Tribute to Richard Ashton White
November 25, 1975 - July 21, 2005
This is a tribute to our son, Richard White. He was 17 when first diagnosed with lung tumors: Epithelioid hemangioendothelioma-rare and very small tumors, too numerous to treat. The medical professionals gave him 5-10 years to live. God was merciful and gave him 12 years.
During much of his illness, unfortunately Richard was in denial and had rebelled against anything both medical and religious. The good news is that with lots of prayer, the Lord finally penetrated his heart and several months before he died, Richard made things right with God. We praise the Lord for this reality. Less than two months before the end, he married HollieAnne, his girlfriend, on June 1, 2005, and they both were re-baptized. They had several precious weeks together until he breathed his last on July 21, 2005.
We and many others prayed for a miracle, but God performed a greater healing for Richard than physical health restored; He healed His heart and bitterness of soul which too often shorts the lives of many prematurely.
It was during his junior year at Monterey Bay Academy. He fell sick with “the flu” that he never could quite get over. We got a call from the school nurse asking us to come and take him home. He was in bed for over three months. We administered hot and cold compression treatments to his chest once or twice a day during this time. There was no other treatment given by the doctors we took him to see. After three months and with a semblance of wellness restored, we took him back to the academy to finish the school year. The teachers were kind enough to help him finish his courses with some summer studies. His pulmonologist advised us to take him to Stanford for a biopsy to get a name for his condition.
When the school year ended, we decided to take him to Loma Linda School of Medicine Hospital in Southern California. The biopsy showed his lung tumors had metastasized to his spleen and liver. They gave him five to ten years to live. The pathologist told us it was like a slow-growing sarcoma. He knew of twenty cases worldwide that he had specialized in researching. So, he added Rich to his cases to follow. For the next twelve years, whenever Rich became sick, we always wondered if this was the time. But, maybe because of his youth and determination, he always got over the current symptoms. Because of this fear, we, as parents, tended to indulge him and give him “things” to help make his time more pleasant.
About two years before his final illness, we decided that we needed to let him take care of himself and try to make it on his own. It wasn’t too long afterward that he started experiencing severe pain. He would over medicate with Advil and other medications. One day HollieAnne called to report his condition and how many Advil he had taken that day, which was twelve. Alarmed, we traveled up to Portland where he was living and took him to doctors there. But after two weeks of little sleep, we flew with him back home to northern California where we took him to more doctors. Always the same answer was given, no treatment. The next six months were spent trying to find something to help him get well or at least to calm his constant pain. HollieAnne cared for him at night, and we covered during the day, so she could sleep. (Rich seldom slept.) His aunt Meg lived next to us, and she came over after work to give him massages which always helped relieve some of the pain. He would walk around with a hot water bottle “glued” to his chest and abdomen because of unrelenting pain. Eating became difficult for him. His liver couldn’t metabolize the foods. So, as the days went on, he got thinner and thinner.
It was during this time that he and HollieAnne wanted to be rebaptized and planned to get married. We had an anointing service for him once when he was hospitalized for a new biopsy. The ministers and family all crammed into the hospital room. It was emotional for all of us. When asked whether he was ready to die, he said he was, but he worried about his parents and other family members---how they would fare if he died. Next, he and HollieAnne wanted to make their relationship right with their God and get married. But they wanted to do it in secret because they had sent out their “Save the Date” cards the January before Rich started to have his terrible pain. They wanted to have their garden wedding August 31, in Portland. They were afraid no one would come to the official wedding in August if they came to the small one June 1.So, we had the wedding in our back patio with eight other people. HollieAnne was really making a big commitment, not knowing what the future held for her.
The next month and a half he got worse and worse. His breathing became laborious, and food was not what he could digest. Then on July 21, 2005, he succumbed to those terrible tumors that racked his lungs, liver and spleen. We were all devastated. Rich, an only child had no children to carry on his legacy. His wife, who had pleaded with God to heal him had her young heart broken and was questioning God! When Rich started having his severe pain up in Portland, they both had memorized Psalms 91, hoping against hope that the promises in that Scripture would be realized by them. “With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him My Salvation.” The last part of that phrase was fulfilled, but the first part will be fulfilled in eternity.
THE LONGEVITY OF GRIEF
There is some truth to the saying—"Time heals all wounds.” But not in this life fully can it be said. The last sixteen years since Rich died have helped with softening the pain of grief which comes from the death of a child. Words cannot express this most grueling experience for a parent, yet nonetheless time does soften the blow. But one is still missing!
We are missing Rich. Missing the laughter from his wry sense of humor, his gifts of love of singing and music, his artistic flare; but most of all we’re missing his loving presence, his hopes and care that he would have brought to our lives, and we to his.
Richard was supported by his young girlfriend, HollieAnne Sherman, who became his wife less than two months before his death. She really helped him endure much pain from the lung tumors that in the end, spread to the pleura and liver and elsewhere. Through our tears, we were blessed to witness the saving grace of Jesus comfort Rich, as Satan claimed his body. We witnessed the new birth of one reclaimed by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. For this we are forever grateful. We know we will see Rich again when the Lord Jesus returns to claim His own. And Rich was ready to meet his Maker. We are comforted in our own journey through “the valley of the shadow of death” knowing that Rich is forever safe and redeemed and we, as well! We look forward to meeting our son soon and there will be Joy Unspeakable!!