Sunday, March 12, 2017

“You may be the only person left who believes in you, but it's enough. It takes just one star to pierce a universe of darkness. Never give up.” ― Richelle E. Goodrich

        While I do my share of complaining about my aches and pains of seventy-two years, that complaining shames me when I remember the short life of Lauren Hill.  I wrote about her a couple of years ago while she was still alive, but she died just a few months after I wrote that blog.  This is what I wrote but with the additional information about the last months of her life.  She made a huge impression on me, and I would hope that she, in her brief moments upon this earth, will have inspired you, too.
       A lot of kids live for basketball. But for 19-year-old Lauren Hill, who started playing in 6th grade and immediately fell in love with the game - she literally did live for basketball for that meant staying alive while suffering from terminal cancer.  "She's chasing a dream," said her father, Brent Hill, "and she wants people to see that -- that they can do that."   Her parents had never seen her commit to anything like she did with basketball that year -- playing on a team even though she had a brain tumor the size of a lemon that was growing daily.  
       When the Hill family first heard the diagnosis of terminal cancer, Lauren's parents remembered that the room went dark and they both got physically ill.  But they do remember Lauren's reaction, because it was SO Lauren. They say she actually asked the doctor: 'Can I at least still play basketball?'  "I wanted to wear that jersey and feel like a superhero again because that's what I feel when I put on the jersey and that number," said Lauren.  Number 22. Everyone where she lived, near Cincinnati, Ohio, knew that number. Everyone at Mount Saint Joseph University, where she was a freshman, knew of her remarkable commitment to the team.  Believe it or not, even though Lauren only had weeks to live, she still got up at 5:30 A.M. for basketball practice.  Even though she couldn’t even do most of the drills, she still tried.  If she didn’t try, she said, "I don’t want to feel like a quitter, and I don't like being called a quitter.  I love hearing the squeaking of the shoes and the sounds of the basketballs bouncing. I've got to be here with my team."  Her attitude was remarkable, and curing pediatric brain cancer was one of her two top priorities. The other was simply to live long enough to play in her first college game.  "And we'll let her play the game that she loves," said Coach Dan Benjamin. "That's Lauren. She wants to play this game."  Coach Dan Benjamin said their first game was sold out. Ten-thousand tickets gone. In an hour.  Asked how he imagined the game, Coach Benjamin replied: "Oh, the lights are dimmed. Twenty-two is announced. Hopefully we'll get the tip. We've got a play put together. We're calling it Lauren's lay-up and the crowd going crazy."  Sounds like Ohio's getting a new superhero.  "Never give up!" goes the cheer.
            After Lauren Hill got to play in that game and three more games making five layups, Mount St. Joseph basketball coach Dan Benjamin announced that she would not play in future games but would serve as Assistant Coach for Mount St. Joseph University women's basketball team, and she did.  On February 6, 2015, Hill was given an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree by Mount St. Joseph University.  She was just nineteen years old and had not completed her first year of college.  She died about two months later on April 10, 2015, at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.  In June of 2015, Lauren Hill was honored with a brick in the courtyard of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame; the brick is inscribed with her name and the word "Hero.”
          I cry every time I read these words and think about how Christ has called me and you to “follow Him” no matter the circumstances.  Seems like the least we can do to honor His love for us and to remember a 19-year-old named Lauren Hill who lived her dream to the end.  

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