Tabby & Punch

On Saturday, February 13, a hotel ballroom in Tulsa was filled with family, friends, church members, and medical caregivers who had come together to celebrate the life of Tabitha Hansen.  It was a diverse group of people from several different states.  The common thread that tied them all together was that Tabby’s life had touched every single one of them in a very significant and powerful way.  Some people had known Tabby for her entire life.  Others of us had only known her for a relatively brief period of time, but her influence made a lasting, positive impact just the same. 

Tabby had bravely battled cancer since June of last year.  After her initial diagnosis, she went through an extended, aggressive series of treatments which resulted in her doctors declaring her to be cancer free.  A week later, she was back in the hospital, this time with a diagnosis that the cancer had spread to her brain.  Next came the news that it was in her spine. 

Tabby’s battle with cancer was not a consuming fire; it was a refining fire, a fire that revealed just how precious her life was, how strong her will and character were, and what she was made of: faith, grace, dignity, strength, courage, compassion, and humor.  In 25 years of ministry, I have spent time with countless people who were terminally ill, but I have never witnessed anyone who fought so hard while enduring so much as Tabitha did over the last few months.  She had what I would describe as a spirit of spunky determination.  She never spoke in terms of loss or defeat.  I never once heard her gripe, complain, or feel sorry for herself.  When she learned that chemotherapy was going to take away her long, beautiful hair, she basically said, “No, I’ll lose my hair when I choose and on my own terms.”  So, she had her hair cut and donated it to Locks of Love as a gift for someone else. 

Tabby’s hospital room was like a shrine to the things that were important in her life: her faith, her husband Cory, her family, her friends, her horses, her dogs, and Oklahoma State University.  Her bed was crowded with stuffed horses and dogs, each of them given a special name by Tabby.  When talking was no longer comfortable, and then no longer possible, she still communicated amazingly effectively, using sign language to indicate her pain level or to say, “I love you.”  She could still do her “Elvis lip curl” and would give you a “pinky wave” as you entered or left the room.  

While Tabby’s entire family surrounded her with limitless love and tireless care, her mother Sherrie has been a special beacon of light and source of inspiration.  Her Facebook status updates would regularly include the proclamation, “God Is So Good!”  In a message last week, Sherrie wrote, “I have no regrets with my daughter Tabby and her life here, and now at home with the LORD.  She is in a much better place, and I am leaning on God’s understanding with all of this.  He knows what is best for all of us and will not give us more than we can handle.  I have an inner peace that I KNOW God is placing in my heart.  There are tears, but only for me…not for her.  I am going to miss my daughter, friend, business partner, and sister in Christ so much!  Time and God will bring healing.  I trust in HIM!”   

Sherrie and the rest of the family wanted the event on February 13 to be a celebration, and they succeeded in a wonderful way.  The ballroom was decorated with several displays of photographs and memorabilia from Tabby’s life.  A photo slideshow covered her earthly journey from beginning to end.  There was a catered barbeque dinner and a country/gospel band to provide music for the occasion.  A group of singers from the Broken Arrow church sang several of Tabby’s favorite songs of faith and praise.  Tabby’s uncle Ken Church, Scott Keele, and I were privileged to share a few thoughts and remembrances.  It was a true celebration of Tabby’s life. 

Thank you, Tabby, for touching so many lives in such a special way.  Thank you for giving us something to celebrate.