Today She Would Be 20

Ashley, Purple Sunglasses

Ashley O'Rear, 1996

Today is Friday, April 27, 2007.

Today, she would be 20.

Ashley Jean O’Rear was born on April 27, 1987, in Corpus Christi, Texas. I was 25 years old, Susan was 22, and Ashley was our first child. We were young, and we were so excited to have been blessed by God with such a beautiful child. Ashley was the classic “bundle of joy”. Her presence in our lives would cause us to experience life, and love, and joy from a whole new perspective and at a much deeper level than we had ever imagined before becoming parents. In the words of a song that I wrote in Ashley’s memory shortly after her death, “The day you came into my life, my world began anew. I didn’t know that love could run as deep as I love you.”

Ashley, Ski TripThere are so many wonderful memories floating around in my heart, many of them accompanied by photographs that were taken through the years as Ashley grew. Even in those snapshots that encapsulate only a split second of time, there is an infectious enthusiasm in her eyes and in her smile that reaches out and grabs you and will not let go. There was something almost magical about her spirit that stole the hearts of most people who knew her. I miss that magic.

Ashley was nine years old (almost ten) when she was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. She went through a year-and-a-half of treatments – surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy – followed by a three-year period during which she was cancer-free. In September of 2001, at age 14, the cancer returned. She fought it hard once again, and continued to live every day to the fullest, right up to the very last day. On Saturday afternoon, November 24, 2001, Ashley’s struggle ended, and our struggle to go on living without her began.

Ashley, Professional HeadshotLife is not the same without her. Life will never be the same without her. I learned so much about life, about love, about faith, and about hope by watching my Princess struggle courageously and with incredible grace as she faced, literally, the battle of her life. Our lives are better because she was here. There is something missing in our lives because she is gone. But it is not a hopeless emptiness. We will see her again, and that hope gives balance to the emptiness, and makes it possible for us to approach life with the same fervor and zeal and enthusiasm and joy which characterized her short time on this earth.

Today she would be 20.

But in my mind and in my heart, she will always be 14.

Paul O'Rear Signature

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22 thoughts on “Today She Would Be 20

  1. i stumbled upon your web-site.WOW what a story,,it intregued me to the end..what a wonderful young lady ashley is,how much joy she added to the world..you were right about the box of tissues….i am 40 years old when my mom was pregnant with me she took the drug thalidomide,at age 3 i was diagnosed with leukemia,,since then i have had on again off again medical problems,.i luckily had no visable disformaties from the thalidomide .in 1984 i was diagnosed with lupus,discoid and symstetic..i am getting some pretty bad lesions on my skin,,you can see similar ones by putting in lupus lesions and clicking on images on most search engins.i take leprosy med. and steroids(prednasoid,plaquenil),and thyroid med..now my doctor tells me i possibly can take thalidomide to see what happens..kinda ironic,,to take the same drug that could have inhibited some of the problems,,but they dont know that it even inhibited it at all..i have my tubes tied,so i dont have to worry about getting pregnant on the drug.anyway that is how i stumbled onto ashley,,doing research..what an inspiration she is,,and will always be,,,there was something about her beautiful face the moment i seen her picture…thank you for sharing her with me..thank you thank you thank you…i needed that….nicole,burley,idaho

  2. SHE IS WHITH YOU. I NOW. ¿CAN YOU SEE HER?. SHE LOVE YOU SO MUCH. AND SAY YOU : THANK POR REMEMBER ME.
    MIJELLE.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing your sweet Ashley with us. What a legacy she left behind. I am praising the Lord for her faith in him as well as you and your families faith and trust in God. Our little boy died on March 12, 1989, he would be turning 18 on November 8th of this year. I know that him and Ashley have probabaly talked a few times. 🙂 It sure does bring some sort of relief to a broken heart knowing that we will meet up with them again in heaven. God is Awesome and keeps his promises. Thank you again for sharing her story. We most certainly will never forget her. Take Care & God Bless you and your Family. The Smiths

  4. Dear Paul – i am so sorry for the loss of your precious daughter Ashley. thank you for sharing her story, although i am in tears after reading about her battle. she was so courageous, she reminds me very much of my son Christopher. you can visit his web page to read about his courage as well. my heart truly goes out to you in your loss.
    love and hugs,
    maria
    Christopher’s mommy forever

  5. I BELIEVE ASHLEY WOULD BE MY COISIN. WELL TO THINK OF IT IM SORRY.I KINDA KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DELLLING WITH MY DAD [WILLI O’REAR] PAST AWAY 1 WEEK AFTER MY BDAY I WAS IN THE FIRST GRADE AND MY GMA LINDA O’REAR DIED OF CANCER TO I REALY DO PRAY FOR YOUR FAMILY.I JUST TRUNED 12. I READ JUSTINS LITTLE STORIES I THOUGHT THEY WERE CUTE AND THE ON CANCER I’AM ON HIS SIDE ON HOW THAT IS WRONG.

  6. Hi Paul, Susan & Justin-
    It’s hard to believe that Ashley has been gone for 6 years. It’s hard to believe that if she were still here she’d be a young woman now… What is NOT hard to believe (although it should be!) is the incredible lesson of faith, love, hope & courage I learned from her struggle. Ashley was an amazing inspiration and not many 14 year olds can claim that – nor many 45 year olds (like myself).

    I know you guys miss her – heck I wish there wasn’t a web page about her struggle with cancer – but I can’t second-guess God’s plans – only go with it and try to be a better Christian from it… I think Ashley is perfect now.

  7. When I see websites like Ashley’s, it makes me wish I had cancer too. If anything, I’m not inspired but jealous. She got all that fun stuff like that New York Trip. She’s also your Princess, my parents don’t even call me that!!!!!! SO NOT FAIR!!!!!! I’d much rather have Ashley’s life than my own. That way I can be famous and be an inspiration to people at 14 too! People were nice to her and everything, you guys even said you wanted to let her be an actress!!!! My mom and dad don’t believe in that. they won’t even give me lessons!!! This goes to show that sick kids are loved far more than healthy kids.

  8. Paul, Susan and Justin,

    Just stopping in to say hello. It’s been a little while since I have stopped in.
    My thoughts are with you and your family this coming Holiday Season. Thanks again for Ashley’s story and sharing her with so many. God Bless you and your family.

  9. Paul, wow it has been so long since I talked to you guys. I don’t know how I ran across Ashley’s page but it poped up on my window and I read it all over again last night. She was just a bit younger than my daughter Kerri. You may not even remember us but my daughter raised money back then and we drove it to The parkers for Johnathan and Kerri got to play with him for a while at the Parkers house and we even went to his funeral. Ashley’s memory will always live on… what a wonderful girl she was. I ended up having another daughter and she was born the same year that you guys lost Ashley….. I am a grandma now too… wow how time flies. Hope all is well with you. I could not find your e-mail address so this was the only way I could message you. It’s good to see cancer kids is still up and running… so much good came from Ashleys illness. Love you guys bunches, Terri Scott

  10. I AM TOUCHED BY HER STORY. MY SISTER DIED IN 82 OF BREAST CANCER. BUT THE ONE THING THAT REALLY TOUCHES ME IS THAT SHE WAS BORN ON APRIL 27, 1987. THAT IS ALSO MY BIRTHDAY AND THE SAME YEAR ONE YEAR LATER THAT I HAD MY FIRST BACK OPERATION SO I DO HURT BUT THIS HITS HOME. ASHLEY AND I HAVE THE SAME BIRTHDAY I WILL REMEMBER HER THIS APRIL AS I HAVE MY 41ST BIRTHDAY AND HAVE A BRIEF SECOND TO REMEMBER HER. I AM SORRY FOR UR LOST BUT SHE IS FINE NOW AND NOT HURTING THATS THE BEST. AND SHE IS HOME.

  11. Wow!!!!!!!!!!! What an awsome story, I love how god does precious things for our lifes. I survived a car acccident when i was 7 ,luckily i am alive when i was unconcious after that tragical accident, but my mom just had a lot of faith in god and I know in my heart i did too, and still do . well i read this story about your precious princes and i just got so touched by it because it is those of us who suffer things like that who understand that pretty good. i also was 8 years( had berly gotten better form my accident) when i told a friend of mine who was an old men that all he had to do to be cured from his sickness was to have faith so he did and he entered eternal rest the next day after i spoke to him, I spoke in the words of god i believe because i don’t remeber what i told him but my mom told me that i said, ” it is up to god whether you live or you die but you just need to ask him to cure you.” So that day after i spoke to him his wife called my mom and she asked me when my mom and i went over to her house what did you do to him becasue he woke up this morning better and in the after noon he just closed his eyes as if he went to sleep but i found out he was dead.

  12. I am so sorry for your loss. I am the other side of the Atlantic and I can sense that Ashley is still with you. Bless you and your dear family, your website is an amazing tribute to an amazing and beautiful daughter. Your ability to find the words and put them down is incredible, your little girl is looking down on you very proudly. Thank you for sharing this.

  13. I am asking all of my friends (and friends of friends) to help me support a child cancer foundation that I really believe in.

    It is a facebook contest at http://bit.ly/crkrEE and the name of the foundation is called The Seany Foundation (their site is at http://www.theseanyfoundation.org/).

    Seany died of Ewing’s Sarcoma cancer a few years ago and he was a teenager. I knew Seany and promised his family I would help where I could. Chase Bank is having a charity contest ending in about 6 days and if you could VOTE (it is free to vote) with your facebook account AND post it to your facebook wall, I would really, really appreciate it. http://bit.ly/crkrEE

  14. I, too, stumbled upon this website as I hunted for the song “God Bless You, Go With God”. I was touched by Ashley’s life….my own daughter, Caitlin, born the same year. I liked what you said about cancer not winning. Ashley did. God did. Oh, if only everyone would recognize that! Trusting in God is NOT in vain! When He has HIS way, everyone wins. When we take our own way, no one wins. I know you miss her. That will never change. (I had a close cousin die in a car wreck at age 15…we didn’t have time to say goodbye…I’ve never stopped missing her.)
    My daughter is not saved…but I know God has His scopes on her! You have treasure in Heaven like no other. To take my children to Heaven is my ULTIMATE goal! You have already done that for Ashley. To God be the Glory.
    Ashley, you were and still are loved. Rest in Peace that passes understanding.

  15. hi paul, susan and justin
    I just came accross your website and i was amazed at what you all have been through together as a family. your daughter ashley was truly an exceptional human being and so young as well,she was only a child.she is an inspiration to everyone and especially to anyone going through this horrific disease,whether they are young or old.I thank god every day that my children 2 boys age 16 and 14 are well and healthy and am forever grateful that they are not going through this awful disease. sadly we lost my mother in law in 1997 aged 61 and more recently my father in law in 2011 aged 74 both to cancer,he only lived 2 months from when he first felt unwell. for you all it probably still feels like it was only yesterday no matter how fast time goes by,it never goes away,its a void thats always there. your daughter Ashley was so brave and determined, you all must be so proud of her and her will to live was just amazing,I love the way you say that cancer didnt beat her she beat it,I never really thought about it like that,I think most of us think of the cancer beating the person when they die,thats a comforting thought.I think everyone thats seen your website has learnt a great lesson,I’m so glad I came accross it.I wish you, your wife and your son Justin all the best for a bright future and i’m sure I will think of you often.Rest in peace Ashley.

  16. Paul, I just listened to the amazing lyrics of “Until Then” and I can’t imagine how much strength it took to put them to paper…let alone, sing them, even if they did come easily to you while driving. I feel so bad I didn’t know about Ashley until now…I don’t recall you ever mentioning her while we were associated with WUGNET.

    Now, understanding your perspective of everything and how you have not only come to grips with this…but learned so much from it, is comforting. So now I’m going to add one more thing to my own bucket list…”Learn how to be as courageous and inspiring as Paul O’Rear”. Thank you, my friend!

    • Thank you so much, Larry. I sincerely appreciate your words of encouragement. I think, however, that I am not the Paul O’Rear you are thinking of. I know that Paul O’Rear, though. He has worked for Microsoft for a number of years, and was involved with Microsoft Help even before he started working for the company. Years ago he and I lived about 20 miles apart and got together before he moved to talk genealogy.

      I am honored to connect with you and to become the second Paul O’Rear to call you “friend”. God bless you, and thank you again for your encouraging words.

      • Well, my words are no less sincere. In fact, I’m even more moved that someone I only “thought” I knew could make such an impression on me. Thus, my bucket list shall remain unchanged 🙂

        When I was co-owner of WUGNET all the folks who volunteered in the CompuServe forums in those days were pretty much names without faces, so hence, my mistaken identity. Regardless, I’ve enjoyed your blog and tweets and I’ll continue to do so. It’s always nice to read a voice of reality amidst all the dribblings out there today 🙂

        And FWIW, I’m also an author (of primarily children’s stories…many years ago), and I play the guitar, write music, and sing. So perhaps there’s more in common than we thought 🙂

        • Thank you, Larry. I am honored and humbled beyond words. What’s really crazy is that I have a brother named Mark O’Rear, and so does “the other Paul O’Rear”. I’m really glad we have connected, and I look forward to further exchanges. God bless you, my new friend!