By Ralphine Major

The heartbeat of their home was now gone.  It was July 2005 when a young mother’s life was snuffed out by cancer, and Rhonda Julian was called to her heavenly home.  Brian, her bereaved husband,  was left with their four young children ranging in age from 6 to 12 years.

In a chance encounter, we saw the Julian family when they came into the Chick-fil-A Restaurant.  They did not know us, but Laura did.  Laura Simpson is Brian’s only sister.  She and her husband, Bruce, are parents to Will and Luke who appeared in a picture with Inky Johnson when I wrote a column about the author, motivational speaker, and former University of Tennessee football player (Focus, 2-4-13).  I was amazed to see this dear family we had heard so much about during their heartbreaking loss.  After awhile, Laura came over to our table.  She quietly pointed out each member of the family as they enjoyed the moment with each other.

Hannah Renee Vrandenburgh had become Brian’s wife.  Though she brought no children into the marriage, she had much in common with the four Rhonda left behind.  Rhonda had been a mentor to Hannah Renee, whose mother was battling breast cancer.  Hannah’s mother passed away just one year before Rhonda.  After her mother’s death, Hannah continued homeschooling her siblings just as her mother had done.  She would also homeschool Hannah Grace and Faith until high school.  I was thinking such a hectic lifestyle was a bit overwhelming for the petite blond.  But, Laura assured me it was not.  Hannah was fourth in a family of twelve siblings, so she had grown up in a large family.

The four Julian children were growing up.  The tall young man wearing a ball uniform was Caleb; Andrew was at another ball practice that day.  Two little family members were sitting with Hannah Grace and Faith.  They were Brian and Hannah’s youngest children—Deborah who was then four and Seth who was one.  Even the two youngest have special family bonds.  Deborah is named after Hannah Renee’s mother.  Seth shares his birthday with Brian’s grandmother, “Granny Taylor.”

The Julian family was growing in many ways and so, too, was the love encircling them.  Hannah Renee sums it up best in her comment about their stories:  “It reminds us all over again how tenderly God has held us all.”  (Read Part III in a future column as this special family’s faith and strength is tested yet again.)

Picture of Brian and Hannah at their wedding rehearsal in 2006 provided by Hannah Julian.