Last week we returned from a trip we never expected to make.

When we arrived in Kenya last year, just before midnight on Friday, October the 13th, we came expecting challenges.

Moving across the world with a newly-ambulatory 15-month-old. Navigating a new language and culture. Working at a hospital with limited resources to treat people with limited resources.

We prepared our hearts.

But we were not prepared for the message we received from my sister November 29th, just after 1:00 AM.

“Bruce is in the ED. His speech is altered. Ataxia was so bad I had to carry him into the ED as he could hardly walk and was falling over…They found a mass on the CT in the cerebellar area. Peds oncology is admitting him…”



When we had left, our nephew Bruce was a perfect 5-year-old boy with a head full of red curls. The last thing he had done before we left Kentucky was lure Clark down into our basement to search for treasure in my dad’s old Ukranian cigar chest.


Within 24 hours of that text, Bruce was diagnosed with DIPG–an aggressive brain tumor that is uniformly fatal. It usually takes the lives of affected children 6-9 months after diagnosis. In the US, less than 300 people a year are found to have DIPG. It is a one in a million diagnosis.


In December our family returned to Kentucky for two months. During this time Bruce completed palliative radiation and most symptoms disappeared.


Last month we returned again.


Clark, Robin (Val’s sister), Val, April (Val’s sister), Bruce, Matt (April’s husband), and Jack (Bruce’s brother)

I again felt Bruce’s warm hand on my arm as he sipped some juice. He told us he loved us. Over the course of a week he became unresponsive. He died in his parents’ arms 8 months and 7 days after diagnosis.


Last week we returned home to Kenya.

My heart aches.

There is so much to say, but I can’t find the words.


“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.”

Job 19:25



Bruce’s family: Fred, Robin, Patrick, and Jack

8 thoughts on “Returning

    • I don’t have the words either, Val, to say how sorry I am that this horrible thing has happened to your family. All my love, Lynndy Baldridge


  1. Death is especially difficult to adjust to when it is a distortion of the expected sequence of generations I hope the wounds of this tragedy heal quickly Papa

    Sent from my iPhone



  2. Val, my heart breaks for you, Robin, Patrick, Jack and family. Your major move, the death of your mom and now Bruce’s death. You have all been through so much. I read Robin’s Facebook writing about her search for God. My heart grieves that she’s not able to connect with His Spirit to know and experience how much He loves her. My prayer is that Bruce’s death will be used to bring them all to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I know you’ve spent much time talking with Robin and your dad. I pray that those seeds will begin to grow and sprout. I know your dad was very close to Bruce and that he’s grieving along with the rest of you.

    I love your Posts. You and Robin both have such a gift in writing. I wish all you girls had lived closer to us and that we would have had more opportunity to get to know all of you better.

    I’m doing very good since surgery. I am scheduled for a second surgery on November 14th. The plastic surgeon is basically going back to finish up what was started. This should only be about a 3 hr. surgery (compared to the 9 hr. surgery previously). He said it will be a day surgery and that I should only miss about one week from work. I will be glad when all of this is over.

    We are planning to go to the family reunion the end of September. It will be good to see the family. I’m hoping that Jodie and Kirsten will go as well. The family is making a big effort to get the younger generation out to this event.

    You, Clark and Hannah are in my prayers. Keep the letters coming. I look forward to reading them. Love you all, Aunt Sharon

    Sent from Mail for Windows 10


  3. I am so sad, so sorry, so broken for all you darlings! May God wrap His loving arms around each of you and be your strength only for this next step, then the next… I so look forward to meeting this handsome little warrior one Day! 💟✝️💟


  4. Val, thank you for sharing your heartbreaking news with us. It is especially difficult when you are so far away and not able to be with those you love. And I expect it was hard for you to go back to Kenya again. Thankfully you have a strong faith and you trust in our Father God. He has led you to serve there and He will sustain you as you live. I actually have purpose in writing you so that you can share something with your sister. A friend’s daughter lost a baby to a miscarriage and then lost an infant son about two months after birth. She has and incredible Christ honoring blog that she began over a year ago when they lost the first baby. In it she share the deep sorrow of her heart and her very real passion for Christ in a way that is comforting those who have experience similar loss. She is about to give birth any day now and they are also adopting. Life is changing yet again. You and your sister might be blessed by it. I follow her on Instagram because I am not on Facebook. Her name is Jamielynndorr and her posts are public. I pray they will be inspiring to you both.

    May God wrap His strong arms around you and your family! Blessings, Teresa Bachman



  5. Clark and Val, my heart aches with you guys just reading through your update and having followed along on Facebook. I am praying for healing for you all.

    Psalm 46:1-10



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