Mollie Landman Hunker
“Do you hear him?”
This was the question I asked my doctor when I was five years old as he was
listening to my heart rhythm at an annual check-up. The man was obviously
confused, so I had to clarify.
“Jesus, He lives in my heart.”
Being a pastor’s daughter, I heard about Jesus’ love and sacrifice before I could fully comprehend it all, so at five years old, I legitimately thought that baby Jesus came to live inside of my beating heart once I asked him to. But, it wasn’t until I was 13 when I decided to move God to the center of my life rather than only thinking about Jesus on Sunday mornings.
Shortly after seriously focusing my life on Jesus, I met a guy named Brady Hunker at my school. At this point in my life, I was fully content with only pursuing my relationship with the Lord, but for some reason, this short guy in a red tie at the Junior High Christmas Formal asked me to dance and I couldn’t refuse. Brady and I quickly exchanged numbers shortly after that encounter, and we became best friends. Our families grew closer and closer, and we all went on vacations together over the next couple of years.
At the beginning of my freshman year of high school, I started a Christian Club called “Students Strengthened By Christ.” After meeting with fellow Christians at my high school once a week for a couple of months, other students started to ask me hard questions about God and faith in general. What will heaven be like? Why was my mom born blind? Why did God let my dad die in a car accident? How can such a good God allow terrible things to happen in this world?
I always had some sort of response to these questions, but I always felt like I
wasn’t equipped to answer these questions properly. My peers came to me while
experiencing some of life’s greatest tragedies. At this point, the worst thing that
happened to me was a bad grade on a math test; I simply couldn’t relate.
It was at this point when I prayed a section of one of my favorite worship
songs, “Oceans.” Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk
upon the waters wherever you would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could
ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.
I wanted my faith to grow so that I could better minister to this group, and I was
willing to go through anything for God’s glory.
Months go by, and my best friend, Brady, has now moved up in title to “boyfriend.” He started to feel some pain in his right leg that kept him up at night. We all assumed it was due to his intense skating on the hockey rink, but Brady’s mom took him to the doctor just to be sure. After several check-ups, x-rays, and MRIs, Brady got the news that a brick-sized tumor was lodged between the two bones in his leg. The tumor was found to be cancerous, meaning that at the young age of 15, Brady was now diagnosed with bone cancer.
I received the news over a phone call since I was away at a church conference, but I distinctly remember the feeling of complete heartbreak and fear that overwhelmed me on July 11th, 2016. I spent the following weeks and months in the hospital next to Brady, holding his hand as he screamed in pain and running to get him food when he had an appetite. We were inseparable, not even the cancer could tear us apart. When Brady finished treatment eight months later, we focused on sharing Christ’s light and love through different ministries.
Brady and I traveled around to local churches sharing our stories and leading worship together. He learned how to play guitar during his treatment, and I did most of the singing. Brady would often be asked to speak at various events, and I was always there to cheer him on.
In the spring of our junior year of high school, Brady experienced neck and back pain and then he suddenly got a fever which called for a trip to the emergency room. The doctors ordered x-rays and scans which showed that Brady’s cancer had returned, and this time, the disease was spread throughout his entire body.
I sat next to Brady in the hospital room as we both heard the news of this relapse. We had dreams of a lifetime together, but more cancer never fit into that plan. As Brady received treatment for the second time, we started to talk about what we really wanted to do with our lives now that we understood that nothing should be taken for granted. At this point, Brady said, “If the worst thing happened, and I died, I would only regret not marrying you.”
In the spring of our senior year, Brady got down on one knee and proposed, and
I said yes. We spent the next three months planning a wedding before we pledged our
lives to one another on July 20th, 2019. After getting married, Brady and I moved
into an apartment near Grove City College, where we planned on attending in the fall.
Classes quickly started, and we found ourselves living the married life and college
life all at once.
Brady started getting intense headaches only two weeks after the first day of classes, so we decided to travel down to the hospital to make sure that Brady’s chemo treatments were still doing their job. Brady got a scan done, and we sat in a hospital room catching up on homework as we waited on an update from his doctors. The doctors came in with no good or uplifting news to share. They told us that the cancer had spread to the surrounding area of Brady’s brain. They told us that there was now no treatment they could offer Brady, and they gave him one month to live. Two months prior to this, Brady and I vowed to each other a lifetime of love, and now we were being told that we only had around 30 days left together on this earth.
We quickly left Grove City and moved in with Brady’s parents so that Brady could start hospice care. Thankfully, we were both able to travel some and see family in the fall before Brady died in my arms on November 25th.
I cannot adequately express the devastation I experienced throughout all of this loss. At the same time, I cannot adequately express how grateful I am for Brady’s love and for having the opportunity to selflessly serve him as his wife.
I didn’t know what to do after his death, but after weeks of prayer, I decided to go back to Grove City College for the spring semester. For some reason, I knew that God wanted me back on that beautiful campus even though I could barely pull myself out of bed most days. I prayed that God would send me friends that could walk with me on this journey of sorrow since I would be leaving my entire support system back home.
I knew I needed to surround myself with community, so I rejoined the touring choir that I was a part of in the fall. The entire group welcomed me with open arms, but some have made a more noticeable impact than others.
Back in the fall, I had met a girl named Brooke right when classes had started. It wasn’t until I came back to school the next semester when we reconnected over breakfast. There was something about Brooke that warmed my spirit. She desperately wanted to know more about me and about Brady, even though the stories I shared were likely hard to hear and digest.
About a week later, I grabbed lunch at one of the cafeterias, alone, since I had still not made many connections. The touring choir president (and also Brooke’s older brother), Adam, tapped me on the shoulder just as I was about to take my first bite of food and invited me to eat with him and two other choir members. As a group, we decided to get a meal together every Friday, and we named the weekly gathering “lunch bunch.” This was the first time that I heard that Adam had written this music, but I had yet to hear any of it.
Two weeks later, which happened to be Valentine’s Day, started out as one of
the saddest days since Brady’s death, for obvious reasons. When I arrived at the
cafeteria for “lunch bunch,” my heart was already heavy, and Adam asked me to
share my story with everyone. They all knew that I was married and widowed since
the choir director had made that basic information known in November, but they
didn’t know anything about my relationship with Brady until I poured my heart out
for the next hour.
By the end of our time together, we were all weeping, and I specifically
remember Giovanna reaching out her hand to hold mine. After I finished sharing,
Adam looked at me and said, “I think you’re supposed to sing one of my songs.”
Later that evening, after touring choir rehearsal, I sat next to Giovanna and Brooke as we listened to Adam play the song, Arise. As I listened to the words that seemed to come straight from my heart, I bawled and found myself not only being surrounded by the comfort of these new friends, but being surrounded by the love of my awesome God. I attempted to sing the song afterward, and Adam, Brooke, and Giovanna harmonized along. The harmonies were perfectly capturing how I felt inside: a new community wrapping their arms around me.
The rest of the night was filled with so much joy as I listened to more of Adam’s music, went to a pizza party with Brooke and Giovanna, and worshipped in the chapel with my new friends. February 14th started out as a tragic day but ended with God extending His love to me once again. Now, these people are some of my closest friends who actively care for me and walk with me in this sad and messy season of grief. I prayed for God to send me compassionate and empathetic friends, and while I didn’t doubt God, I didn’t expect Him to send so many wonderful friends this quickly.
After diving into this music that God has laid upon Adam’s heart, I couldn’t
help but share some of it with my immediate family and my grandma. My grandma
loves to listen to music, especially if I sing some of it, and when she heard these
songs for revival, I could immediately sense a change in her spirit.
Days after introducing her to some of these songs, she called me and asked
me to read some of the scriptures to her. I kept reading the Bible to her, day after
day, and now I can say with confidence that my grandma has fully welcomed Christ
into her life. I truly believe that this music was one of the ways that the Holy Spirit chose to speak to her.
I still can’t answer all of the questions my peers have asked me from the past. But now I understand and know that God’s faithfulness is not determined by life’s circumstances, but by the cross and the empty tomb. Brady wasn’t miraculously healed from his disease, and I have not been saved from the intense pain and grief that comes with being a widow. Still, God has proven His goodness to me over and over again.
God is leading me through the deep oceans where the waves crash over me, and I feel like I may drown, but Jesus is always there to save me. God has sent me friends that surround me with more love than I could ever ask for, and they just so happen to share my love for song and my passion for ministry. God hasn’t answered every single prayer the way I’ve wanted, but He’s been faithful and has never forsaken me yet.
Although my childhood doctor may not have physically heard Him, Jesus has been in my heart and present in my life all this time. And, because of the Holy Spirit’s work through this music, my grandma has also decided to accept Christ into her heart and accept His perfect sacrifice.
These friends, and this music, have forever changed my life, and the music has helped bring my grandma to the Lord. I have already seen hearts transformed by these melodies, and I cannot wait to see how the Lord will continue to use these songs to change the hearts of so many others.
"I was fully content with only pursuing my relationship with the Lord, but for some reason, this short guy in a red tie at the Junior High Christmas Formal asked me to dance and I couldn’t refuse"
"I wanted my faith to grow so that I could better minister to this group, and I was willing to go through anything for God’s glory."
"We were inseparable, not even the cancer could tear us apart."
"Brady got down on one knee and proposed, and I said yes."
"Two months prior to this, Brady and I vowed to each other a lifetime of love, and now we were being told that we only had around 30 days left together on this earth".
"After I finished sharing, Adam looked at me and said, 'I think you’re supposed to sing one of my songs.'"
"As I listened to the words that seemed to come straight from my heart, I bawled and found myself not only being surrounded by the comfort of these new friends, but being surrounded by the love of my awesome God."
"...and when she heard these songs for revival, I could immediately sense a change in her spirit."
"God hasn’t answered every single prayer the way I’ve wanted, but He’s been faithful and has never forsaken me yet."