Finding the Light in the Darkness

Do you have an event or accomplishment that has marked you? Marks define us. Marks of accomplishments, development, tragedy and adversity. Today’s guest post is written by my daughter, Jeri Sasser. She is a senior in high school and wrote the following essay in response to a question asked as part of her college admission requirements. I gleaned so much from it that I thought you would too.

Question: Describe an event or accomplishment that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community or family.

My transition from childhood to adulthood within my family occurred recently with the sudden loss of my older brother, Hank Sasser. My brother has been the cornerstone of my family and made me who I am today. His name was my very first word; he was my best friend and my safe haven. Hank was always there for me, regardless of the circumstances. When things in my life became difficult, he would cheer me up with an impromptu visit or a bouquet of flowers with a note reassuring me of how much he loved me. My brother is the reason I grew up.  He was always so passionate about everything he did. Two things he loved in particular were flying and helping people. Upon receiving his dual-major Bachelor’s degree from the University of Oklahoma, my brother moved to Austin, Texas to pursue his business career for a company he had known since a child. He also passed his time flying his most prized possession, an American air champion single-engine plane. He received his pilot’s license at the age of twenty-two and spent almost every day on the runway. I would often wake up to photos of the Austin sunrise that he had sent me.

The event that changed my life occurred on August 23rd, 2014. It was a typical Saturday afternoon when my parents delivered the news that my brother went flying earlier that morning and had yet to return. Five minutes later, they received a call confirming that his plane had gone down and that he did not make it through the accident. It’s been a little over a month since that happened, so it may seem bold of me to consider myself grown-up in such a short amount of time, but I assure you that I am not the same person I was before the accident. I still feel like the bright-eyed girl I have been my entire life, but my emotions and way of thinking feel as if they have aged twenty years. I never expected anything this traumatic to happen to me, especially while I was a teenager. My biggest struggles before the incident were break-ups, bad skin, and lack of self-confidence. All of these seem so childish now that I’ve had a bitter taste of the real world.

Experiencing the tragedy of losing my brother forced me to focus on the bigger picture: life. Life comes and goes, and we can never control when we are taken. There is so much out there for us in this world, and we cannot let setbacks keep us from experiencing these things. There is pain in life; there is struggle everywhere. It is what we do with that pain that counts. We can succumb to it, or we can fight it. What I have learned from my loss is that there can be a great deal of light in the darkness; you just have to look for it. Rather than crying about what has ended, I have learned to take a deep breath and celebrate what has happened. I strive to turn my pain into something greater than I ever imagined. These are the things I focus on every day when I wake up.

My brother Hank was taken for a reason. Whether it was for our family and friends to grow stronger, for opportunities to arise out of loss, or for me to grow up, his life was far from a waste. Hank is the most amazing person I have ever known, and I will never forget him. However, I must keep going. I must live my own life and smile about the little things because I can’t see what the future holds. The death of my brother marked my transition from childhood into adulthood. I know he is proud of me for this accomplishment.

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  • Earl Breon says:


    Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing. I only knew Hank through the wonderful posts on this site but from those I would wager there is a big Texas grin on his face over your words.

    Good luck in life and God bless,

  • Linda Eggers says:

    Jeri, I have grown in my faith as a result of watching you and your family walk down this dark road … I believe that you have an amazing life ahead of you. I will be cheering for you and praying with you every step of the way!

  • Diane says:

    Awesome thoughts, insight and observations you have thought through, written about and are living out for us to grow through too in adversity. You and your family are amazing! So proud of you!

  • Deelight says:

    Linda and Jeri,

    Continuing in prayer for your entire family, and trusting in the One who helps us to rise.

    Grace and peace to your hearts,

  • Anna Abrams says:

    Your post brought me to tears! If only heaven had visiting hours our sorrow would be so much less. Stay the course! Your brother is proud of you!


  • DGK says:

    Jeri – very few people in this world have your perspective, your grace, or your insight on life! I am humbled….Hank is proud of you as he watches over you and your family! Keep it going! Love y’all!!!!!

    • Jeri Sasser says:

      Thanks Don, I appreciate that a lot. You’ve always been here for us. Keep it going 🙂 We love you!!
      – Jeri

  • Dan McCarthy says:

    Jeri and Linda,