A Time to Dance.

DSC_0117It’s impossible for me to think about dancing without thinking about Ian.

When we were little, my Mom and Dad used to have us kids [at the time, just Ian, Stephen and I] clean up the kitchen after dinner. This inevitably took worlds more time than would have otherwise been necessary, because somewhere between clearing and rinsing, one of us would begin to sing. Before anyone knew what had happened, we were busting out three part harmonies and singing our little hearts out, dancing around the kitchen with reckless abandon. We watched a lot of old musicals growing up [Singing in the Rain was a favorite], and I think we just thought treating the kitchen as a stage was entirely normal. I remember one of our favorite songs to sing:

Heaven is a wonderful place

Filled with His glory and grace

I want to see my Savior’s face,

Because Heaven is a wonderful place.

It was the first song we ever learned a three part harmony to, and we couldn’t sing it enough because we thought that we were straight-up-awesome. Lest I mislead you to believe that we were particularly spiritual children, I ought to confess that if we’d learned “Apple Bottom Jeans” first, that probably would have been our song of choice. But it happened to be a song about heaven.

I remember the day that I learned how to swing dance. I came home and immediately made Ian and Stephen dance with me in the kitchen for hours—Ian was mesmerized. IMG_1672My brothers loved knowing that they could flip their big sister around-and everybody knows that it’s better to drop your sister head first onto the tile floor instead of a middle school honey that you’re trying to impress. [And let’s be real—Ian was always trying to impress middle school honeys.]

Dancing quickly became one of Ian’s very favorite things to do. We spent many high school afternoons dancing in the kitchen as I would teach him new turns and flips that I’d learned. When he hit college, the student surpassed the teacher as he went on to participate in competitive ballroom dancing. He loved it-in fact, he had excitedly promised to teach my Dad and I how to waltz for my wedding.

Ian never got to teach Dad and I our dance. He’d roll his eyes if he knew that Dad and I watched a YouTube tutorial in the kitchen a couple of days ago, and then promptly decided that we could simply wing it. I wish more than anything that he could have been there to teach us, or that Ian and I could have had the dance he promised me at my wedding. He was so excited for March 2nd.

The past months and weeks have been full of mourning for my family. We mourned the loss of Ian’s health with an abrupt cancer diagnosis. I mourned that night as I rushed to the hospital with the large pizza he’d asked for, barely able to read the words “Cancer Hospital” on the doors through frightened tears. Barely able to believe them.  I mourned the nights that I spent wandering the hospital halls with Ian as he got his exercise—the kid who literally would run circles around me on runs together had trouble shuffling along for more than a couple of minutes. [I would do DSC_0447lunges as he walked—telling him that he wasn’t challenging me enough. :)] We mourned when we had to settle for a fake Christmas tree at Christmastime because he was too sick to have a real one in the house. We mourned the loss of his curly “white-man-fro” the day that we shaved his hair off in the same kitchen we used to dance in. For the past several weeks, we have mourned-[is there a stronger word?]- as his body deteriorated more than I ever thought possible—and the boy that used to pick me up and do curls with me became the boy that could barely squeeze my hand. I have been overwhelmed by suffocating, numbing grief as I spent too many hours to count sitting by his bed, holding his hand in room 17 of the ICU. “ Ian, I’m here. Ashley’s here. I love you so much. You’re doing a good job, buddy. You look great! We’ve got this. I love you so much. I’m so proud of you.” Over. And over. And over again.

I prayed for him. I sang to him. I read him emails from sweet friends. I played a twenty second clip of his acappella group singing “Lean on Me” to him at least a thousand times—holding my phone up against his ear to make sure that he heard.

You may not have ever known my brother [and oh, I wish you could have!], but he’s never been a “mourning” kind of kid. In fact, I’ve never known someone so full of life-always moving, always singing, always joking and telling Emily’s dog how much he hated him and banging out new songs on the piano and complaining about girls and dancing. He looked like he might burst at any second from pent up energy and joy!

If I could change this, I would. If I could bring my little brother back, I would—I’ve never pictured my wedding day or the rest of my life without him. I still can’t. Poor kid,IMG_1431 I don’t know how many times I made him play “wedding” when we were little—it’s certainly a scene he would have been very familiar with. But somehow, in all of His goodness and sovereignty, God chose to take Ian home. I hate it. I don’t want it. I don’t understand it. All I know is that God never changes-even when white blood cells and lungs do. When eyelashes are gone and breath is labored, God is still good. When skin is pale and the only sound you hear is the steady rush of a ventilator in a dark room, God is still good.  When hands can no longer be squeezed, when you realize that your kids will never grow up knowing Uncle Ian, when you get home from the hospital and walk into his room just to try and smell him—God is not doing what we want Him to, but God is good even then. He is incapable of being anything else.

I don’t know much. I just know that the first day I got to see Ian in the ICU, I cried over his broken body and begged God to let me switch with him. I fervently meant every word—if you’re a big sister, you understand. You protect. You take the hit. I begged God to let me climb into that ICU bed—stick the vent down my throat instead! He’s too little. I can do it.

I begged, and very distinctly heard Jesus say, “Ashley, I already switched places with Ian.”

While I mourn the fact that my baby brother is gone, I know that God loves him with an intensity that I could never match. I know Ian’s having a BALL right now—there are no tears for him! [And vain thing that he was, I’m sure he’s excited to have his hair back.] And I know with absolute certainty what Ian would say if he could talk to me right now. He’d cock his curly head to the side, raise a sarcastic eyebrow at me, grin, and tell me to go dance like I meant it. Yesterday was the worst day of my whole life—but it was the BEST day of Ian’s. He got to go home.

DSC_0035And so I choose to celebrate. I celebrate every minute of the 21 years and 187 days that I got to be his big sister. I celebrate his life. I celebrate the beautiful truth that Ian knew Jesus, and is in heaven right now—and I get to tackle hug him the second that Jesus takes me home.

Ian loved me, and he loved Kellan. Two days before he was rushed to the ICU, we sat around making a list of all of the things he wanted to do after he’d beaten Bessie. [Something he never questioned would happen.] The very first thing out of his mouth was, “I want to come visit you and Kellan and go see a Broadway show in NY.” The very last time that he smiled was when my Mom told him that Kellan and I had just picked out our wedding bands. March 2nd is not a time for mourning—Ian would HATE that, and that would not be an accurate picture of what March 2nd signifies. God has done something beautiful in bringing Kellan and I together, and Ian was a part of it. He would want us to celebrate. And celebrate, we shall.

If you’re coming to our wedding on Saturday, you may think it’s ill timed. You may feel odd, but as my Dad mentioned to me just last night, we believe that God timed this exactly how he wanted it. We are devastated and overjoyed all at the same time—and what a sweet thing to have so many people that have loved us and prayed for us through this roller coaster ride come together over the next couple of days! You are the people that have walked with Kellan and I through our relationship, and through cancer. You will walk us through the coming months and years-and words cannot describe how grateful we are for you. We’re excited to see you. We’re excited to dance with you!

Baby brother, I miss you so much it hurts. I will every single day for the rest of my life—every single time I sit down at the piano or watch Singing in the Rain or go dancing or do anything at all. I’m so glad that you don’t hurt any more—that you have your curly hair back, and that you get to watch everything happen as Kellan and I promise each other for better or for worse.  There is so, so much joy in that—and I know you share it. Dance in heaven while we’re dancing down here—I just can’t wait to dance with you again. :) I love you forever.

There is a time to mourn and a time to dance. -Ecclesiastes 3:4



Filed under Family, God's faithfulness, Ian

92 responses to “A Time to Dance.

  1. Ever since I met you at UQ I knew God was going to have great big plans for you. I hate the fact that this has happened to your family. You are all so sweet and loving and faithful and do not deserve this at all. Yet I know that God has already done incredible things through this story and there are more incredible things to come. Your little brother is home now. He is safe. He has lived faithfully and returned home peacefully. The faith of yourself and your whole family is so incredible. I cannot imagine how you must be feeling. I do know that you have a great family, a great God and Kellan who is absolutely perfect for you. Thank you for sharing your tears with us. We look forward to celebrating good times with you too.

    Love Karlee

    • David Welsh

      Hi Ashley, John and Cindy, and Stephen — From all of us here at ICSB who rememebr Ian, our prayers are with you. We mourn his loss with you, but we also celebrate with you his beautiful life and his joy. With love from everyone here in Budapest, David Welsh

  2. bdnp3827

    Your faith, grace, perseverance are so evident in this blog. I am so proud of the young woman of God you have become. I am so proud to see Him shining His light through you. And.. .you are right… Ian would want your wedding day to be full of joy and dancing. In fact, just maybe that has to do with the timing of this…. He wanted to be able to dance at your wedding!!! And he will be! Whole and well….dancing with his “big” sister as she celebrates one of the best days of her life!!!
    I am praying for you!
    Love you bunches!
    Becky DeWett


    As I read this through tears, I am in awe of God’s love and faithfulness! I woke up this morning praying for Ian, unaware of what occurred. May your faith and strength carry you through these next chapters of your life. God loves Ian more! So dance! Ian will be! Now and forever! Congratulations on your wedding and move. God’s timing is never ours but best. Much love and Respect!

    Kaimy Masse

  4. what a moving post Ashley. I’m so impressed by the way you and your family have held tightly to the Lord throughout this tragedy.

  5. carolinagoober

    Reblogged this on Taking the Cake and commented:
    This blog post speaks for itself. I met Ashley at the beginning of my college career at Campbell and we both ended up at UNC. She is someone I have always loved for her faith and strength. Please pray for her and her family today. Pray for Saturday as Ashley and her fiance Kellen celebrate their new life and Ian’s life at their wedding. And pray for the testimony to people they have and will touch daily, at the hospital, through Ashley’s updates, through their life story. And for the epic dance party that’s going to happen in heaven one day.

  6. Jesse Aughenbaugh

    There is a musician named Danny Oertli, and one of his albums is entitled, “The fight you’ll never lose.” If you listen to it, I believe it will be part of the encouragement that we have in Christ Jesus. Here is the title song, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZGJBoLQWec and if you want to hear the song he wrote to his daughter, after his first wife died of cancer, then listen to this, “Mommy Paints the Skies” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6P-sxgZ8eFg.

    I used to watch his daughter when they would visit Camp Id-Ra-Ha-Je, and meet them at D2Share and Thanksgiving Outreach in Denver, CO. I remember when I almost fell down the stairs after I received the call that she had died. Then, just barely over a year ago, I lost my own mother, for a while, to cancer. Bless you, and thank you for writing this testimony in the midst of your grief. From one grief to another, from one joy to another, it has been received. My favorite picture of my mother is of her dancing at my cousin’s wedding just a few months before she died.

  7. your words are so good and honor the immense tension that grief is. praying for much dancing and rejoicing this weekend, my friend.

  8. Jeanie Ganssle


    I don’t expect you to remember me or our family but we have known you since your families days in the Northeast and we have been praying for you and your family as you walk this road. Two of our children Nick and Lizzy have over the years been friends with Ian and we have had the joy of experiencing all that you have said of Ian in fact I believe I remember him dancing and singing in my kitchen in CO. Nick has wonderful memories of staying with your family in NC and enjoying going to school with Ian. I will be praying that on Sat you and your family will be able to live into the joy of your wedding. Thanks for writing such a beautiful tribute to Ian.

    Jeanie for the Ganssles

  9. Pingback: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus – This Sassy Salmon

  10. Sweet memories of your family fill my thoughts as I read this (smiling through tears). My heart aches, but we cling to certain hope. Loving you from afar today and through your special day on Saturday.

  11. JD


    You don’t know me and I don’t know you, but we’re sisters in Christ. I have a 22 year old brother that I love very much. I just wanted to thank you for allowing yourself to grieve, but never losing hold of the faithfulness of God. His sovereignty and His goodness go hand in hand. From across the world, I’m praying for you today and on Saturday as you marry the man of your dreams. May our Great God establish in you a peace that exceeds all understanding and a joy that overflows.

    Because of Jesus

  12. MGW

    I’ve never met you, or your brother – I’m just a fellow wolf-packie that stumbled upon your blog on Facebook, and read about the tragedy of your brothers passing. I never met your brother, but I spent an hour last night on you-tube listening to The Grains of Time, listening to your brother sing and dance like there’s no tomorrow (I like the knee-move the best). I was fascinated by the music, but also by his Facebook and the outpour of love and prayer he got from many people. This morning I’ve spent the past hour or so reading through your blog about his illness, your faith and the tragic end to an already heart-wrenching story.

    My biggest fear in life is that I won’t make an memorable or positive impact on someones life.. that I won’t be remembered. I’ve never met your brother, or you. But the lessons you have both taught me about faith, strength, and just celebrating life will stay with me for the rest of my life.

    I just wanted to let you know that your brother has made an impact on me (a complete stranger) that will never be forgotten.

    Thank you for that.


  13. John Pfefferle

    My prayers and blessings on you and your family in this most “paradoxical” crossroad of you and your family’s life. I can’t get my mind around God’s “plan” in this timing, but you should be included in the Book of Hebrews chapter on the “champions of faith”. I first read of this yesterday on my friends (the Bentley’s) face book page. There is no doubt (as a father of 2 daughters) that you WILL BE the most beautiful, glorious, (sanctified) and lovely bride that walks down any isle Saturday as you approach your future husband with your father by your side. And I know you will feel the Presence of your Heavenly Father being right there with us as well, and I know you will see your beautifully restored little brother, standing right next to an also smiling Jesus….waiting for you to say “I do”, so that Ian can say “I have waited for this time for one last dance that the Great I AM is allowing me to have with my big sis.” What an incredible young lady you are. I am humbled by your words and demonstration of your “fruit-producing faith”.
    Be as beautiful as your are precious child of God, for Saturday you are you are surely to have a heavenly audience.
    John Pfefferle

  14. Lezlee Sanders

    Heart wrenching wonder. Stunning. Exquisite. Weeping. Beauty. Another plain.

    A tear filled day of prayer for your family. Bending with you. We will rejoice on Saturday. And are smiling (through puffy, red eyes) for Ian seeing the beautiful glory of the Lord.

    Soul rest for your family,
    Mark and Lezlee Sanders

  15. Lindsey

    Ashley, I don’t even know you, and I only knew Ian from following your family’s story online as a fellow member of the Pack. This post has me in tears at work. The faithfulness, joy, and “finding the silver lining” in everything that you and your family has been through is astounding and inspiring. I can only wish that I could handle loss like this. God bless the Peterson’s and enjoy your wedding day.

  16. There are no words, you said it perfectly. Our hearts are knit with yours, as children of the King we suffer as Christ suffered and it will be worth it all when we see Jesus. Ian already has, and is known as He is known.

  17. viewfromthericksha

    I’ve been praying for your family since I heard a few weeks ago, and I was heartsick hearing the latest news. I’ll keep praying as you and your family both celebrate and mourn, cry and dance. Praying that God stays close regardless of which it is at the moment!
    ~Amanda Tyler

  18. I know you don’t know me at all… I saw a link to your blog on Facebook, because I am friends with Ashley Holleman, and he posted your story about Ian. I immediately knew I wanted to read it, because I’m also a “big” sister who lost her “little” brother to cancer. It happened so fast. On September 23, 2010, he was diagnosed with stage IV gastric cancer. On December 26, 2010, we said goodbye. I know I’ll see him again someday–but I hate it that the someday isn’t here. I never imagined life without him either. I guess I’m telling you all of this because I want to offer my friendship, or my listening ear, or the feeling that you’re not alone and that someone out there understands some of the feelings you might have. Or maybe I don’t understand, as each person’s grief process is unique and different. I do know that it has been helpful for me to be able to talk to others who have faced significant and huge losses. And if connecting with a current stranger could help you in any way, feel free to contact me.

    In the meantime, I hope your wedding is awesome. I have not come to that milestone yet–but if I could have, I would have had my brother walk me down the aisle. Now, I’m not quite sure who will have that role. That day will be a wonderful day, but it will be hard too, because I never imagined it happening without my little brother. And I have doubts that your day will be wonderful and tough as well. I am praying for God’s gentleness and loving care to surround you as you marry.

    • Correction: “And I have doubts that your day will be wonderful and tough as well” should read “And I have NO doubts that your day will be wonderful and tough as well.”

  19. Scott Goodspeed

    Ashley.. thanks for letting the Holy Spirit speak through you and reminding us that in Christ death is a temporary separation that precedes a great reunion. Kellan joins a great cloud of witnesses and I am certain he’s very excited to see you dance with abandon at your wedding.

  20. You and your family are absolutely beautiful. I have never met you and this is the first time I have stumbled upon your blog…but know that I am praying for you and will be thinking about you the next few days :)

  21. Kara

    Praying for you all with a tears today from Russia. May God continue to renew your vision of the reality of heaven, even as you grieve the reality of this fallen world.

  22. Robyn Eason

    Yes, sweet warrior child, God is indeed good, all the time. Your post is straight from the heart and I could hear your voice saying the words as I read them. I grieve with you in your loss and I celebrate your soon coming marriage covenant. Love to you from here. Robyn

  23. Lorn Apel

    Ashley, thanks for writing this so soon after Ian’s entrance into heaven. I’m praying for the wedding day; even though it will be hard, fun, awkward, fun, emotional, fun (did I mention it will be fun?) know that Ian will be looking down and smiling right alongside Jesus who will also be smiling. He may even help your dad with the waltz but I don’t know that for sure. I’m not sure how that all works up in heaven. Know that you will have the Apel household praying for you.
    Lorn Apel (Mr. Apel)

  24. You may not remember me, but I was a little girl in Mrs. Winget’s choir with you long ago in Hungary. I’ve found out through the grapevine about your family’s sorrow and this blog. I just couldn’t help but comment after reading this; I was so encouraged by your faith-filled words in the midst of this turmoil. You are dearly loved and cherished by the same Jesus you are choosing to trust… He is so very, very proud of you, and is making all things beautiful. Congratulations on your wedding; may you experience His love and compassion in fullness on that wonderful day. Richest blessings to you. Katy Hunt

  25. Jessica

    I have never met you before but my friend posted your blog entry on her FB page. I am fiends with Elizabeth & Ansley. When I first hear of your sweet brother and your upcoming wedding my heart went out to you. This blog entry is beautiful and a wonderful truth. I am happy to hear you will be celebrating your special day & I mourn with you for the loss of your brother but am so thankful for the gift of eternal life. You and your family are a witness to all with your faith & ability to see God’s goodness in the hardest of times. May The Lord comfort all of you & may you have a beautiful wedding celebration!

  26. corkagirl

    praying for you all ashley. your blog post was absolutely beautiful and it made me cry in joy and sorrow, joy for Ian and sadness for you all. But congratulations on your marriage. I pray the Lord’s blessings on you!!

  27. Maria

    I dont know you or your brother but I heard him sing one time and it was beautiful! This blog made me cry and I loved it. You are a lucky family to have each other and this is very moving and inspirational! I wish you all the best!

  28. James

    Ashley, this is such a great tribute to your brother. Loosing a sibling is hard, but just take joy in all the happy times you got to share with Him. Good Luck with you wedding!

  29. Becky Jorash Holt

    Praying for you and your family with tears but also hope! Your Facebook statuses asking for prayer in specific ways helped all of us know what to pray for at the right time, thank you for letting us be a part of that. Your blog is so encouraging! I pray the Lord’s peace and comfort for you and your family! Congrats on your wedding! May you feel Jesus rejoicing over you on that day as He rejoices over Ian in heaven! -Becky Jorash Holt (from years ago in Hungary, Danube, Mrs. Winget’s choir etc.)

  30. Gala

    Ashley, I’m very sorry for your loss.. I just got married, my husband and I have been walking through the valley right on.. so your story has touched our family. We’d like to send you a card if you could give us an address where it could go. Praying for your wedding and your family

  31. Dear Ashley,
    I doubt that you’ll know who I am, but our whole family has been praying for you and your family for months.
    We moved to Hungary in June of 2002, a couple of years before you all left. Our girls were in Mrs. Winget’s choir, and I taught your brother Stephen’s American Lit class his second semester (my first semester teaching at ICSB). I knew your parents only slightly, but I felt like I knew your Ian because our youngest daughter, Cassie, was in 7th grade with him your last year in Hungary, and our daughter Alli (in 8th grade that year) was his “leading lady” in the middle school musical, Pirates of Penzance. We’re all grieving with you right now, and many tears were shed today at ICSB.
    But I’m absolutely thrilled that your wedding will be taking place as planned on Saturday, and I can’t imagine anyone thinking it is ill-timed or awkward. I was praising God this evening as I read your post, thankful that someone of your tender years so obviously “gets it” – that God is good ALWAYS, not just when He does what we want him to do. What a wonderful attitude to exhibit as you and your sweetheart begin your lives together.
    We’ll be praying for you on Saturday and in the weeks and months ahead.
    Tina Curby

  32. David Nagy

    Thanks for sharing so beautifully from your heart. Your dad was on staff at UB when I was a student there, and a small-group leader of mine. I’m so sorry to hear of Ian’s passing, but encouraged by the truth and love you expressed in your post. I pray you have a fantastic wedding day!
    David Nagy

  33. Kimberly

    Ashley, your family is in my prayers. You had an amazing brother and he touched so many people’s lives. He lived more in his 21 years than most people do in a lifetime. I hope you have a beautiful wedding.
    Kimberly G

  34. Janel

    You don’t know me and I didn’t know your brother but a friend posted prayer requests and your blog on facebook so I was informed of your family situation. What a wonderful tribute to your brother and our Lord! Blessings on you and family as you celebrate on Saturday!
    Janel (Pennsylvania)

  35. Rebecca Lingenhoel

    Ashley, As I read this, the tears started to flow again. Thinking of you and your family through joy and sorrow and wishing you a special measure of grace today. Your testimony, your love for your brother, your ability to see the goodness of God through all of this will impact lives. Many, many blessings as you and Kellan take this next step of faith on Saturday.
    He turns our sorrow into dancing – over and over again.

  36. denise mcentee

    Beautiful. The love in your family is obvious. I think it’s fantastic that you are honoring Ian by continuing with your plans. It does not change how you feel about losing him. It definitely demonstrates that you respected him greatly and his wishes. I hope your family has an awesome day, you have an awesome wedding, and that yes, Ian will be having a party watching and blessing you all.

  37. Sheila Golden

    The most beautiful testimoy to God and family that I have ever read. I have no doubt that Ian will be with all of you as you and Kellan become one. God has blessed you all with strong and continuing faith………

  38. Rachel

    My younger, 21-year-old brother passed away last year. I cried myself through your blog, experiencing my own grief, as well as yours. I dread my brother not being there when I get married someday. I will be praying for you, your family and your wedding.

  39. Joan Parsons

    Ashley, I am praying for your family. I don’t know if you remember us but we were in Budapest during your time there. My brother passed away during our years there. Cancer too. His youngest child was 6 months old when he died. It was a very hard time for all of us. I know how it feels to lose a brother. :( The Lord was very sweet to us. And He will meet you in your grief.
    What amazing words you have shared in your blog. Please keep sharing your heart with us.
    Joan and Drew Parsons

  40. Tina H. Campbell

    I never had the privilege to meet Ian or you but I do know and grew up your Aunt Tina and your Mom and Grandma, Ian sounded like he was the BEST brother a sister could have! I would have loved to watch yall sing and dance in the kitchen.Your strength in the Lord will ever be etched in my mind. I am forever grateful to be able to read and peer into the life of Ian and you growing up and getting ready for your Wedding. I know that Jesus is looking down on your family and saying Well Done! Ian’s story has touch many lives and now reading your message you have touched mine. I know that you will be a Beautiful Bride and your brother will be beaming down the Love & Sunshine! I cant wait to see a video!
    God Bless You
    Tina H. Campbell

  41. Cora Lee

    Simply beautiful.

  42. Lori Tyus

    I go to summit and got your link thru a friend. i am so so deeply sorry for your loss. what a special brother and special bond you had. praise Jesus you WILL see him again thru eternity! you wrote.an.absolutely beautiful and glorifying testimony to the Lord through your pain. I laughed and cried.and prayed for you through it. may God bless you and you new.husband from day one. congratulations and I’ll be praying for you on Saturday. love to you and your family.

  43. Ellen

    I don’t know you. I never knew your special brother with the beautiful curly hair. But your message brought me to tears. I pray that God will give you special blessings on your upcoming wedding day….and that He will give you a special sign that Ian is smiling down on all the festivities as he rejoices over your joy in heaven.

  44. Thank you for sharing your beautiful testament of faith. Praising God with you and Praying for you and your family…

  45. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful testament of faith. Praising God for your Audacious Faith and praying for you and your family.

  46. Renae

    Wow!!! This is such a sweet thing . I know his it is too loss a family member and you memories are great ones. I lost my oldest brother 22 years ago and then my mom to cancer and my dad passed 19 days before my mom then I lost another brother 10 years ago a nephew 9 years ago he was 23 and then two months later my niece was hit by a car. Those children was my oldest sister’s kids. She suffered their loss for 8 years and I just presently lost her on September 7 2012 to puemoina. It is hard. You are a very sweet young lady and you enjoy your beautiful wedding day.God bless you and your family. My heart goes out to all of you.

  47. Brenda Albright

    I dont know you, i am praying for your family , My husband has stage four colon cancer no cure ,chemo just to have more time.i know your wedding will be a very happy day because there are holes in heaven and you brother will be smileing as you dance and dance your a awesome sister.I lost my little brother and like you i would have taken his place ,God knows what he is doing ,I know in the days a head you life will be footprints in the sand and he is going to carry your whole family. Bless you all enjoy your day he would have wanted that. My prayers are with you

  48. michelle

    Ashley, I was sent this from a friend. Her husband’s cousin goes to your church. I am a cancer survivor for 2 years now. I was 39 with stage 3 lymphoma and had a 3,9, and 12 year old children. I was determined not to leave my husband a single father or my kids without a mommy. Luckily for me that happened…but like your brother, my brother (passed at age 9) did not get more time and I am sorry. Feel comfort you have those beautiful memories and able to share your story. My brother steve passed 2 years before I was born so never new him. I finally felt his spirit embracing me through my cancer. He was there embracing every moment. It was truly amazing Ashley…I finally met my brother. I embrace each moment that were truly gifts through me having cancer to make since why is happened. I can see your faith will if it already hasn’t bring you there. Lifes journey is unknown and the roady is bumpy throughout our life. Look how far your brothers memory is going…to strangers who needed him Ashley. I am one of those. I am doing a fundraiser for cancer and it is amazing! I will send you information to look at…..this note is not AT ALL about donations Ashley, it is about the gift it is bringing me. It’s wonderful the money I have raised but more than that….the love that is helping my healing I still yet have. I am a team leader and have members under me..family,friends to help me spread my fundraising page to raise money. One of the friends I asked to help me by sharing as much or little she wants….Amanda. Amanda similar to you, lost her sister to breast cancer this year. She was YOUNG and left 2 little boys and husband behind. Amanda called me in tears the other day Ashley…her dad’s landloard gave our team $1000 in memory of her sister. She too, is feeling the love, the healing etc. through friends and family and leaning on each other through this. This has been so much more than raising money….helping us feel we make a difference I guess for our ones we lost, or the pain we ourselves went through as a cancer patient. This is the part I didn’t expect. Amanda thanked me for asking her to join the team and be involved. I told her that donation was a hug from her sister. not only did it make amanda feel good but their donor as well. We as a team are trying to give back from all that was given to us only to find out they still give to us. I want you to know why I am expalining this to you Ashley. I have been posting my fundraiser page on my facebook for about a month now asking friends donate donate….join my team help spread the word. I thought ok they are probably sick of me and we are fundraising until the end of June. So I thought I am backing off with asking so much. I have raised with my team 15,080 dollars as of now…that is how much support I have! But…Donna happened to send me your message and it hit my heart all over again. I felt like your brother was telling me not to give up because people may feel you annoying :0) I heard your story and thought you know what this is why I am pushing this because of stories like yours, amanda, me, my brother, my mom breast cancer survivor, my grandpa died of colon, amanda’s 6mth old nephew brain cancer….on and on I could go. So know my friend your brother lit my fire to continue to do as well as I have and not stop. Cancer isn’t going to. If I stop who will pick up the race? I thank you for your words. I thank you for sharing your words with others to let them know why we need to stop this and don’t ignore it……….be strong. Your brother touched me, you touched me to keep going strong and I will share your story on my facebook page to let people know this is why I fight. Those who choose to ignore because of tired hearing about sad stories etc. can just not look anymore but there will be ones I still need to touch. I pray for your healing, family, everyone, and for sure your brother is there with you dancing…….he will be with you on your wedding….dancing. I will leave my fundraising page so you can read all the stories. Look at my team members and look at my top fundraising team member Amanda…I have a feeling this was sent to me for you two gals to connect and heal adn share stories! http://www.coasttocoastforcancer.org/michelle
    God bless you!

  49. Cathy M.

    “Dance like you mean it.” ~Ian Peterson. I didn’t really know this young man, but I knew of this young man. It was because he danced. My son and I remember seeing him at North Hills on Thursdays during the Summer Beach Music Concert Series as he danced with his friends. My son (now 13) remembered meeting him along with several of his friends from this venue. This is the first time I have seen my son become emotionally overwhelmed with tears regarding the loss of someone he knew even if just briefly. I then began to recall this young man frequenting TJ’s Beach Club on Thursday evenings when the NCSU students would come in for some shag dancing. My boyfriend and I commented about his fancy feet (a unique way he had in his shag step) when he danced. I remember watching him often and thinking how wonderful it was that he and his friends were participating in social dancing at their age. I know your family is grieving and celebrating all at the same time. I have comfort in knowing that your family has our wonderful Lord and Savior to lean on. When I get to Heaven, I can say “Hey, I remember you. You’re that curly headed boy with the fancy dance feet!” ~Blessings and Comfort.

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  51. Thanks for sharing, what a great BIG sister Ian has, but more important, what a GREAT BIGGER God who Ian gets to spend eternity with. Have a wonderful wedding.

  52. Ashley,
    Words are so limited when speaking of a love so grand and forever as your love for Ian and God’s love for your whole family. I mourn and celebrate with you God’s choice of bring Ian home when He did. As you said, it has all been His timing. You and Kellan will be able to celebrate tomorrow because God celebrates you–and with you. And Ian will be part of that crowd of witnesses that celebrates from heaven. I really appreciate your courage in sharing so honestly and genuinely about your love for your brother, your heart to take his place. There is no greater love than that.

    I’m really praying you and your whole family will experience His joy tomorrow as you and Kellan become one. That you’ll be able to laugh and remember well the little brother that God gave you for a time. And I believe your kids will know their Uncle Ian because he will always be a part of your heart–a regular lord of the dance. Can you just imagine him teaching folks in heaven how to dance? Right alongside King David!

    Love, Dayle

  53. Ashley,
    Words are so limited when speaking of a love so grand and forever as your love for Ian and God’s love for your whole family. I mourn and celebrate with you God’s choice of bring Ian home when He did. As you said, it has all been His timing. You and Kellan will be able to celebrate tomorrow because God celebrates you–and with you. And Ian will be part of that crowd of witnesses that celebrates from heaven. I really appreciate your courage in sharing so honestly and genuinely about your love for your brother, your heart to take his place. There is no greater love than that.

    I’m really praying you and your whole family will experience His joy tomorrow as you and Kellan become one. That you’ll be able to laugh and remember well the little brother that God gave you for a time. And I believe your kids will know their Uncle Ian because he will always be a part of your heart–a regular lord of the dance. Can you just imagine him teaching folks in heaven how to dance? Right alongside King David!

  54. Starr Chauvaux

    Ashley, you are truly an amazing person. Congrats on your wedding and your family is in my prayers. Ian and I met a few years ago and became pretty close. I remember coming over to the house and meeting y’all and him saying how much he hated the dog. I will truly miss him but I will keep his spirit with me every day for the rest of my life.

  55. Michelle

    This really touched me. I’m so sorry for your loss. On your wedding day, your brother will dancing in heaven while your celebrating your marriage. You are so strong! You and your family are in my prayers!! God Bless!

  56. Nicole

    Your blog was shared on a blog that I follow…(by someone who knows your grandma). Your faith in God AMAZES me…and your strength. Praying for you tomorrow as you and Kellan start your new life together…Dance away.

  57. Steve

    Thank you for writing this! I pray that your wedding day will be as joyful as it can be!

  58. Ashley and all the Petersons – It’s been 11 years since I left Kiev but one never leaves the people from there. Your family has always been in my heart. I am crying and rejoicing with you today – and grateful to God that in His sovereign love that He chose it to happen exactly this way. May each day of your life be a little sweeter as your remember Ian and the ultimate joy he is experiencing for eternity. Soon we will see him face to face. Soon.

  59. Bonnie Raynor-Collins

    Ashley – I knew your Mom when she was a teenager. We are so sad to hear about Ian’s passing. We rejoice with you that he is with His heavenly father and I thank you for your beautiful tribute to his life. We will be with you in prayer as you marry and as you reflect on your brothers beautiful life.

  60. Abi

    Ashley, I don’t know you but I am humbled and blessed by your honesty and faith in your words here.

    I am in my first year of marriage, and I know that your wedding day will be blessed and beautiful and that your brother will have the absolute best seat in the house!

  61. What an incredibly touching tribute to your beautiful brother. Ian seems like he was such a special person who really lived life. I am certain he would have wanted you to have a beautiful wedding celebration tomorrow.

    We don’t know each other (I came from Becky Smith’s blog) but I would like to encourage you to take this story and submit it to magazines or even consider writing a book. It is very inspirational and could encourage many people I think.
    I pray that tomorrow will be a day of great joy and peace and celebration in the midst of your great sorrow and loss. And that you and your new husband will be blessed by God in your marriage

  62. Carlyn

    Ashley- I was directed to your blog by my aunt who was incredibly touched by your words. My little brother got to go to heaven this past May after battling cancer, and so in ways I guess I felt that your post about Ian was a lot of the words I’ve wanted to voice. Although it is super difficult for all of us here on earth, God has both of our brothers right where they belong. God is so faithful and loving even through something as terrible as cancer. Your brother sounds like such an amazing individual who was able to share his light with so many, and that is such a testimony in itself.
    This is one of my favorite quotes, and has helped me find hope in God’s timing over the past months:

    “Your journey has molded you for your greater good, and it was exactly what it needed to be. Don’t think that you’ve lost time. It took each and every situation you have encountered to bring you to the now. And now is right on time.”

    I have no doubt that Ian will be smiling and dancing right alongside you at your wedding! I will be praying for you and your family!

  63. Adam

    As yet another unknown connection through the grapevine of our social media connected world, I too was immensely touched by this moving tribute to your brother. I can’t imagine the intensity of the grief and pain you must feel, and yet, I so admire your courage and unwavering faith in the goodness of our Heavenly Father. My prayers are with you as you celebrate your wedding—thank you, for your life-giving words that remind us all that even in the midst of the deepest pain, the most heart-wrenching sorrow…there can be peace in knowing that Jesus never leaves our side. I can only begin to imagine how glorious the day will be when you embrace each other once again in Eternity. I am praying for you and your family and believing for His outstretched arms to continue to give you strength in all things.

  64. Dear Ashley, You have a perfect family so don’t worry just believe on God Power. God is really great and his power is so amazing. He will definitely hep you and your family. I am praying for you and your family. You make my smiling face through tears . Be happy and keep your family happy. Take care of your self and your family.

  65. Kathleen Ayres

    Dear Ashley,

    Joy and peace to you on this beautiful and blessed day. May the Light of God be with you as you take this step with your beloved. Let the love that your brother and you shared – with God, life and each other – shine through your whole being this, and every, day.


  66. Laura

    Ashley, I have never met you, but one of my facebook friends posted your blog and I read it yesterday. I just wanted you to know that I have been praying for you and your family. Your blog was so inspiring, and reminds me that no matter what happens in our lives, God is ALWAYS good and always loves us and has wonderful, special plans for each of us. I pray for peace, comfort, strength, wonderful memories and joy for your family and for a very blessed wedding day! I also pray you may find it a little exciting that you and your new husband will be experiencing many of your “firsts” (Easter, Christmas etc.) together as a married couple as your brother is enjoying all of his “firsts” with Jesus in Heaven :) Thank you so much for sharing your heart, for your encouragement and strength and for allowing God to use you to bless others as you are going through this very difficult time in your life.

  67. Cathy

    I just said a prayer for you and your family today — your special day. May God surround with his peace, comfort and love as you celebrate your marriage and Ian’s new home in heaven.

  68. Lori

    I am mama wise with 6 kids that LOVED dancin in the kitchen! I taught them all as babies on my hip to country music! You don’t know me but I really can’t wait to meet you and Ian and your whole family in Heaven! Come Lord Jesus Come! I pray for your wedding and your marriage that God will bless you mightly

  69. Sarah

    So many prayers for you today! What a blessed day as you go thru marrying your best friend and yet wishing for a dance with Ian. It is an extraordinary thing to realize the changes and know that God is in control and His best is not always what we hope for. I continue to pray for your family and pray for the peace to come in and calm and for you to look forward to a wonderful life with your new husband.

  70. Beyh

    I don’t know any of you except through a friend but I am so challenged by your faith in The Almighty and your trust in Him! I am also so excited about your marriage….you both realize how precious life is and will skip over the non-essential parts! Congrats! May you love as Christ loves you!

  71. michelle

    We don’t know one another, but I’ve been praying for your brother. I’m so sorry for your loss and so happy for your marriage. I wish you and your family all the best and comfort only God can provide. Thank you for being an inspiration to me.

  72. Nicole

    Dear Ashley,
    Your blog about your brother is so beautiful, it is literally filled with Gods grace! I know the pain, twice! My oldest brother, who took care of me, watched over me, was my confidant was taken home too soon as well. The day I walked down the isle my thoughts were of him and hoping he could see how happy I was, how much I wanted to dance with him at my wedding. Wishing he could be the uncle Andrew that my kids would have adored! He is still a part of my life and I talk to him and tell him how much I miss him! My youngest brother was my first best friend! We did everything together. I did dance with him at my wedding. My kids did get to know uncle David. So close they became in fact he was more of an older brother to them than an uncle. He missed his big brother too, so much that I think Jesus took him home as well so he could be with him. There were four of us. All within four years. We are all very, very close. It’s just me and my other older brother now. We have families and we are still all very close. I know Andrew and David are with me everyday and when I need to be sure, they let me know. Because of our love for one another, our love for Jesus, or love for God, we stay forever connected. God bless you on your journey through life and thank you for sharing your story.

  73. Alison Loder

    Your mother was spot on when she said you should be a writer. This is beautifully written and just shows how strong you and your family are. I am glad you were surrounded by all your friends and family this weekend and hope you enjoyed your day as much as you could. I continue to think of you all everyday. You have touched my life in so many ways, and I thank you for that.

  74. Beth Weaver

    I remember you guys swing dancing at my 50th birthday party…when I believe Marjorie recruited you. Give your Mom a big hug and have a good cry with her for me. Tears are so healing! I loved your brother…he was a delight and now my Mother who just moved to heaven was in the welcoming crowd and I’m hoping he is teaching her to swing dance so when I get there we can really rock the place. I was the nurse at ICSB that always gave you the shots for everything. He is now part of the great cloud of witnesses and I believe that whatever brings God glory, Ian will be watching. Kellan has himself a treasure and may you both serve the Lord with gladness. Grieve well and remember our Father in heaven saves each tear in a bottle.

  75. Susan Chabay Buchenberger

    That was so beautiful. You don’t not know me but I went to high school with your mom and Uncle Anthony. How precious the wonderful relationship you had with your brother. You were blessed to have each other, as all siblings do not share this much fun or love.

    I know you will cling to these wonderful memories and smile every time.

  76. Denise Pearce

    We have never met but I wanted to tell you that I am dancing for Ian!

  77. Megan S.

    You don’t know me, my sister was a friend of Ian’s and I only met him a handful of times. But the fact that I can’t even hold back tears when reading your beautiful words about your brother just shows how amazing he was. He touched so many lives and put smiles on the faces of everyone he came into contact with, even if it was just for a minute. You could feel his passion and energy about life just by being close to him and I’m so glad I got the chance to meet him.

    I can’t even begin to imagine the pain your family is feeling after losing Ian, but your outlook on the whole situation is truly inspiring and I hope that you all keep going with that spirit.

    Congratulations on your wedding day!

  78. Reblogged this on audreyfrailey and commented:
    Incredible perspective!

  79. colleen

    We met briefly, long ago in Ukraine. It’s beautiful to see the reality of God’s grace, evidenced in your faith and strength. We’re praying for your family.

  80. Kathy Kirk

    Ashley I don’t know if you remember me or not, I met you when we all attended The Summit and we were on the homeless outreach team.. I had my friend who teaches salsa to come teach one night and we all had so much fun.
    I am sorry about your loss, however I am glad that Ian is no longer in pain. We know where he is. I am so happy for you and Kellan. God Bless you and your family during this time

  81. Jenny

    I was so touched by your story. My friend shared it on her facebook page. I have three children two boys and a girl and they spent half of their lives dancing together. I am glad you still carried out your Wedding Plans. I know your brother was there with you in spirit and am confident that you will dance with him again. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Jenny Ross

  82. Jen Thompson

    I’m late clicking over from Google Reader to leave a comment. Look how your story and your walk with Jesus is impacting others. Thanks for being willing to share your trials with us. So glad our paths got to cross at the Summit.

  83. Came across this from a friend’s recommendation. Thanks for sharing and processing your journey here, Ashley. We are blessed by you allowing us to enter in.

    May God met you where you are in your grieving.

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