I shared the following Words of Hope at the memorial service for my husband, Brian . . .
Good afternoon. For those of you I haven’t had a chance to meet yet, my name is Andreah Churchill and I have had the honor and the privilege of sharing life’s journey with Brian as his wife and as his colleague in business.
We met ten years ago while working on a video for my company’s ten year anniversary as a public company. We had an immediate connection and created many incredible projects together.
It wasn’t until several years later that we began to see each other socially. Given our professional relationship, we maintained discretion in the early days of our courtship – but as the nature of our relationship became public, just about everyone had the same exact reaction – “Well, its ABOUT time!”
Our story was a fairy tale – from a marriage proposal in front of a castle fit for a princess – to our Disney fairy tale wedding. It was unbelievable . . . and perfect.
The diagnosis of colon cancer in 2008 seemed but a blip on the radar screen – just a tiny little hurdle that we needed to overcome and – for the longest time – that’s exactly what we did.
We had made the decision on that very first day that we would open one door at a time, see what is behind each one, and not worry about worst case scenarios or “what ifs”. This allowed us to live our life in a way that illness did not define who we are. And LIVE is exactly what we did. We loved our life together and both of us would tell you in a heartbeat that these last five years have been the BEST years of our lives.
Brian and I always had a soft spot in our hearts for older couples. Oh, how we wanted SO much to grow old together. In the last few weeks, Brian would just beam and light up whenever he saw a Swiffer commercial with “Morty and Lee”. That’s so CUTE, he would say.
And, of course, being the Disney enthusiasts that we are, the movie “UP” is one of our very favorites. Brian described the montage of Carl and Ellie’s married life as 5 minutes of movie perfection that would be studied by film students for years to come.
I think it was particularly poignant because we both knew in the back of our minds that we may never have the chance to grow old together as Carl and Ellie did.
But, we never gave up. We refused to believe that to be true. We held on to every glimmer of hope that we would overcome this illness and have an incredible story to share with the world. It wasn’t until the very last day of Brian’s life that we resigned ourselves to the fact that he would not be able to recover.
The Many Personas of Brian Churchill
In making plans for today’s events, I was compelled to celebrate the MANY talents and personas of Brian Churchill.
A Film Director
Everyone knows Brian as a talented director of films and videos.
What you may not be aware of is that Brian often described himself as a “closet musician”. He insisted that if he weren’t a film director, that his career would have been in music.
Brian was not only a member of his high school band, and a wannabe rap artist, but he was also a composer of instrumental music and I’ll forever be blessed to revisit his compilation of impromptu silly acapella iPhone song recordings.
A Graphic Artist
You may also not realize that Brian is talented as a sketch artist.
During times when Brian would take chemotherapy treatments, he would tell me about how taking time to slow down would allow him “pockets of creativity” during which he would spend his time with his iPad drawing sketches and composing music in Garage Band. His artistic talents seemed to be never-ending.
But, most importantly, Brian embraced and cherished his role as Gavin’s stepfather. Their relationship transcended that of father-son.
Just as an example, when Gavin was in fourth grade, I received an email from Gavin’s school teacher, Mrs. Cole. She said that she just had to reach out to me and share a conversation that she and Gavin had that morning. She said that Gavin bounced into class and cheerfully told her – “Today is my best friend’s birthday!” “Really?”, Mrs. Cole said. “How old is your best friend today?” “39”, Gavin says.
I could spend DAYS telling you about what a WONDERFUL husband Brian is.
God gave me a tremendous gift in Brian, and I know why. I was a broken person when I met Brian. I had ended a marriage that had taken a difficult turn and had left that relationship feeling small, insignificant and worthless. Brian lifted me out of a depression and became my biggest cheerleader. He would say “I’m a BIG fan” – and never stopped boosting my confidence. He was proud of everything I did and would always say “GO, baby, GO!”
That’s exactly what I needed and it’s a gift that I will carry for the rest of my life. I know now that I’m deserving of incredible love, and he will never let me forget that.
I think the most surprising persona of Brian that I’ve discovered in the last few days is that of teacher and example.
I’ve been overwhelmed with messages from you and others about what an influence Brian has been and will continue to be in our lives.
A dear friend shared with me, “Brian is the type of person that I want to BE. I will spend the rest of my days just trying to be like him. The difference is the I will have to fake it for a while until it becomes who I am. And with Brian, that’s just who he WAS.”
And Brian is such a fighter. I’ve been surprised to learn how few of you realized that he was even sick through these years.
We did maintain some privacy and discretion through our journey but, even those who knew of our challenges never really realized how difficult things at gotten in the recent days. Brian never wanted for people to worry for him or feel bad for him – because, despite everything, he was so HAPPY.
And, for those of you who were stunned and shocked with this devastating news, I’m so sorry.
Expectations / Moving Forward
So, how do we possibly move forward from today after suffering such a tremendous loss? I think we need keep in mind those things that Brian expects of us and to do everything that we can to honor him. In Brian’s final weeks he made me promise, “just in case”, that I would LIVE my life to its fullest, and not spend my remaining days feeling sorry for him. He says that he expects a full report when we meet again and that he will be with me every step of the way. That’s what he expects from ALL of us.
For Mom Churchill
I know in my heart that it is Brian’s wish that you live the remainder of your life absent from worry and fear. Because, sadly, no amount of worry will EVER be enough to control or influence the outcome.
I know it’s difficult. In the final two days of Brian’s life, as much as I trust in God’s perfect plan for us, I was very afraid. I just kept repeating over and over, “Dear Lord, PLEASE, let my FAITH be bigger than my FEAR. And take care of my sweet Brian.” And you know what? That’s exactly what he DID.
John Wayne said “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up any way.”
So, Mom, if ever you begin to feel discouraged, just say a prayer and saddle up. And Brian will be SO proud.
And, Gavin, Brian expects you, to not only graduate from high school, but to continue your education in pursuit of a profession that you are passionate about.
Because If you are blessed with the opportunity do work you love, then you will have a happy life, it really is THAT simple
I know what Brian expects of me, too. He expects for me to hold my head high, to do extraordinary things, to grow spiritually and to serve others – here at Hope Church, in our community and through my website.
He expects me to use my talents and gifts to serve others in ways that his bodily limitations wouldn’t allow him to do. In short, he expects me to continue where he left off here on Earth.
For Our MAA Family
To our family at MAA – Brian has been part of the MAA family for much longer than I have.
Brian expects us to continue our strong tradition of servant leadership and the Core Values that were SO influential on him and his own business.
He will be cheering us on as we continue to grow and prosper as a company – through our upcoming merger and beyond. He is so proud of where we have been but, especially, where he knows we’re going.
For Churchill Studios
To the team at Churchill Studios, Brian’s pride and joy – he could not be MORE proud of the things that you have been doing in his absence and very much expects for us to carry forward. The studio will not only survive, but THRIVE, for many years to come under the leadership of Joel, Yvette and Shane and through Brian’s vision of “Creating Magic” for every person who walks through the door, picks up the phone or visits the web site. I have absolutely NO doubt that you will not only “hold down the fort”, but that you will take the studio to new heights and accomplish things that Brian couldn’t without you. I’m counting on you to carry forth a big big part of Brian’s legacy and I know that you will make us both very very proud. I know that I don’t have to remind you that you have big shoes to fill.
For Woods End
To Alex Clair and the cast and crew of Woods End . . . in many ways, Brian considers this film project a big part of his life’s purpose. He felt called to share the Lord’s message through entertainment in a way that would reach audiences that might otherwise be inaccessible.
It would be a shame to let this project fade into the sunset – we’ll find a wonderful director and Brian will be guiding their heart and their vision from heaven.
Moving forward is hard. This hurts. We feel lost, and we just don’t understand why this had to happen to such an incredibly wonderful man who seemed to still have so much to give.
But I want to help put our hearts and minds at ease by sharing a few details Brian’s final moments here on Earth.
When I knew the time was near, I insisted that no one remain at the hospital but the two of us. I wanted peaceful surroundings and I wanted more than anything to get just one more signal from Brian that everything would be okay. It had been three days since he was able to last communicate, since his last “I love you.”
I had made a playlist of our favorite Beatles songs and had them playing on shuffle in the hospital room. I held his hand and sang as his organs began to slow. There was no pain, no struggle. The song “Golden Slumbers” played and the song came to an end.
The final lyrics hit me like a freight train as I sang to him through tears . . . “And in the End, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” It was at that very moment that a gentle beep on the monitor indicated that he had made his journey to heaven. The perfect timing left me no doubt that Brian Churchill himself was directing the ultimate performance. Just one take . . . cut. And that’s a wrap.
I have known no two greater privileges in my lifetime than to share with Gavin the first few moments of life and to share with Brian his last.
The days are long, but the years are short. To my dearest Brian, I love you SO much, thank you for the adventure – now let’s go have a new one.