Today's post has nothing whatsoever to do with PstPartum Depression, pregnancy, mental health, or anything of the type. Today, I am remembering an extraordinary person who touched countless lives. She was one of my best friends. She was brave, kind, sweet, smart, and beautiful. Her name was Tiffany Leigh Hall and she died of brain cancer when she was 9 years old.
When I was 7, my dad moved to Austin, TX with his job while my mom, my brother and I stayed behind in Atlanta to sell our house. When he moved, he found a new church home at a non-denominational place called Round Rock Chapel. The members were welcoming and the Pastor (Dennis Hall) and his family (wife Vicki and kids Shawn, Aimee, Jason, Aaron, and Tiffany) adopted him quickly.
1 1/2 years later, our house still hadn't sold but my mom had had enough of being away from Dad so we moved out to Austin to join him. To say that I was unhappy to move away from my family and friends would be an extreme understatement. However, the Hall kids (among others) quickly pulled me in and we became friends. If I'm totally honest, I have to admit that I don't really remember hanging out with Shawn that much, probably because he was a few years older. Aimee and I hung out sometimes, and I remember one time she did friendship braids with beads in my hair. Jason, Aaron, and Tiffany were the ones I hung out with the most. When their parents went out of the country, they would come stay with us and vice versa.
Tiffany loved people, loved animals, and loved God. She had a faith that would put that of many adults to shame. When doctors discovered in March 1996 that she had a malignant and particularly nasty brain tumor, her faith never wavered. From the program at her memorial service:
"Tiffany means,the presence and appearance of God,and she came into the family of Dennis and Vicki Hall at a time when they needed God's presence.Wounded from a painful experience in a church and unemployed,it seemed that another mouth to feed would only add to their burden,especially when she was born with a birth defect.Instead,she became to the whole family the joy,hope and optimism that was truly the presence and appearance of God in their lives,"...In Thy presence is fullness of joy..."(Psalm 16:11)
Yet from the day of her birth on August 20,1987,Tiffy was a fighter.God miraculously worked and she overcame the difficulties of a cleft palate.She sculpted her place in the family as the giggling,laughing center of attention. Somehow,in spite of being the youngest of three brothers and one sister,she had a way of taking charge and making things happen.In fact,her siblings laughingly called her "the Boss".She loved to dance,swim,play and "mother" any child or creature she deemed needing it.Something about her seemed to draw the neighborhood children around the Hall house day and night.She never met a person she didn't see as a potential friend and playmate,young or adult.
Having heard of Jesus from the time she was born,it is not surprising that she asked Jesus into her heart at the age of six.She was baptized in the San Gabriel River and loved her church.That love was returned by Round Rock Chapel and the churches in Austin and from all over the United States,when it was discovered in March of 1996 that she had a devastating tumor.They prayed,called, sent money and supported her in a fight that lasted eight months beyond the predictions of the doctors.She was a fighter who "fought the good fight of faith"never wanning in her spirit,cheerfulness or courage.Her spirit captured the hearts of all who fought with her.On Saturday morning,February 15,1997, Tiffany went to be with Jesus.Though we will miss her,our lives will forever be changed by her."
It's been 15 years and I still remember that morning clearly. It was a Saturday. My brother, Aaron Hall, and I were in a basketball league called Little Dribblers (out of a church that was then Hilltop Baptist) together, although we were on different teams. The teams met for practice and games once a week on Saturday mornings. Valentine's Day had been the day before and that Saturday morning didn't seem any different. Josiah and I were on a team together and our family had watched Aaron's team play and then we ourselves had played. I don't remember who won, but I do remember that my family went out for ice cream afterwards (we usually did after a game).
As we walked in the door to our house, the phone rang. I answered it and it was Aaron. He was upset and wanted to talk to my parents, he said "Tiffany's gone". I got my parents the phone and crouched against the wall in the hall outside their bedroom waiting for them to get off the phone, hoping against hope that I had misunderstood what Aaron was saying.
I hadn't. It was the worst morning of my life thus far.
I don't remember everything that happened the rest of the day. I do remember going to our next door neighbor's house to tell Miss Tilly that she was gone and riding my bicycle down to the "Goat Ranch" to tell our friend who took care of the goats (and a donkey and a horse and at various other times, varying numbers of different types of critters) the news.
I didn't go to her funeral. I thought that if I went I would have to go to the cemetery and see her casket be lowered into the ground and buried. I couldn't handle seeing dirt piled on my friend's casket. I was only 12. I went instead to another friend's house and stayed there while my parents were at the funeral. I wish I had told them my worries so that they could have told me otherwise and I would have gone, it took me a really long time to find closure.
I was so confused for a long time. I didn't understand why God would take Tiffy. Why would he take someone so young with so much passion for life, who had so many things she wanted to do in His service? I had believed so fully that she would be healed that I had been making plans for a party that I would throw when it was finally announced that she was in remission. I still don't understand why He allowed it to happen but I have come to the conclusion that God is God and some things I will never understand.
There have been many times when it's been difficult to have faith, hard to trust that God knows what He's doing and that He won't let me go. Tiffany was a wonderful example, though, of how to have the childlike faith that the Bible extols.
Today, when I remember Tiffy, I'm sad. I'm sad that she isn't here to see the wonderful people her siblings have married and to be excited and dote on her nieces and nephews. I'm sad that I couldn't giggle with her over the man I married. I'm sad that her parents had to bury their baby when she was only 9 years old. But today, I also smile as I remember her vivacity, spunk, and energy. I take delight in remembering singing and dancing around with her, I laugh as I remember having a mud fight and fashion show with her, Aaron, Jason, and Josiah when they stayed at my house while their parents were gone. I hold fond memories of discussing earnestly what the baby goats down the road should be named. I remember her making up a song "My brother Jason. I love my brother Jason." at her house. I'm sure he knows it but she absolutely adored him. She loved her entire family.
Today I'm sad because she's not here with me to tag on Facebook or text about how my oldest daughter not only took off her diaper but ran around swinging it like a lasso over her head in her bedroom. However, I also take comfort in the precious memories I have of the time I was able to spend with her and the knowledge that I'll see her again someday. I take inspiration from her. She made such a huge difference in so many peoples lives at such a young age and had such faith and love.
Today, I remember Tiffany. To the Hall family, my thoughts and prayers are with you on this day. I love you all and you hold a dear place in my heart. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful person with all the rest of us.