It’s not the first of the month, but it doesn’t matter. Today is a very special day for our family.
Our daughter, Lila, was diagnosed with brain cancer when she was only 3 1/2 months old. That was one of the most terrifying days of our lives. But today is different. Today is one of the happiest.
On December 4, 2008, Lila went into remission. Her doctor’s said she’ll never be classified as cured, just living in remission. But if she could make it past five years of remission, it will most likely never come back.
Five years is today.
Today we celebrate Lila, her journey, and our eternal family.
When she was diagnosed, my wife and I said to each other that this is going to be a trial that either brings us closer together or tears us apart. We refused to let it do the latter. And the main reason it didn’t was because even though we didn’t know how long she would be with us in this life, we knew we were an eternal family.
Today, I’m grateful for my family. I’m grateful for my wife. I’d like to say that I was the rock through this, but I wasn’t. It was her. I saw the woman that Heavenly Father entrusted as Lila’s mother. I think there are trials that Heavenly Father gives us because we need them, but there are also trials he gives us because he knows we can handle them. He knew Annie could handle this. And she did. She’ll never fully understand how great a wife and mother she is and how much she means to me and our family.
Today, I’m grateful for the Doctors and staff at Duke Hospital – Dr. Gururangan, her oncologist – Dr. Grant, her surgeon – Melody Watral, her primary nurse – Pamela Smith McDonald, her PICU nurse – the entire staff in the Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant center – and many others. They are the most talented and kind-hearted people we could have ever hoped for.
Today, I’m grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m grateful for the love of my Heavenly Father. Watching your child suffer is beyond painful. If nothing else, this trial has given me a greater love for my Heavenly Father for letting his son suffer for my sins. It’s humbling that He loves us that much.
As for the arrangement…
I’ve always been able to express my feelings better with music than with words. I started this arrangement in secret over a month ago. I knew I had wanted to do it for a long time. Not even my wife knew about it. I finally told her about it last night to prepare her for watching it. I felt I needed to keep this under wraps so nothing else would influence it except my own emotions. So there wasn’t a lot of thought behind the arrangement. I just picked up the guitar and played. Whatever came out I ran with.
But the one deliberate thing I did was the end. There is none. There is no resolving chord. I wanted it that way because our family doesn’t end. We will be together forever. And no disease or cancer will ever change that.
If you want to know more about our experience, Annie did an interview about it a while back. You can read it here.
The Deseret News wrote an article on this post. You can read it here:
Mike BradyPosted at 05:40h, 04 December
Simply beautiful. Thank you.
Gayle DudleyPosted at 06:06h, 04 December
No words to express how much I love you for expressing through music all our feelings for this miracle.
Much love to Lila and her family
Michelle JuddPosted at 06:35h, 04 December
I love this. Very touching.
Bryan YoungPosted at 06:43h, 04 December
Wow, I can’t believe I stumbled on this blog of all days today. You don’t know me, I found this because someone posted a link to it on cougar board.com. I am a fellow guitar player who also chooses to share his emotions through music though. As today marks such a special anniversary for you it also marks 4 months since my 4 year old daughter, Holland, passed away from brain cancer. And the words and message of that song are so true. I have learned that it’s one thing to believe that families are forever its another thing to live it. Through out my daughters battle with cancer I always knew that losing her would be a possibility, but when I did I never expected to learn the things I did. I now know that she truly does continue to live. Even though I don’t have her with me she is a very real part of my family. Thank you for the song and your experience, it touched more then just you and your families life.
Ben HowingtonPosted at 06:56h, 04 December
Thank you so much for that comment, Bryan. I’m so sorry about your daughter. Nothing has made the plan of salvation more real in my life. Families are forever and no cancer will ever change that. Thank you for sharing your experience with all of us. Truly.
Dan RasbandPosted at 06:51h, 04 December
Ben, thanks for sharing. D&C 46:11-12, 26
Ernest HayesPosted at 07:03h, 04 December
Thank you for sharing this. Your story is beautiful and your arrangement of this hymn tugs at the chords of my heart!
justin whitingPosted at 08:21h, 04 December
Can’t even imagine what that would be like to go through as a parent. Thanks so much for sharing. Beautiful.
Sarah KumarPosted at 08:25h, 04 December
I LOVE YOU. And hate you. But mostly LOVE.
JPosted at 09:39h, 04 December
Just want to dido what was said above. I’m also coming up on an anniversary of a sibling of mine that passed away. It’s the 5 year anniversary. This song has meant so much to me since that happened. I love the arrangement and am grateful you shared it. I can’t wait to learn it. I’m soooo happy for you and your family. What an awesome day and a huge celebration!!!
Marta SantiagoPosted at 12:52h, 04 December
Thank you so much for sharing your story and your beautiful music. Cancer does not discriminate, old, young, male or female. Your faith, the love that you all have for each other, the strength of your family shows. God is Great. Again thank you, from a two year breast cancer survivor.
Jessica RPosted at 14:52h, 04 December
Wow. This is the most beautiful and touching arrangement I dare say I’ve ever heard. What a joyous day for you and your family. Thank you for sharing your beautiful talent.
Judy BPosted at 02:53h, 05 December
Thank you for this song and post! I understand your feelings! Our family just celebrated the 5 year cancer free victory with my oldest son a few weeks ago! He found out he had cancer exactly 2 weeks before he was to get married! Despite the fact that his doctor advised that he cancel the wedding he and his fiancé went ahead and were married in the Salt Lake Temple. Like your family, they are are living testimonies that families are eternal!
Jake RauPosted at 12:45h, 05 December
Well done, my friend. We love you guys – hugs for Lila from us!
Tim RinggoldPosted at 18:43h, 05 December
Thanks for sharing your story, and your beautiful, heartfelt arrangement with us. I am reminded of the awesome majesty of God our Eternal Father. How he must weep for joy along side of families like yours on special days like this, while simultaneously weeping with sadness alongside families whose children lose their battle with cancer, or whatever disease the face. I am humbled by his capacity to love so many so deeply, and as a dad who has lost his own child to death, He knows the unique quality of my pain. And still, thanks to the gift of faith, he hasn’t left me hung out to dry. The re-union will take place, and your post re-minded me of that truth. Thank you for posting. As a fellow blogger, sometimes I wonder if I’m just shouting into the void (well I know that I am… but is anybody listening?). I’m here to tell you, like your other readers, that YES we are here listening, and being fed a delicious snack for our soul! Rock on, brother. -Tim
Enrique EscamillaPosted at 04:40h, 06 December
Thank you so much for your arrangement and your story. my wife has gone through two bouts of cancer in 7 years, its not easy seeing a love one suffer like that, the only consolation we had as a family was the same as you, knowing that we can be together forever as a family. Thank you again from the bottom of my heart.
Brandon HowellPosted at 05:52h, 06 December
No fair almost making me cry while sitting in RDU airport……
In all seriousness, great job.
AnonymousPosted at 09:57h, 06 December
Our best wishes for your sweet Lila and thank you for beeing so strong.
StaciePosted at 11:46h, 08 December
I cannot thank you enough for sharing your journey with us. I don’t think I’ll ever truely understand your pain, but the witness that you have born today is powerful. Your testimony of Jesus Christ and eternal families has touched me deeply. I share your love and reverence. Your arrangement brought tears to my eyes. May The Lord continue to bless and lift you and your family, and may you truly enjoy this Christmas season!
Rosco WilsonPosted at 10:34h, 10 December
Thank you so much for this unexpected, but beautiful arrangement. And especially for the heartfelt message strung through every note and chord. I was wondering if there was maybe a tablature of your arrangement? I would love to learn how to play it. Soon in my home ward is a Christmas party that I’m playing some Christmas songs on the guitar. And I would love to share this message with everybody. Although it is not a Christmas song, what is more special than being with your family during the Christmas season, and just in general! :)
BradPosted at 17:31h, 29 December
Really nice, Ben. I downloaded the Tabs and would love to have the words printed on them like you’ve done on others. It really helps me see where I am in the song. Great work – and so happy your little one is doing so well!
Janis WalkerPosted at 18:52h, 02 January
I found your link on a friend’s Facebook page tonight when I couldn’t sleep because of anxiety about a surgery I have in the morning. Your faith and strength inspire me. Thank you for sharing your musical gifts and your testimony with me. It reached me at a time when I needed it the most. Families truly are forever!
JeanninePosted at 19:44h, 03 January
I don’t know what brought me to this article today. Thank you for sharing your story. This was one of my moms favorite songs that she taught in primary and sang it throughout the house. My parents firmly believed that we will all be together once again. Mom just passed October 11th and my dad passed February 27th of 2013. Oh, how we miss them! And everyday is a struggle. This song is a perfect reminder of how we can see each other again.
LizPosted at 16:27h, 05 January
Very powerful. Best of luck and thank you for sharing your testimony, strength and talent. Keep up the good work.
Becky BartlePosted at 08:13h, 06 January
Ben, my husband and I grew up with your dad and after your parents got married, we were great friends with your parents while they were going to BYU. Two summers ago we came out to Virginia and your parents drove 3 hours to visit us. It had been a long time since we had seen them. While we were spending the day with your parents, they told us your story about Lila. We were very touched at the time. Thanks for writing this beautiful arrangement and telling this story. We pray for continued health for Lila. You look a lot like your dad. It’s nice to meet you and your beautiful family through your website. Great job! We love your parents by the way. Tell them hi for us.
Jim MilliganPosted at 19:02h, 06 January
Music can speak to the soul in a very powerful way! Thank you for sharing your gift, your testimony, and your experience. My 11 year old son was diagnosed with Leukemia at 3 1/2 years. He is doing great and is coming up on his 5-years off chemo in July 2014. Your photos remind me of those days in the ICS. Our family has indeed been strengthened by this experience. Very similar to you my amazing wife was the rock! She died in November 2012. We made it through some hard trials together. I was devastated to loose her! However I have felt our Heavenly Father’s Love for her, for me, for our children, and all of his children in a very powerful way. July 2014 will be a great day but I will miss celebrating it with my Sweetheart! I love her and miss her! I am grateful for the great plan of happiness and for the truth that Families Can Be Together Forever!
AndyPosted at 15:31h, 17 January
Dan EteruPosted at 17:34h, 25 January
I was listening to the Mormon Channel before church and heard your version of I am a Child of God and immediately looked it up on youtube and posted it on my FB page!
I had likes hitting my page in no time and the amount of times the video was sharEd was amazing to see!
I would like to thank you for your talent and using that to inspire so many. Being a lover of music I spent all Sunday listening to your guitar.
The story you posted about your daughter really set the tone in our home and we reflected on how we are blessed to have that knowledge that we can as a Family return to live with Him again.
With love and continued blessing from my family to yours. Thank you.
(Samoans living in Brisbane Australia!)
Ben HowingtonPosted at 10:20h, 29 January
Eteru Family – Thank you so much for the wonderful comment! I feel truly honored that you are enjoying the music, and on the complete other side of the world! Thank you again.
ZabPosted at 20:55h, 22 January
Your guitar music is great! Love it! Keep going!