*Trigger Warning: Cancer, death of a parent*
Everyone chooses to attend Cedarville University for a variety of reasons. For some, it’s the close-knit community, for others, it’s the reputation of one of the academic programs, and still others, there are many more reasons. Why did I choose Cedarville? Well, my answer is very unique and complex, but the boiled-down version is simply this: to continue healing from a traumatic event in my past. There’s been a lot of pain and grief from said event, but through it all, the Lord has been so faithful and has been there for me and my family. My name is Jillian Basner, and this is my story.
To explain why I chose to attend Cedarville, I have to go all the way back to the very beginning. Both of my parents met at Cedarville and graduated in 1998, Mom with a degree in piano pedagogy, and Daddy with a biblical studies degree. They got married a couple months later. They moved to California where my father attended seminary, and then they moved back to Cedarville in 2001 so my father could be the RD of Lawlor Hall. I was born on August 2, 2002, and lived in the RD apartment in Lawlor Hall for the first few months of my life before we moved to Waldoboro, Maine, in 2003 so my father could serve on the leadership team at First Baptist Church of Waldoboro. I was blessed with a younger brother on October 16, 2004.
In late 2005, the year I turned 3, my father started having mysterious health issues. He went to the doctor, they ran some tests, and in December of that same year, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. He went through chemo and radiation for a year and half and was declared cancer free in early 2007. A couple months later, however, he got sick again, and after more tests and scans, the doctors found Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, another type of blood cancer. While my father went through various treatments, my paternal grandmother passed away from leukemia in late August of 2008, and my mother was also diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that same summer. Just 11 months after my grandmother’s death, my father went home to be with the Lord on July 24, 2009. I was just 6 years old about to turn 7, and my younger brother, Josiah, was only 4 ½.
My mother went through various health issues in the following years after that, which I’ll spare you the details of as I’d like to respect her privacy. In June 2013, we moved to Claremont, New Hampshire, where my grandparents live to be closer to family. Mom continued to face health issues at times, but it was so awesome to live two minutes down the street from my grandparents and attend the church where my grandfather served as a pastor. While attending this church, my mother served on the small orchestra team there, and that’s where she met a man who would later play a bigger role in our lives. In February of 2016, this man asked my mom out, and she said yes. They dated for about seven months (yes months), and he proposed to my mom in early September of that same year. She said yes, and they got married on September 17, 2016. We moved into the house he lived in in Nelson, New Hampshire, a week later, and have lived there ever since.
It wasn’t until I first started attending Cedarville that I was asked if it was hard to watch my mother get remarried. Perhaps you’re wondering the same thing. My honest answer to that question is: no. The reason why is because, starting just weeks, if not days, after my father’s death, my brother and I asked Mom if we would have a dad again. She told us she didn’t know but suggested that we pray about it. I prayed for about seven years, and I now have a wonderful stepdad who lets me talk openly about my father and takes care of all of us. It wasn’t hard to watch my mother get remarried, because I had prayed for a new dad for so long.
Looking back now, I can see how perfect God’s timing was in that season of my life. When Daddy was sick, I sometimes took care of him in little ways, such as getting him a glass of water so he wouldn’t have to expend what little energy he had by doing it himself or pulling his oxygen tank for him while he walked around. I also took care of my mother in small ways when she faced health issues of her own. While her health issues did not resolve as soon as the wedding happened, she got a lot better within a few months. However, my brother and I no longer shared 100% of the responsibility of taking care of Mom when she wasn’t feeling well, because my stepdad could help in some ways, which, I’ve come to believe, is one of the reasons God brought him into our lives. Mom took care of us all those years — it was time that someone took care of her in ways that Josiah and I couldn’t.
I’m not sure I fully understood the concept of death at the time of my father’s death, and when I started attending Cedarville I realized I hadn’t necessarily fully processed his death in general and my emotions surrounding this traumatic event. From the time of his diagnosis to the day of his death, I was still learning what emotions were, much less how to deal with them. And then these impossible circumstances were shoved in my face in the midst of trying to figure it out. But I am always comforted by the fact that I will see him again in Heaven one day. As Wanda said in WandaVision, “We’ll say hello again.”
Why I Chose to Attend Cedarville University
When I was a child, I didn’t want to attend Cedarville, but it wasn’t because I felt bitter about my father’s death and was afraid of facing pain and confusion all over again. It was simply because my parents had gone there, and I wanted to be my own person and do my own thing. I wanted to go to a different college or university than my parents had. However, my senior year of high school, the Lord worked in my heart, and the very reason I never wanted to come in the first place is part of the very reason I decided to come after all. I wanted to attend Cedarville University because I was seeking answers as to how my father’s illness and death affected me, and I wanted to feel closer to my father.
In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Peggy Carter once said, “All we can do is our best, and sometimes the best that we can do is to start over.” I know I did not handle all the emotions and trauma of my father’s death perfectly, but I know I did my best, and in a way, I did start over. Attending Cedarville allowed me to go back to the beginning, where my life first started. Over the past two years, I’ve discovered so many things that I struggle with related to my father’s death that I never realized while living at home. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family, but based on my experience, I think college allows you to learn about yourself because you’re in a new, unfamiliar setting, and you’re beginning life as a young adult.
Cedarville University is more than an excellent Christian school with a close-knit community of believers all coming together to love God and others and put forth integrity and excellence in all they do. For me, Cedarville University represents a safe, comforting space for me to process my trauma, heal my wounds, and continue moving forward in faith. There have been many times when it was hard to stay at Cedarville because I sensed my father there and I wanted to leave, yet it has also been such a comfort being there because my father was there. While I’ve gone through many trials and tribulations that have made me want to leave, I wouldn’t trade them for anything, because the Lord has used them to heal and grow me. For those of you who have had similar experiences as I have, I want to encourage you with this: You are not alone. God is with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you, and He loves you. With God, nothing is impossible. If He can heal a broken, wounded, traumatized woman like me, He can do the same for you. God is not finished with me yet, and He’s not finished with you. There is purpose for your pain. As the Scriptures say in Psalm 147:3, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
Year & Major: Junior, English
Favorite Music Artist: Jeremy Camp, For King & Country
Favorite Quote: It’s hard to pick a favorite, but one of my favorites is, “You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”-Christopher Robin in Pooh’s Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin
What do you like to do in your free time? Reading, writing, cooking, baking, playing the piano, playing the guitar, spending time with friends and family, visiting coffee shops and bookstores.
Favorite Bible Verse: Psalm 23