during the process.  We got to enjoy that precious child for three wonderful years filled with giggles, cowboy lullabies, clown waffles, and a bunch of other everyday stuff that we  still miss about Joshua every day.

Congrats to several friends who are expecting their own miracles soon... It's a great time to have a baby!  We will do something special with A.J. and Isaiah today to wish a Happy Birthday to Joshua in heaven.

Love you all,
L & T

P.S. Don't forget that September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month.  Wear a yellow ribbon in support of the little warriors who still fight here and those who have won the battle and moved onto better things.

April 27, 2009
Event Results & New Prayer Request

We're so sorry to admit that we thought we had posted the Joshua's HOPE results online, but it did not show up!  Keeping it brief because I need to get to work, BUT...

This year's events were fantastic, raising almost $4,000 at the High Noon for HOPE Concert and over $8,000 at the Alumni Games!  We are so pleased and feel so blessed that even in a year of recession, people continue to give so generously.  Thanks to these donations, we have already cut a check for $2,000 for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, and we will be awarding scholarships in the amount of $3,000 to three seniors from FCHS at the annual awards banquet coming in May.

As wonderfully as everything turned out, we know that there is always room for improvement, so if anyone can offer us suggestions, they are greatly appreciated.  After all, the long-term success of these events depends on how enjoyable they are to those of you who support them.

On a final and more personal note, I'd like to share that another family member of ours has recently been discovered to have cancer.  My grandmother ("Ma," I call her), Ardena Pratt, has been in a lot of pain and will soon make some difficult decisions regarding treatment.  For those of you who may not remember Ma, she played "Wildwood Flower" at the High Noon for HOPE concert last year.  People really love to hear her play because, for one thing, nothing is cuter than a sweet little old lady playing a guitar as big as she is; but mainly because she picks really well

As familiar as the cancer territory is for us, it is still really difficult to reconcile what our hearts want and what our heads think might be best.  She sees the oncologist for the first time on Wednesday and I'd love nothing more than for the doctor to tell her that some non-abrasive treatments may take care of things.  It seems that may not be likely though.  I just ask that you wonderful prayer warriors send up a few for her and for our family.  I sure would appreciate it.

Thanks again for helping the events & have a great week!


March 2, 2009
Black Monday

Tonight I read A.J. a children’s book about Easter—the real Easter story, not the one in which the bunny delivers candy and the whole ordeal is sweet and happy and colorful.  Though it is admittedly difficult to portray this story to a three-year-old whom I am constantly riding about not playing too violently, it is really important to me that he know what Easter is really about before he gets so buried in chocolate eggs and Peeps that he doesn’t care what we are celebrating or why.

He listened contentedly.  He asked some questions about why the mean guys were trying to get Jesus in trouble when he had done nothing wrong.  But he didn’t flinch when I told him that Jesus died on the cross.  Nor was he surprised when Jesus’ friends found only an angel at the empty tomb, proclaiming that Jesus could not be found because he was alive again.

Maybe before Joshua’s rebirth, I also read the Easter story without grasping what a miracle this was.  I believed that it happened, but I bet I took it for granted.  I don’t think I could have known the (for lack of a better description, although this is an extreme understatement--) ecstatic relief of Jesus’ mother, Mary, when she wrapped her brain around the fact that her beloved was no longer dead; when she realized that the outcome was not the worst, as she had thought, but was actually the best, for not only was Jesus alive, but He had saved the rest of us too, just as He had promised.

 It was two years ago today that we buried our son.  Easter was the first major holiday celebrated after this difficult season, and I dreaded it greatly when I went out to stores the week before.  Parents were shopping on behalf of the Easter bunny to make the occasion special for their children, and I remember that I was wandering around Michaels’, looking for a pretty ribbon and some flowers that Joshua might have enjoyed (as much as boys enjoy flowers).  At that moment, I felt sad and resentful that this was my lot.  But then on Easter morning, a relief hit me that because of this day, I didn’t need to worry about not seeing Joshua again.  In fact, I began feeling grateful that I had something more legitimate than Cadbury eggs to rejoice over.

After this day, the “Black Monday” for our family, we have only happier times to look forward to.  As we embark upon yet another holiday season, I hope you may find joy and peace in the real miracle of Easter, just as we intend to do.

September 25, 2008
5K & Birthday Wishes to Joshua

Though several weeks have passed since The Town of Floyd 5K, we wish to express our gratitude once again for those who planned and participated, since the proceeds went to Duke.  It was such a great time and it is especially great to know that brain tumor patients will benefit from over a hundred folks improving their own health by walking or running on a gorgeous September Saturday in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Now that’s what I call multi-tasking!

It seems like a good time to be considering how we can help the cause of brain-tumor awareness and study too…  It has not even been two years since Joshua and Chance were diagnosed and there seem to be so many others (adults) who have suffered from this condition in our area since.  I constantly ask people who are older than I, “Is this just a natural pattern, or is this happening unusually more frequently than it should?”  Only God knows.  Though I do not have the answers, I believe that helping to find a way to end suffering in any capacity is pleasing in His eyes.  I pray that capable people will find a way to use the money that we raised to figure out a cure for this horrible disease, or even better, what causes it so that we may avoid it altogether.

In other news, our family celebrated Joshua’s fifth birthday last week.  Very low key.  Family members each selected a book to be donated to the Jesse Peterman Memorial Library (we did this last year too).  If you like Children’s Cowboy books, be sure and look for one with the Joshua & A.J. label inside of it.  There are some pretty good ones!  I fancy the idea that Joshua is pleased with this little project—he enjoyed books from the time he was just little-bitty.  Ones about cowboys were particularly special to him.

It is also a really special way that we can tangibly celebrate Joshua’s birthday with A.J., who is developing many excellent questions about his big brother lately.  A.J. really enjoyed the 5K, but he cannot quite grasp how this event is related to Joshua (I don’t think, although sometimes he surprises me).  Frankly, even though I love talking about Joshua, it’s still hard for me to talk about Joshua’s illness to him because I never want him to remember him that way.  Even so, it’s an important part of Joshua’s story, so lately we have addressed it a couple of times.  If you still have the notion to pray for us, please pray that A.J. will always be as interested in his big brother as he is now, and that we may all find the right words to share with him when he asks questions—and also when he doesn’t!

Thanks for keeping up with us (and for being patient with our postings—sometimes we have to wait for the right moment to share).

The Cantrells

P.S.  Good luck to those college freshmen, Matt, Brian, Kayla, and Brittany, who received the Joshua Cantrell Memorial Scholarship…  We are praying for you guys too!

August 17, 2008
Running the 5K for Joshua and Brain Tumor Research

Joshua had the greatest freckle in the whole world.  I told him so everytime my right hand held his left, on which the greatest freckle resided just below the knuckle of his thumb.    By three years old, Joshua didn’t care too much to hold his mom’s hand, so I learned quickly to count it a blessing when he did allow me to hold it.  And even though he was too independent to like the attachment of the hands, he never seemed to tire of my telling him how great that freckle was.

I thought of this while I was running the other day, trying to prepare for the 5K coming up.  Dawn Weeks and some others kindly humored this idea of mine that folks might enjoy touring the streets of Floyd on foot.  A few friends are coming in from out of town for the occasion.  And on Labor Day Saturday, we will challenge our bodies to run this race.

It is pretty strange that the idea of a race would have even occurred to me because I am not known as being a runner.  Just ask my husband—I’d rather do just about any form of exercise besides running.  But the truth is that the idea for this run was born back in Raleigh when we first took Joshua to Duke.  At that time, we were under the impression that we would be staying with Travis’ aunt Brenda during treatments.  This was one of the reasons why we chose Duke over St. Jude's-- it seemed as if it might allow us to maintain even a small amount of normalcy.  Completely unaware of what was about to hit us, we were  trying to stay sane and in shape by taking daily walks or runs.  I had just decided to run instead of walk simply because I could.  It was hard to see Joshua unable to sit up independently due to the drastic surgery he had undergone.  He was usually so active and had even recently ditched rides in the wagon to jog with his daddy when we went for family walks.  Then suddenly, after a whirlwind 24 hours of taking in the fact that he had a brain tumor and deciding on major, life altering surgery, my perfect little child was an invalid.

This still does not set well with me.  At the time, my reaction was that I should be more grateful for what my body could do and try to make up for what his body could not.  I remember the day that we first toured the Preston Tisch Brain Tumor Center, which happens to be this little hole in the wall of a basement on Duke’s medical campus.  Hole though it was, they were very thorough there and I left with a plethora of brochures and reading material.  One of the items I brought home was a pamphlet for the Angels Among Us 5K Walk-Run which occurs every year in April.  I asked Joshua that night if he wanted mommy to run in that for him and he said yes.  You can bet that I was thinking of the event on the day it took place, and though some friends of mine actually did run in it in Joshua’s memory, I did not have the heart to return to Duke and still don’t.  My hat’s off to Brian and Desirae for their involvement with the hospital (I tell them that frequently), but I do not yet have the strength to return there.

I do, however, strongly support the work that they do there.  When high profile names such as Kennedys trust an establishment for their expertise in brain tumors, I can again be reassured that we chose as wisely as we could for Joshua.  Still, I hurt for those like us who will watch their loved ones suffer because of the many complications that come with having a brain tumor and the lack of knowledge we have about them.  Many in our community know this feeling, as Joshua and Chance are just two of several who have suffered from brain tumors from Floyd over the past couple of years.  Don't forget that this research benefits adults as well as children.

So I hope I have much good company in the race on Labor Day weekend.  I may not medal… You will likely see me walking a hill or two…  But I hope that the owner of the greatest freckle in the world can smile down on me that day and know that I am keeping a promise I made to him.  It might not be pretty, but I will fight the good fight, finish the race and as always, keep the faith. 

July 18, 2008
Relay for Life and Family

There is a certain level of comfort that we enjoy only when we are around family.  We don’t worry about messing up by saying the wrong thing or acting the wrong way because everyone else speaks and acts about the same as we do.  We are genuinely interested in the victories and woes of the lives of these people who have been through so much with us already.  It is a safe environment where we can depend on certain people in certain roles.

On nights like tonight at Floyd’s annual Relay for Life, I am reminded of how family is not always limited to relatives whose blood we share.  As the luminary ceremony began, a woman with whom I was holding hands asked how I’d been.  I knew she was genuinely concerned (and I thank her for that).  She said, “You know, we’re like family.”  I told her that’s just how I felt earlier in the evening when I misplaced my camera (as usual).  I didn’t really panic, except for the notion that I might have thrown it in the trash can.  I was actually pretty casual about it, thinking to myself that if someone found it and turned it on they might recognize A.J. in my pics and know it needed to be returned to me.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case in much of the world.  But on this night, in this community, we are family.

At the completion of the luminary ceremony, another lady told me excitedly that the moon and the north star hung just perfectly above the letters  in HOPE that were lit up.  “If that’s not a sign I don’t know what is—they’re smiling down at us,” she said.  They must be.  And though we may be unworthy in so many other ways, I know that God must smile down at a family who loves as abundantly as the family in this community does.

June 21, 2008
BIG Community celebrations

Summer busy-ness has officially begun and, like many other folks, we are going about our daily activities never knowing what day it is or what will happen tomorrow…  It’s not a bad way to live, actually. 

In the spirit of doing all that we can to enjoy friends and family, A.J., Isaiah, and I made a last-minute decision to visit Travis’ folks up in Pilgrims’ Knob, Virginia for an event they call “Decoration.”  This was my first experience with such a celebration (holiday, I guess you’d call it).  When I first learned about this tradition, it reminded me of  Dia de los Muertos, or “Day of the Dead” that is apparently celebrated in Mexico.  I was under the impression that it was a day to honor the dead by decorating their graves.  It is that, but I found that it is also more.

When we approached the cemetery where many of my husband’s kinfolk have been buried, I saw a larger-than-usual quantity of silk flowers on the gravesites, which I might have expected.  There was no air of despair or sorrow, however.  On the contrary, groups of family were scattered among different areas of the cemetery visiting with each other; some even set up lawn chairs with their clan.  It was like a family reunion, only inclusive of the ones who have gone before.  I’m sure it may sound weird to a lot of people, but it was a pretty good feeling.  I looked at the number of people vs. the number of graves.  Proportionally, the figures were appropriate—there were quite a few people at the cemetery, but more still of the neatly kept and decorated gravestones that dotted the hill.  I wonder what those above must think of those of us down below.  So many, many people have gone before us in death and we, ironically, have the nerve to sometimes think that our world exists only within the limits of what we can congregation ofsee.  The world sure felt a lot bigger at Decoration on Pilgrims’ Knob.

We’ve also participated in a more widely enjoyed summer pastime this week, Vacation Bible School at Floyd Baptist Church.  I have thanked God each and every night for the blessings that A.J. and we have received from it.  It’s been just as fun for us to visit every night with friends as it has for A.J., who is just becoming accustomed to the blessings we can receive from social interaction.  It really strengthens my conviction that a great relationship with our community is pleasing to God.  We know that an omnipresent God is always with us, but one of the many things I love about VBS and Christian fellowship is the sense that those above are also smiling with us as we celebrate the best of ourselves together.

I hope we can all have a summer full of such occasions.  Till next time…

June 8, 2008
Things are changing

In light of what Brian said, we feel equally as strong that we should post “updates” more often.  It will never be the same as when our kids were still fighting here (many things won’t)… I know that folks have other issues that demand their attention.  Still, I feel adamant about following through with the ministry that God allowed us to take part in when our families were struck by childhood cancer.  It has changed us.  We want to help others see the beneficial parts of that change.

For starters, I have been meaning to mention that Joshua’s memorial stone was finally set over Easter.  We are pleased with how it turned out.  It is simple but appropriate for Joshua.  My dad, Joel Pratt, drew the sketch that appears on the front.  Mike Quesenberry, one of Floyd’s great closet poets, wrote the verse that we put on the back.  It sits in the front of Pratt Cemetery on Black Ridge Road, and we are not territorial or private about the place, just for everyone’s information.  In fact, we appreciate so much knowing that Joshua is not forgotten by others.  We, of course, visit regularly.  Sometimes when I am in “earthly mode” it upsets me to look at the place where we buried my son’s body and to think about the implications that our mortal minds automatically apply to cemeteries, graves, etc.  BUT there are other times—times that get more and more frequent—when it is a lovely place to visit and reflect and to imagine the day when all of those beautiful souls will reunite with those they loved and who loved them.  I practiced the mantra for awhile,  For we walk by faith, not by sight  and now, on most days, it is well with my soul. 

It would satisfy me greatly to think that my own children might grow accustomed to this way of thinking.  It’s hard, I know, to be open with children about death.  I know for a fact I would not have raised my own talking regularly about those who have passed on.  But in our circumstances, we actually make a point to.  This includes some tough moments when we might have to explain and re-explain that no, we cannot visit Joshua in heaven; no, we cannot see him here again.  However, we communicate just as certainly that one day we are all destined for the same place where Joshua now resides, and we will be together again.

A.J. and Isaiah, by the way, are doing very well.  We hate that we had another scare this week with A.J.  He got stung by a wasp and had to be visited by the ambulance.  We try not to toss this idea around casually, but let’s just say that I feel very sure that A.J.’s special angel was watching over him on Friday morning.  A.J. is always bad to get to take medicine, and he very predictably protested when I got the Benadryl minutes after the stings on his face occurred.   Then very suddenly, he stopped screaming for one second and took the Benadryl on his own without my having to force it down him.  This slowed the reaction, possibly preventing it from affecting his breathing.  If you could have seen his face, you might have wondered how, but he was checked over thoroughly and was fine by that evening.

Isaiah is six months old now and doing so well.  He gives high fives and these incredible melt-your-heart smiles.  He is still our little miracle, “binding up the brokenhearted.”  Nothing short of the great reunion can heal them, but broken hearts can indeed be bound when nourished by kindred spirits here below.  We are truly blessed.

We’ll write again next week… Laura & Travis

April 3, 2008
A.J.'s Fine; Concert went Well; Samefight on K-LOVE!

We have many things to update this week...  So sorry that it took awhile!

First off, from what I hear, things at the concert went very well!  Those of you who attended may be aware that we had to take A.J. to the doctor at the last minute.  I know everyone was terribly worried about him and I am truly sorry.  He is back to himself now.  We just cannot be too careful.

However, everyone I spoke to seemed very moved and just positive about the whole concert experience.  Of the many highlights of the evening, the one I most wish I hadn’t missed was my grandmother picking “Wildwood Flower”—Joshua’s favorite!  The silent auction also went very well.  We couldn’t be more thrilled that we hosted events for two consecutive weekends, had a blast doing it, and simultaneously raised over $13,000 to establish a fund that will benefit a local student.  Now that is “HOPE”-ful!

And speaking of “positive and encouraging,” those of you who know me well know what an advocate I am for my fave radio station, K-LOVE (106.7 in our area, but they broadcast nationwide).  Wherever you are, I hope you will check out their website,,  this week and listen to a podcast entitled, “Kids Leave Cancer Legacy in Floyd.”  While putting together the slideshows for the games and concerts, I emailed the Samefight story to K-LOVE, who seemed to think the story was worth sharing.  I hope listeners think so too…  As I explained to the reporter, Julia Zaher, I believe that God has big things in store for the little town of Floyd.

Thanks again to each of the many who have touched our lives with your kindness.


March 24, 2008
Alumni Game Success

Laura and I and our entire family want to thank everyone involved who made Saturday's Alumni Games a huge success.  Thank you to the participants, volunteers, sponsors, and all the spectators who came out and supported the Joshua Cantrell Memorial Scholarship and also supported your loved ones as they gracefully ran up and down the floor.  Our hope is to make this an annual event and improve on any areas that need improving and continue to make this a great time for all involved.  We also hope that the spectators were able to get some enjoyment out of the event as well as our players.  We look forward to next year and seeing even more former players out on the floor and according to some suggestions maybe even cheerleaders.  From the bottom of our hearts, we again say thank you for all your support.  It was again made evident to us how special our community is and how much this community loves basketball!

Thank you and see you this weekend at the High Noon for Hope Concert.

God Bless,

The Cantrells and Pratts

P.S. For game highlights, remember to check out Citizens cable as they broadcast the games -- can't wait to see that!

March 1, 2008
February 26th

Before I post an update, I have to share that I often feel guilty about not posting on the website as often.  All that we went through last year with Samefight is never far from my mind, though life’s other responsibilities still exist, and I feel strongly convicted to perform many duties these days.  We are working hard to make the benefit Alumni Games and High Noon for Hope Concert successful.  I also enjoy working (along with Desirae and many others) on Relay for Life.  Time permits us to do only so much, I’m afraid, but as always, we still depend on the prayers of many to carry us safely through times that will inevitably be difficult.

The days leading up to February 26th were just such times.  Though our lives are pleasantly busy and we have much to occupy our minds, my memory still takes me back to our whereabouts at this time last year.  Goodbye was never so bittersweet.  The fact that we knew he was off to a much better place softened our hearts in the final hours and made them easier to bear; but still it was goodbye [for now].

Every once and again, I have found myself consumed in these moments when my memory serves me no better than to think of the hard times.  Over and over again, Satan has tried to get to me by encouraging me to think of Joshua when he was ill.  This week, the reality hit me:  these thoughts are futile because I have absolutely nothing left to fear now.  My child is safe at home and the enemy will never ever reach him there.  That is the first reason why the calendar my husband made me for Christmas this year reads joyfully, “J’s Day! 3:23” on February 26th.

The second reason we should celebrate this day occurred to me when we made our weekly family trip to Joshua’s “special place” last Sunday.  I reflected on the many trips we have made to the Pratt Cemetery over the past year and remembered that there were many times when I counted, as my one victory for the day, that I was at least one day closer to seeing him again.  It is hard to believe it, but we are now over a year closer to that blessed day!

I certainly hope I do not give the wrong impression--  I value many heaven-sent treasures here on earth, and I truly celebrate those.  It is beautiful when we find that balance between appreciating what God has given us here, and looking so forward to what is also ahead.  I truly believe that your prayers have sent us some of those “God signs” that remind us that Joshua, heaven, and God Himself are never far away.  They truly are not as far away as we sometimes let ourselves believe.

January 18, 2008

We continue to be so grateful for the prayers that ascend to heaven on our behalves.  Thought you should all know that we made it through our Christmas peacefully.  We managed to have a happy New Years’ thanks to excellent friends who continue to look out for us.  When I catch myself frowning, I try to focus on the work that is left to be done here, for surely there is much.

Many folks may know that one important thing we are doing is establishing a scholarship in Joshua’s name.  Travis and I have a very vested interest in the students of this county, and we have chosen to try to do something to honor Joshua that may also benefit these young folks.  Therefore, the 1st Annual FCHS Alumni Games on March 22nd and the High Noon for Hope Concert on March 29th will be our two events to benefit what we are calling Joshua’s HOPE.  My dad came up with this acronym, “HOPE” to stand for “Helping Out by Promoting Education” which is just what our goal is.  Applications will be available at the FCHS guidance office for students who are interested.  Additionally, I think that each of these events should be a lot of fun for Floyd County b-ball fans and anyone who appreciates some great four-part harmony, such as that of the High Noon Band’s!

Our second mission so far in 2008 involves Relay for Life.  Desiree Harman and I are advocating for the schools in the county to sponsor a Cancer Awareness Week sometime during the Spring semester.  We want to make sure that the kids are educated about the nature of the disease that has affected them so closely in the past year.  We should not be so naïve as to think that they will not be affected by it in the future, though we pray that they may have some understanding of what it is and what they can do to prevent it or help those who can’t.  Your prayers and support for these endeavors are appreciated as well.

We must believe that God left us here for a purpose, or perhaps several.  Thanks in advance for supporting these projects in memory of all of our Samefight angels in the hopes that we can make a difference.  Whether it be through support of scholarships for local kids or support of organizations that will help others in medical need like Relay for Life, the American Red Cross, or Floyd’s own Medical Charities, our ultimate hope is that we can fulfill these missions that have been placed on our hearts.

December 17, 2007
No Fear for the Future

In my purse I carry an old receipt from Hallmark dated 12/21/2006 for a "PLUSH WINTER ROLY POLY" and "PLUSH SANTA SNOOPY."  It is not uncommon for me to find useless, outdated receipts in my purse every once in awhile.  This receipt is there for a reason:  it is for the toys I bought for Chance and Destiny when I first saw them after Chance's diagnosis.  This one I will keep on purpose as a reminder of a lesson that the year since that date has taught me:

I am too small to know what tomorrow will bring, but not too small to bring light to tomorrow.

Desiree Harman mentioned in the article that ran in the Roanoke Times that my mother and I ran into them at the mall that day.  I remember exactly how I felt when I saw them: guilty that my own precious Joshua was safe and healthy at home with his dad.  I would never have guessed at that moment that neither they nor we would spend this Christmas with our little boys. 

There are many things that I never could have seen coming at that moment, and while most of those things are admittedly the painful memories that I will recall 2007 giving us, there are praises as well.  Never could I have imagined, for example that we would be blessed with another perfect baby boy this Christmas.  And it was certainly beyond my comprehension that my first perfect baby boy would hold the honor of spending Christmas with Jesus himself this year.

When I look at that Hallmark receipt, it brings on a wave of sadness as I reflect on what our family was like last year.  It is tempting to then fear what unthinkables the coming year could hold.  But then I think about what the Bible has to say about that matter-- that today has its own worries and we cannot worry about tomorrow.

What we can do (and plan to do) is plan for tomorrow-- not by attempting to control it, but simply by contributing to some good for it.  This is why we look forward to 2008 and the work to be done that has been placed on our hearts to preserve the legacy of Joshua and all the blessings that Samefight has brought over the past year.  Desiree Harman and I are excited about this year's Relay for Life; Travis and our families are lovingly planning events to benefit the scholarship fund we are starting in Joshua's name; and we hope to be able to contribute to other community projects as well.  We generally feel that we have lots to do and contribute for the community that gave to and participated in Samefight. 

My Hallmark receipt reminds me that we cannot be certain what the future will hold, but we know that there is a purpose for each of our existence here.  He, Chance, and Kassidy found theirs undoubtedly by bringing light into so many lives.  We will be satisfied to continue that spirit.

October 2, 2007
Safely through September

One morning at school a few weeks ago, I accidentally wrote "October" on the board in my classroom instead of "September."  When one of my students asked what made me do that, I thought out loud that maybe I was just ready for September to be over with.

September was such a beautiful (albeit dry) month in Floyd that I sincerely regret my synicism now.  It's just that I did not know what to expect on September 17, Joshua's birthday.  I am happy to report that September 17 was a gorgeous day-- same as it has been since the day he was born.  Every year we were fortunate enough to do an outdoor celebration that was nothing short of perfect-- one in each state that Joshua lived in!  Given the circumstances, this year was no different.

Our ever-supportive family and friends helped us honor the 4th anniversary of Joshua's birth by selecting books to be donated to the Jesse Peterman Memorial Library, decorating "his" rock in our backyard with special drawings in chalk, and releasing balloons (A.J.'s favorite) with messages to be sent express-mail to heaven.  We also planted some lovely new flowers at his special place up on Black Ridge.

We are so grateful for your prayers on this day.  Of course it was not without sadness, but I see no reason why September 17th should not always continue to be celebrated as one of the happiest days of my life.  And as for September as a whole, I will not be as negative about this month next year.  Even though it will never be the same since Joshua left, it also will never be the same since he came.  September, to me, will always be Joshua.

Cantrell Family Journal

April 20, 2009
2009 HOPE Events Successful!

We continued to be exhausted but exhiliarated last week.  What an amazing couple of weeks!  With the generous support of the volunteers, sponsors, participants, and attendees of the High Noon for HOPE Concert and the FCHS Basketball Alumni Games, we turned in over $10,000 to the Joshua Cantrell Memorial Scholarship Fund on Friday and were still able to write a $2,000 check to the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.  We never thought we would have the privelege to be a part of such a thriving organization.

The committee for Joshua's HOPE (Helping Out by Promoting Education) plans to award three scholarships to students from FCHS for the purpose of higher education.  Because the "Education" part of the HOPE equation is applies also in a broader sense, we are happy to share a portion of the proceeds with the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.  Wouldn't it be fantastic if one of our scholarship recipients were to one day find a cure for cancer?... or if the PBTF discovered once and for all the cause of brain tumors so that people around the globe would not have to worry about it any more?  I am so proud to be a part of a community that remains committed to making lemonade out of life's lemons.  Furthermore, I think that many people will enjoy the lemonade we make!

That said, these events are only in their first two years.  On the one hand, we feel as if this is an excellent sign of things to come.  Still, it is of utmost importance to us to continue to improve the experience for all concerned.  We welcome feedback from any of you who sponsored, volunteered, participated, or attended the events because while the revenue is certainly important to sustaining Joshua's HOPE, the future of the scholarship depends on whether folks enjoy themselves enough to continue to be a part of our fundraisers on an annual basis. 

So once again, thank you for all that you have done.  I'm sure that this year more than any will see an increased need for scholarships for students.  And though the economy has affected us all in some way, the turnout and generosity that the Floyd Community shows reflects above average even in a recession year.  Wow.  You guys are awesome!

August 1, 2008
Commonplace Celebrations

My great uncle Harless, who is 92 years old, has made a point to tell me several times that in this day and time we do not appreciate the value of a simple visit to friends.  In recent weeks I have considered the depths of the truth in what he says.  My initial reaction was typical of an arrogant youth—well, we have busier lives and, essentially, more important things to do than sit around and shoot the breeze these days.  I have come to recognize, however, that shooting the breeze is one of the best and most important ways to spend the hours of life.

There is the “quality time” factor, of course.  Spending time with folks lets them know how much we care about them.  This was a goal when we packed up our Jeep and headed up 81 N last week to visit friends in Michigan and Ohio.  It was to be an expression of love toward these kind people who have showed similar expressions of affection toward us.  As usual, however, we got far more out of the time spent with these people than what we gave. 

In Michigan, my friend, Stacey, who is a wonderful mother, reminded me of the qualities that she and I strived toward when we were mothering our first babies, my Joshua, and her Kyler.  It seemed as if I should remember by the third time around what I considered to be successful about raising Joshua, but honestly, so much has happened since then it feels as if it should be a lifetime ago.  Indeed it was his lifetime ago.  It felt so good to be reminded of these things—as if I were home, but not in the geographical sense.

Other friends of ours, whom we visited in Cleveland, were preparing for a golf tournament [that was to take place today] in memory of their sister who fought a nine month battle with skin cancer before passing onto heaven in October of 2006.  The Joy Foundation is named in her honor to provide a student athlete from her alma mater in Cleveland with a scholarship.  This couple has a more involved schedule than anyone I can think of (she is in her first year of residency in Cleveland and they have two young children of their own).  Yet they took the time to visit with us; to laugh and cry with us; to nurture the Christian bonds that make it both difficult and easy to part from this world.

Our trip going back south on 81 was (as you can imagine) not exactly relaxing.  Isaiah didn’t like being in a carseat, A.J. was restless, Travis was constantly hungry, and the cooler and I did not share the space well....  It was not some folks’ idea of “vacation.”  But the visit with friends was invaluable to our spirits.  There comes a time when celebration of life means more than personal achievements, fancy parties, or all-inclusive vacations.  Though it is true our lives have been (will always be) touched by hardship, we also try to find these “commonplace” celebrations as often as possible.  God’s grace always finds us, doesn’t it?  -- In the most obvious places.

November 10, 2007
Waiting for Isaiah

It is true that I have secretly considered myself lucky to have not carried my first two sons for the full 40 weeks...  Joshua was a good boy for Mommy, coming at 37 weeks:  just when it was considered safe for him, yet not overstaying his welcome in the womb.  A.J. was a bit more daring, arriving at 36 weeks.  He was kind enough to afford me a much smoother labor, but unfortunately had to spend a week in the NICU to make sure his little lungs were revved up enough to work on their own.  We all agree that they work just fine now.

Baby Isaiah, who we are expecting anytime now (as we are entering the 37th week), seems to be a bit more indecisive than the first two.  A couple of hours of contractions early Thursday morning led me to believe that he was ready to make an appearance too, but the pains stopped abruptly, and in fact, I have felt better than I did since before the incident happened.

It's almost as if he changed his mind and decided that he's quite comfortable where he is. 

And where is he?  I have shared with others before (and others have shared with me) that once you hold a newborn baby, it is clear that they have arrived straight from heaven.  It is not an awkward bird that carries that bundle of joy, but a graceful angel sent by God-- the same means by which we witnessed our first heaven-sent bundle of joy taken back to the Creator from whence he came after only a few short years.

Travis and I still have-- will always have-- very painful moments.  One of those moments occurred as we made our final preparations for the baby's arrival the other night.  It hurts so badly to know that in this life we will never hold all three of our sons together.  Yet, many times during my pregnancy, I have contemplated the following:  are Joshua and Isaiah not in the same place for the time being?  Like the many photos of our family that we will have to cut and paste in collages to make complete, isn't our family itself kind of like that?  While we are here, anxiously awaiting Baby's arrival, Joshua might be holding him up in heaven, asking God, "Can't I keep him just a little bit longer?"

And Isaiah, so content in his biggest brother's gentle arms, might have decided that he might as well rest and stay where he is for awhile.  For that I can easily wait a few weeks longer.

May 30, 2007
2nd Birthdays

Today is the birthday of two very special little people I know, both of whom are turning two.  Destiny Harman celebrates her second year with her Nana, but unfortunately without her parents and her brother, who are in the PICU at Duke University.  Joseph Naas celebrates his second year as his brother, Nathan, celebrates the end of his life, just short of four years himself.

Tonight we cooked out with family.  A.J. and I went to my doctor's appointment this morning, which went very well.  We hung out at basketball camp then came home to do some housework.  It was a pretty normal day, and a nice one.  Even on a "normal" or a "good" day though, I will always be acutely aware of the less than normal and less than pleasant things going on in other parts of the world.  Life may be quiet on Black Forest Road, but it is not in the wings of various pediatric wards where children-- many of whom are our personal friends-- battle the emotional and physical stresses of fighting for the life that the rest of us live all too casually sometimes. 

I am also planning a second birthday party for my little A.J.  As I did when Joshua approached his second birthday, I took A.J. to the party store and allowed him to choose his own theme (we like to celebrate the independence that comes with the big 0-2).  I am excited in a way I cannot describe because I also carry a burden that I cannot describe.  Each birthday from now on seems like such an accomplishment-- not merely an excuse to have friends over and plan a party.  My most sincere wishes go out to little Destiny and little Joseph on an occasion that is truly a time to celebrate.  My most sincere wishes also go to their parents and to the Fosters, who are smiling for their children when I know that inwardly they are crying.

I would be lying to say that I never wish our lives could be different.  Joshua would be so excited to know that A.J. chose to have a basketball party.  He would beg to lick the bowl from the birthday cake icing; he would probably run around blowing a whistle like a referee.  I fantacize about the way things "might have been" sometimes...  But I am also very sensitive to reality, which makes me more grateful for small things that I may have taken for granted before.

We are still so grateful for your prayers and support and ask that you keep our good friends, the Naas family in your prayers this week as they say good-bye to Nathan.  It is so hard to believe that we were approaching this same task merely three months ago.  We could never get through this time without your love and that of God's. 


May 13, 2007

“Relentless” is the word she used to describe us.


“…In a good way, I mean.”


I knew what she meant.  I suppose “relentless” is the only word that could be used to describe the crazy family who brought live music in and out of the ward daily; who scheduled rounds of Go-Fish as religiously as the other “therapies” he was receiving; who decorated the largest hospital room on the wing from floor to ceiling with hundreds—possibly thousands—of cards that had poured in from their loving community. 


When I received this call from one of the specialists at Duke two weeks after Joshua passed away, I was surprised to hear from this person, who no longer had any professional obligation to our case.  She said she felt the need to call and let us know that she had never seen anything like our family and the way we loved Joshua.  It was inspiring to her, she said.  Made her want to go home and just love her daughter as much as she could everyday.


 I hope that my audience is reading far enough, now, to understand that I am not tooting our family’s own horn… Because I realized last night, as I lay in bed from an exhausting but very rewarding day at the Samefight Benefit Golf Tournament, that if these nice things are true about our family, we surely came by it honest.  Our friends and “extended family” in Floyd, Southwest Virginia, and other areas of the country mean business when they love.  They are relentless.  I mean, this individual who awed just at what she saw of us at Duke was not even aware of the fact that an entire community got together to pray for our children just before they left for Durham.  She didn’t know just how many people were making up crazy stories about ‘possums just because this happened to make my son smile, or any of the other truly relentless acts of love that they performed.


I continue to be amazed on a daily basis by the “relentless” love that we are shown by everyone.  People have given in capacities that I never could have imagined—contributions to birthing centers, musical programs for churches, The Brain Tumor Association, of course, to Samefight.  There are others that I am not thinking of at the moment.


Yesterday there was an absolutely awesome turnout at the Golf Tournament.  This is due to months of very detailed planning on the parts of numerous individuals—each who brought something unique to the table, I know.  Successful as it was, and as much as I like the souvenirs we were graciously presented with, the better portion of the monstrous thank-you I owe them is for the fellowship that they include us in on a daily basis.  It is not always easy to participate in day-to-day life, but in the midst of people who love so relentlessly, it is also hard to give up.


A very kind and thoughtful neighbor from Riner sent us a Casting Crowns CD just after Joshua’s services, which I have enjoyed immensely.  One of the tracks in entitled, “Love Them Like Jesus,” and it is about those moments in life when there is nothing to say or do to “make it better.”  All I can say to all of you who have supported us is: thank you so much for doing just this!  Without fail, you remind me of my duty to keep on keeping on; to be just as relentless as you are!!

April 25, 2007
Still Here

It seems that the "news" that we had planned on sharing is actually just common knowledge now on the streets of Floyd.  Nevertheless, we feel more comfortable sharing today, after our first appointment with the doctor, that we will be having our third child around or before December 5.  (Joshua told us before last Christmas that he wanted a baby.  A.J. never said anything like that, but let's hope he's okay with it....)  We are happy to report that everything looks fine so far.

When we informed A.J. this morning that we were going on a visit to the doctor, he said to us very certainly, "Doctor for Jo-Josh?"  We were astonished that he would think of this, and also saddened, as you can imagine.  Two things crossed my mind after he said this. 

1.)  How I hope that A.J. does not only remember his brother being in the hospital.  It would be fine by me if none of us had to remember, but especially him.  Running circles around our dining room table; piling on top of Daddy; riding together in the Radio Flyer: these are the things that A.J. should remember about his brother.  These are the things that Joshua was really about.

2.)  I can only assume that it is natural for A.J. to bring this up in his limited communication with us-- after all, he just wants a concrete explanation of where his brother is, and he seemed almost relieved to hear that we were going to the doctor to check up on his brother.  This is not unlike the rest of us, I suppose.  I catch myself saying sometimes, "God, I know he's okay with you, but what is he doing right now?"  It is still such a natural need for us to know what our loved ones are doing... even when I know he is with the greatest babysitter in all the world-- indeed, with his true parent.

That's just the thing about death: it separates us.  To Travis and me, Joshua's memory is everywhere, everyday.  He will always be a part of everything we do.  It is still his younger sibling that we went to learn about today; it will always be his favorite rock in the backyard; and to be sure, his voice and his funny little sayings like, "Well, actually..." are forever engrained in our minds.  However, even though we speak of Joshua to A.J. and say blessings for him and everyone in our family during bedtime prayers every night, A.J. might find it more of a challenge to hang onto his brother. 

I am encouraged and discouraged by something that David said upon the loss of the baby Bathsheba bore to him:  "I will go to him, but he will not return to me." (Samuel  )  I remind myself everyday that "when I get where I'm going" (in the words of Brad Paisley), I will find Joshua there, and so will his daddy and A.J.   The great thing is, Joshua has made it where we all want to go.  The obstacle is that we are still here.

We are praying hard for Chance, Kassidy, and also Nathan back at Duke.  God bless these families who are on the frontline.  All of us who are "still here" need lots of encouragement, don't we?


March 16, 2007
Travis' Words from Joshua's Memorial Service

Following are the words that Travis prepared for the Memorial Service:


Thank You


I know that this is probably a little different than what some of you were expecting – I know that parents would usually not get up here and speak.  However, there are a couple of reasons why Laura and I thought it was important for one of us to stand before you today.  The first reason is we want to verbally and in person tell you all Thank You!


I know each of you are sitting there and saying to yourself that it isn’t necessary to tell you that and you would probably say that we would do the same for you and that will always be true.  But the fact of the matter is; we need to be able to tell you thank you and know that you understand how important each one of you, this community and the surrounding communities are to us.  There’s no way that we’ll ever be able to repay you or for you to know exactly how appreciative we are or for you to truly know how much you all helped us, so the least I can do is say thank you.  It’s also important for everyone here and for everyone that followed our lives for the past couple of months to know how much your prayers have helped.  We were all praying for the same thing and that was for God’s healing hand to bless Joshua and cure his body from that wicked disease.  Skeptics could say and point out that those prayers were ignored or that God chose not to answer those prayers but that’s not how Laura and I and our family feel.  Those prayers were heard and they were answered.  They may not have been answered in the way that we wanted most but they were answered.  Each prayer has given Laura, me, and our family strength during this time.  Each prayer gave Joshua strength and comfort that we’ll never be able to understand but we know it was there.  Those prayers have allowed me to come here today and tell you how much you have meant to us.  The prayers were not answered in the way that we wanted most but they were answered.  People tell us that Joshua changed more lives and affected more lives than we’ll ever know.  We hope that is true because we believe that for whatever reason, Joshua and Chance were chosen to help this community and the surrounding communities pull together and do things that no one could have ever thought possible.


We always told people that we met that we live in the best community in the world and I believe that to be true.  Part of me thinks that there are few if any other communities that could have done the things that you all have done.  However, I pray that I am wrong in that thought.  I hope that there are multiple towns and communities that would do the same thing for their family, which is what we all are, family.  I hope this because that’s how we see God’s work.  We didn’t see it heal Joshua but we saw it pull communities, people, and families together and we saw it give our family the strength that we need so desperately during this time.  So again, I want to stand here and tell you, on behalf of my entire family, thank you from the bottom of my heart.


In conclusion, we are not naïve enough to think that every person who has encountered Joshua should remember him forever as vividly as we do—that’s just not realistic.  But we do hope that if it is true that you have made some change, big or small, in your own life as a result of having known him, that you would make that a permanent change.  Thank you and God bless.


March 16, 2007
Laura's Words from Joshua's Memorial Service

We thank each and every person who was able to make it to Joshua's Memorial Service and hope that you received the blessing from it that we did.  We are indebted to the pastors, David Taylor and Stuart Childress and to the wonderful musicians and readers who made it exactly what we had planned to honor his life.  Following are the words that I (Laura) prepared and Travis delivered at the service.  God bless you all.


It is a tough job to try to decide what you want people to remember most about a child, but no one could be more qualified for this job than his parents.  Like all parents, we have tried with everything we have to make the right choices for our child in his life.  Like all parents, we have felt like a failure at times.  But we have always given it our all because Joshua brought so much to our lives from the moment we found out he was to exist.


What stands out to me the most about Joshua is his willingness to waste no time.  The first time we saw him he was (as his Nana puts it) “all arms, legs, and eyes”—he was ready to get down to the business of living.  He fit so well into our family and we enjoyed his company so much that we decided to give him a brother pretty soon after.  In fact, around the same time we moved him across the country and expected the “adjustment” issues that people warned us about.  He was typically pretty easy to adjust, though, and embraced whatever we threw at him.  He became such an independent fellow.  By the time he was to start preschool here in Floyd in Miss Kathy’s class down at Floyd E., we gave him the big talk expecting there to be crying and separation pains and all that parents usually encounter when they drop a kid off for their first day of school.  Instead, to our surprise, before we could even finish the sentence, “We will drop you off, but remember that we’ll come back…” he was letting go of our hand and taking off toward the toys and waving bye!


There are countless wonderful memories that we have of Joshua just as all families treasure memories of their children.  We feel very fortunate that in his little life, Joshua experienced life in different areas of the country.  He got to go to games, meet new friends, attend playgroups and little classes.  He enjoyed the simple things that most children do, like taking walks and runs in the jogger, visiting friends, and attending VBS.  These are all simple things, but not to be taken for granted in his life or in any child’s life.  They are all important.


If we were honest, there are things that Joshua never did that we always wanted him to.  He didn’t attend "big" school; didn’t get to play on a team; didn't ever fall in love or experience the joys of grown-up life... Though he lived life to his fullest, there is only so much time in three years.  There are many things a parent wants and expects to watch their child do and experience as they grow up, and when we faced the tough possibilities of Joshua’s diagnosis back in December, these were some of the things that caused great grief to us.  We then asked ourselves, well, what then is it that we most wanted Joshua to experience in this life?  My answer for that would be, generally, the relationships that we have formed over the years with people—people from all circles and communities of our lives.  Family of blood, our beloved community here in Floyd; teammates; coaches; players; college classmates and sorority sisters; our Air Force family; church friends; sometimes even those special friends that we only ever meet once or twice—all of these people have made our adult lives what they are and what we are now able to contribute to our children.  Why then, we wondered, couldn’t Joshua have the same opportunity to meet and make friends?


What we failed to realize in lamenting this concept was that Joshua has accumulated more friends and loved ones than his daddy and I put together.  We underestimated the impact that this child could make on those who got to know him and-- thankfully because of the website and some of the other publicizing of his circumstance-- even many people who did not know him in person.  Joshua did not lack for friends.  Though he never played on a team, we feel he has been an important member of a couple of teams including the AF women’s basketball team and of course, our own Lady Buffs.  Though he will not enter Floyd County High School as a student or an athlete, he found and established himself pretty well in this community for one who lived here for less than a year.


It seems, then that the task of figuring out what people should remember about Joshua is kind of irrelevant.  He did that for himself, I guess.  There are still things to be said, though, about the experience in general.  We all wonder why—nobody more than his parents.  But we have learned more in the past two months than we did in all of our other years combined about this life.  We felt more painful things than we have ever known, but we also felt more grace.  We learned that no matter how much we try and fail and try again, God is still going to be the one in control.  Every step we take, every move we make is important to God’s plan.  We have learned that we cannot ignore that because we have a better idea of what heaven is like after having had Joshua for three years.


Whatever your heaven is, we pray that you have learned through our experience how important it is to work toward that heaven.  We thank you for doing exactly that by blessing our beloved child and his family with gifts of compassion and most of all love.  We thank you all for what you’ve done for us in this life and the everlasting one.

February 14, 2007
Peace Like a River

Desirae asked me tonight, "Do you ever have those moments when you just know that everything is gonna be fine?"

Yes, Desirae, I do.  The funny thing is, it is often in the eye of the storm when I get these sensations that it is going to be okay. 

Yesterday I had to race back to the apartment to get Joshua's medication (since our plans to have a break between appointments kind of fell through), and as I was searching for a parking space in the madness that is DUMC's parking garage, I got this kind of calm feeling.  If you don't know me well, many of my friends can tell you that on a normal day, driving in traffic can get me out of sorts.  But I was listening to my favorite station, K-LOVE, and one of my favorite songs came on.  As I listened to the lyrics: "When I call on Jesus, all things are possible..." I started thinking about how scary our situation was two weeks ago, and then about how well Joshua is doing now.  Then I just got the urge to get out of my car and shout "Praise God"!  I didn't, but I probably should have.

Even when I allow myself to think about the fact that two months ago my child was an active, healthy three-year-old, I find peace.  Joshua has gone through a lot, and he'll go through more still, but I find it easier to go through this regimen assuming that God will provide results for us.  I have seen miracles already when I think of how painful the first week or two after Joshua's first surgery were-- for him physically and for all of us emotionally.  There is no reason for me not to believe that such miracles would not continue.  (Reed family, you were right about "miracle territory" :)

I have often thought about the meaning of the lyrics of the old hymn, "Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, it is well; it is well with my soul."  I have determined that is not the complacent acceptance of the ups and downs of this life that I once thought, but rather a way to say to God, "I take what you've given me and what has happened in my life-- both the joys and the disappointments-- and I praise you for all of it because You made it right before and You will make it right in the end." 

In the meantime, I am amazed at how He turns my sorrow into peace like a river even in the midst of those rolling waves.

January 31, 2007
1-31 Journal Entry

I really enjoy looking at the pictures of Joshua and Chance every now and then.  They are both as physically beautiful as they ever were before, but their experiences have made them [understandably] guarded and more timid around some folks.  What they have gone through already in their few short years, my whole family put together has never seen the likes of.  Nevertheless, we look forward to the time when they can be more carefree, and I thought that many of you, who have never met my son or who haven’t been with him in awhile, would appreciate a couple of anecdotes that might help you get to know the “real” Joshua.


Joshua has (naturally) been brought up in gymnasiums—from Air Force Bases when his dad played for the AF and Military teams to the Air Force Academy, where his dad was stationed last year, to good old FCHS where the girls are carrying on without us in an undefeated season so far.  His first phrase was “Shoot da ball!” and he has never been shy about barking orders at players alongside his dad and granddad in practices, camps and games!  His little voice can be heard loud and clear even in large crowds as he encourages the team, “Let’s GO, GIRLS!!”  I hope the team continues to hear his cheers even in his absence.


As he is a “man’s man,” and as many of you know, Joshua loves things to do with cowboys.  When he spoke yesterday of his trip to Tweetsie RR (the highlight of his young life, I think), I was reminded of something that happened that day.  As amusement park trips do not allow for naptimes, we were concerned that Joshua would get tired and crabby by the end of the day.  He didn’t.  He was a real trooper, cooperated, listened—all those things that we encourage our children to do, right?  We were so proud of him that Travis and I did something we don’t normally do:  we offered to buy him a prize for his behavior at the gift shop on his way out.  I thought maybe he’d choose a head dress or a cowboy vest… Nope.  Much to my chagrin, he chose the one thing I had planned to keep off-limits to my little boys: a toy pistol and holster!  I couldn’t easily go back on my word, so the gun became his and he wore the holster everywhere along with his belt with the big buckle.  I think he even asked to wear it to church one day!!


Speaking of church though, Joshua dearly loves going to church.  His Ma and aunties bought him a suit, which has been seen in several congregations in Floyd during the Spring.  He loved to put the little Velcro tie on even on non-church days, and would pretend that he was going to “work.”


Finally, one of my most precious memories of Joshua is just weeks ago at Slate Mountain Church’s Christmas program.  Joshua beat his little drum alongside his Pa, who played the guitar and sang Joshua’s favorite Christmas song, “The Little Drummer Boy.”  At the conclusion of the song, he was to lay his drum at the foot of the manger as a tribute to the Baby Jesus.  He did, and from backstage I beamed.  What I did not find out until later is that after he did so, he whispered to his Pa (so as not to disturb the hushed audience), “Pa, I think you’re supposed to put your guitar at the manger for Baby Jesus.”


If any of you have special memories of Joshua, I love to be reminded, and I hope you have enjoyed these from his very proud Mom, Laura.

January 23, 2007
Note from Laura

It is amazing how much concentrated learning can take place under extreme circumstances.  For example, one month ago I could not have identified any of the medical lingo that is now part of my daily discourse.  I also could not have anticipated the supreme lessons that I have learned about the three biggies from 1 Corinthians 13 that I have known all my life: faith, hope, and love.


I have always believed in Christ and “practiced” my faith by praying and attending church, etc., but it was not until I became Joshua’s mommy that I got a deeper sense of my place in the big scheme of things.  This is when I feel I developed a more personal relationship with God and Christ.  It could be said that it was only when I found out that I was having a child that I stopped being one.  But I think that it was more the fact that I felt (and continue to feel) so incredibly honored to be the mother of this child who I just knew was literally sent straight from heaven into my arms.


Faith is not a challenge for me in the sense that I know someone truly sovereign must be responsible for the beauty and good I observe happening in this life.  In my life I have often wondered what circumstances would cause one to “blame” God.  I admit that I have been sheltered.  I also admit that on December 29th, following my son’s craniotomy, I asked God for the first time in my life, “Why would you let this happen?” It just did not make sense.


Yet through this roller-coaster of a journey that is barely even three weeks young, we catch glimpses and signs that it will be okay.  These are the words I uttered to the few whom I gathered the courage to speak with at the prayer vigil generously put together by caring folks in our community.  They probably thought I was a kook.  Really, I am just humbled by the outpouring of love from people and from the God whose grace has allowed me to get out of bed and face life during this crisis.  Just humbled…


We know what this situation entails.  The Bible tells us that wisdom is essential, and I do not feel that it is wise to ignore the unpleasant reality of what our son is going through.  Still, I feel that our prayers have been answered so far.  We are asking for little bits at a time, and we are receiving that.  During each of our first several days at Duke, I met at least one “miracle story” per day—Khalita, now my age, who was not expected to live beyond 6 months because of a rare blood disorder; Lori, whose physical beauty and grace could never have revealed that she has suffered with cystic fibrosis all her life, and brushed with death at age 19 before receiving a double lung transplant.   Finally, on the day that Joshua was admitted for another unexpected surgery, we met Nathan, the young and spirited child who has suffered through months of the same treatment that Joshua now faces.  These people are, in the words of another friend of mine, "...true soldiers who have a strength that most adults will ever know."  These people are God's gift of hope to me during this time.


I have had weak moments, yes.  I can also earnestly testify that not once have I faced such a moment that some perfectly appropriate scripture or sign did not literally fall in my lap.  Once, as I sat on a bench outside of the pediatric wing after a conversation with the neuro-oncologist, gazing into space, a cleaning lady meandered by pushing a cart.  At my eye-level, I caught glimpse of a sticky label on the side of that cart that read, “Be patient.  God understands.”  I looked for every cleaning cart I could after that, wondering if it is customary at DUMC to decorate carts with inspirational labels.  It's not. :)


Desirae Harman and I have shared many such "signs" that have come to us at just the right times.  She reminds me constantly that God never promised that our journey of parenthood would be easy.  Before this experience, what came to my mind when I heard things of this nature was perhaps a mischevious prank or two; maybe the teenage years (when I caused my own parents the most grief).  But you know, this situation was never what I expected. 


Even so, it is true that God does not place anything in our laps that we cannot handle, and I can promise you that His grace has fallen upon us in the form of a community of Christians from Floyd County all across the United States.  What comforts my heart is the thought that maybe all of the wonderful people who are praying for my child are praying also for Chance Harman, Isaac Nelson, our other close toddler friend who was diagnosed with leukemia before Christmas, and of course, their very own dear children, spouses, and families.  It comforts me to know that Joshua and Chance have initiated a whole lot of love expressed in various forms-- all of which have served a great purpose in our lives and, I hope, in the lives of others too.


Take some time to look at that verse in 1 Corinthians.  This wonderful scripture that was read at many of our weddings and other joyous occasions points out more than just the euphoria of love in this life.  There are tough aspects of it too; but with the understanding and guidance that God offers, we can rejoice even in times of sorrow that love will get us through.  For now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.  But the greatest of these is [was, and always will be]... love.

January 20, 2007
Thoughts from Travis

Where to begin?  First of all, Laura and I continue to be overwhelmed w/ the amount of support that we have been given.  I would like to say that it doesn't suprise me because we both know how special our friends, family, and community are but we never could have imagined that the support would be like it is.  Proof and point is the fact that Jason Dalton just brought us a laptop, which was anonomously donated, that has wireless connections.  Also, I'm typing on a website that many people work extremely hard on each day that provides us w/ so much joy to read all of well wishes and also allows us to update our friends and family.  Again, I can't say it enough -- thank you so much for all of your support; whether you helped set this webite up, donated us this computer, sent well wishes to Joshua and us, sent cards, helped organize an event, or most importantly have kept Joshua in your thoughts and prayers, we sincerely say thank you and we love you all. 

Love is a word that gets used a lot more now in my family (and it was used a lot before); I'm sure I have caught some of my friends off gaurd w/ that phrase in the past weeks but there is no other explanation for the support that both the Harmans and we have received other than the fact that there is more love in this world than most people give credit for.  Therefore, our friends should probably get used to hearing us say that word.

Anyway, I'm sure most of you are interested in hearing how Joshua is doing.  I'll let Laura write is update later tonight but I'll just let you know that he has had a pretty good day.  He has slept more today than he did yesterday, so he hasn't gotten outside any but Laura is getting ready to take him for a walk outside if he's up to it.  His Pa and Nana (Joel and Saundra, Laura's parents) came today and brought his brother, AJ, to see us.  That, of course, is always good therapy for him even though he doesn't always visibly show his enthusiasm.  His Pa was able to get a pretty good smile from him before he laid down, so we are thankful for that.

As for Laura and I - I believe we are doing the best we can.  We really lean on each other and the support from all of you and that is getting us through this time.  Since Joshua just woke up, I'm going to go help get him ready to go outside.  Again, thanks so much and I look forward to being able to update you all on a regular basis.

With much Love,


p.s. I didn't get Laura to proofread for me, so just ignore the grammatical and spelling mistakes


c/o CW Harman & Son, 2894 Floyd Hwy S, Floyd, VA 24091 •
© Copyright 2007