I met Mallory almost fifteen years ago, a Belmont communications major ten years after I was (there weren’t many of us), full of energy and joy and laughter and spunk and beautiful words and big dreams and passionate worship. (Worshipping with her at Grace Center was the best.) She and a handful of others were Jay and mine’s pride and joy. During our years of dating, engagement, and early marriage, we got to love on these Belmont kids together, to have them in our condo, feed them, cry with them, counsel them, love them to no end. Mallory, Ashley and Lauren laughed at all of Jay’s jokes and ate the first chicken and burgers from the gas grill we got with wedding money. They jumped up and down screaming when they saw the ultrasound of the first baby in my belly. (You could hear Mallory’s scream for miles, I know it!) They kept him company when I was pregnant with Cas and had a 7pm bedtime.
They were glorious days.
Mallory had the courage say yes to a call to missions in Mozambique, say yes to a marriage proposal from a Mozambican, and even more courage to say no when it became apparent she needed to break off the engagement. I had a front-row seat to her obedience, heartache, and courage, and I can tell you there is not a purer heart in all the land.
She met Kyle, married and moved to Atlanta. Weeks after the wedding, she was diagnosed with melanoma. She fought hard and beat it. She leaped for joy at her own ultrasound, and the cancer came back. She bore her beautiful daughter and beat it again, staring fear in the face. She beat it again and again, always hopeful, always believing God for full restoration, always enduring the treatments and side effects with determination. This winter they found disease again, this time in her brain, and gave her three weeks to live. There was maybe a 5% chance the radiation would even make a dent in the tumors’ progress. We all prayed again and she endured horrible treatments again and this time the scan came back almost completely clean! It was a true miracle; fruit of her faith for all these years! All the nurses called her Miracle One! But the same week revealed a new hot spot in her pancreas. More miserable radiation, more pain, more hope consumed Mallory’s life.
I can only imagine how much pain she was in, and how much hope she had, when she breathed her last breath yesterday.
Today is her first full day free of pain, free of fear, free of struggle, free to worship her Jesus with full abandon, face to face, flinging herself into his arms. After so many long, torturous days on this earth, I wonder how long today will feel to her! Surely it will fly by!
Mallory and I connected sporadically over the past seven years of struggle. I got to talk to her a few weeks ago for a glorious 45 minutes. I am so thankful for that conversation we had while she sat in her full bathtub – the least painful place for her beautiful failing body. We talked about sowing and reaping, about our generous Father, about the many things God has brought her through, about obedience and surrender, about the grace to receive help in time of need. We talked about the toll cancer takes on a body, a bank account, a marriage. We talked about the ways she saw God moving in her friends and family as a result of the cancer battle. She told me how God cares about our small dreams – like the way he gave her a VitaMix after her blender broke. We talked about dreaming big with God. She challenged me to dream outrageously, and partnered with me in asking God for the wildest dream I could think of. That’s Mallory – endlessly encouraging others and praising her good Father.
She never backed down from pursuing her Jesus. Her tenacity was breath-taking. She was convinced that whatever the enemy was up to, God could turn it around for His glory. Her last Facebook post is true, true, true:
My dear Mal,
He brought you to this position – now seated in heavenly places for full-real – so that many would come to know your Jesus. He brought you through all that pain for reasons all of us can’t see. But now you can! You can see it all just like God does – the mature fruit of all those seeds of obedience and faith and encouragement you’ve sown. This is not the way you wanted it to end, but it is the way you hoped it would end, isn’t it? Your big dream was to take your family to Disney World. I guess heaven is God’s upgrade to that request, and it’ll be the blink of an eye until you’ll get to walk those magical streets with Kyle and Lilian. I guess He knew all along, and He had purpose for every single day you endured… and now you can see all that. God better be making it worth your pain.
I look forward to worshipping beside you again, arms flung high in a gym in the sky, tears of joy sopping red carpets, angels all around us, and every tear of grief wiped away. Some people say we will be rewarded in heaven according to our lives on earth, that there will be places and crowns of honor reserved for heroes of the faith. You are my hero. Maybe my room will be a few floors down from yours — wouldn’t that be fun?!! I’ve told you at least a hundred times – can I tell you once more?
I am so proud of you.
Well done, Mallory.