Family loss helps student gain stronger testimony

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Sarah Brewster knew her dad was sick.

Her father’s health began to decline the summer before she started high school, but her family hoped it was nothing serious. Sarah came home after the first day of school to find her mom crying, and one word threw her world upside down: cancer.

“I had just turned 14,” Sarah said. “My mom went to go pick up my dad, and I just sat at the piano and bawled.”

The news got worse two weeks later. The lung cancer had reached stage four, and the doctors said Sarah’s father had between two weeks and a year left to live. Sarah’s parents called her brother, then a missionary, to tell him the news.

Her father soon started treatments. The cancer was not easy on the family, but Sarah’s father lived for three years after his diagnosis. The extra time brought many blessings to the Brewster family.

A year after the diagnosis, Sarah’s dad was declared cancer-free for a brief period. The disease came back soon after that, but Sarah’s father had already outlived the doctors’ predictions.

The Brewsters saw another miracle when their father lived to see Sarah’s brother finish his mission.

“That was a really cool experience when my brother got home,” Sarah said. “Because (my dad) made it to that point.”

It was amazing to see the faith of LDS Church members and non-members, Sarah said, and their contributions made a difference. People supported the family in many different ways, including a ward fast.

“There were so many people praying for my dad,” Sarah said. “As a 14-year-old, I felt like I didn’t have faith to heal my dad and make him better, but those instances were amazing. It was a huge testimony builder that faith in any form is effective.”

Soon after her older brother got home, another brother, Mark, left on his mission. He said his father became sicker the month before he entered the MTC.

“It was hard, but I definitely felt like it was the right decision to go on a mission,” Mark said.

It was tough to hear the downturn his father was taking week by week, Mark said, but his family and friends’ support meant everything.

Sarah said the family knew there wasn’t much time remaining for their father to live when Mark left.

“You always have that hope in the back of your mind that he’s going to be around when my brother gets home,” Sarah said. “But we all pretty much knew that he wasn’t going to be around.”

The Brewsters’ father was the CEO of a waste management company, but he left his job just before Sarah began her senior year of high school, three years after his diagnosis.

“At this point we knew he was going downhill and it was going to be coming within the next year,” Sarah said.

The family received hospice care a week after Sarah’s father left his job, allowing him to stay in the comfort of his home. Sarah said she loves the hospice workers and feels grateful for everything they did to make the experience easier.

On Sept. 18, 2013, Sarah’s father died at 8:23 p.m. Close friends came over to give their condolences. She said she recalls staying up late talking with family and friends before finally falling asleep.

The funeral took place the following Monday. Sarah said it was amazing to see how many people loved her father. Several of his close friends spoke, and Sarah and her family members did too. She said she looks back on the funeral fondly and often listens to her recording of it.

But Sarah said it was still difficult when her father passed away. She found it hard to hear friends talk about simple things like dances and school because they didn’t seem as important as what had happened to her family.

“It was really hard to question that maybe I didn’t pray hard enough or my faith in miracles wasn’t strong enough,” Sarah said.

Family friend Dallas Heiner said he admired Sarah’s faith and courage at the end of her father’s life.

“Sarah was always pretty strong through it all,” Heiner said. “She had an attitude of gratitude and kept a very faithful approach to everything.”

Sarah said through this experience, she has a stronger testimony of the plan of salvation.

“My dad is going to live again, which is so cool,” Sarah said. “It’s amazing. I get to see my dad again. We can be with our families forever, and that’s what I hold onto.”


Listen to Sarah Brewster describe praying for comfort and guidance on the day she found out her dad was diagnosed with cancer.

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