I’ve spent the past several weeks writing about heroes, everyone from the larger-than-life heroes we see in the media, to the occupational heroes who risk their lives every day, to the quiet heroes who’d rather slit their wrists than admit it, and to all of us, who may or may not recognize that we’re heroes in someone’s eyes.
Now, I want to share about one of my heroes. Like many of you, I have a lot of them, but tonight, one stands out in my mind. You see, Whitney Ball, is, was, and always will be, a hero of mine. Whitney was many things to me. She was my cousin. She was my friend. She was my mentor. She was even my matchmaker when she introduced me to my husband fifteen years ago.
Three months before Steve and I wed, Whitney was diagnosed with breast cancer. Six months of treatment later, the doctors pronounced her cancer free. She remained that way for ten years until late 2011. From then on, she fought a battle with metastatic breast cancer and gave ground only inch by inch until, during the small hours of August 17, 2015, she slipped the bonds of this earth and went home to Jesus.
Why is she a hero to me?
She lived her life on God’s terms. Whitney had a firm set of beliefs set in the saving grace of knowing Christ as her Lord and Savior. She never caved to popular opinion. She never backed down from living her life true to her beliefs. She lived her faith, not just in her personal life but in her professional life as well. It guided the mission and values of the company she formed from scratch. It took guts to stand for what she believed in when it’s so easy in today’s world to go along with the flow.
In adversity, she gave thanks. I still remember one thing Whitney said after she received the initial cancer diagnosis. She said something like, “When I got my diagnosis, I got down on my knees and thanked God because it meant that I could be a mentor to other women with breast cancer.” How many of us could say that? It took courage to say when her own near-term future at that time was unclear.
In life, she rejoiced. Once she completed her initial treatment, Whitney lived each day as if it were a gift from God, which it was. She grew her company from one account to over two hundred. She traveled widely both for work and for pleasure. She loved her family and took the time to visit regularly with them, even if it was only three or four times a year. She took an interest in guiding me, her cousin, as I navigated my twenties and thirties.
In death, she exhibited grace. After the cancer returned, Whitney did her best to continue living. Those first couple of years before her body yielded much ground, she maintained her schedule of working full time, traveling for her work, and spending time with family and friends. This past spring, though it became clear to her and her family that the cancer had begun winning, she kept her humor. Through her emails to me, she never gave any indication of how sick she’d become. Instead, she always kept her upbeat attitude, even toward the end. She had a peace and a grace that came about only from knowing where the next phase of her life lay—with Jesus.
Do I miss her? Absolutely. Every day. Thanks to the way she lived, the way she always gave thanks, the way that she exhibited grace under fire, she’ll always remain one of my heroes.
Dear cousin, I miss you, but I’ll see you again.
This post does not mention any products. Therefore, I am not receiving any compensation for writing this post. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”