Soup From a Stone.

AshandboysToday marks two years since Ian died.

My parents wanted some time alone with him that Wednesday morning, and my hands trembled as I laced my tennis shoes and ran as hard and fast and long as I could—I didn’t know what else to do. What do you do when your little brother is dying? The sheer impossibility of what lay in front of me that day was too big for me then and now.

I remember walking down the long, white hallway towards room 17. I remember sitting with my parents and the doctor in the ICU meeting room—the room where they tell red-eyed, exhausted families clinging to ragged shreds of “there’s still a chance” that the fight is over. I stared straight through the doctor as he spoke, wholly unable to wrap my battered heart around the words that hung thick and heavy, suspended in the air—Ian is going to die today.

I remember holding his swollen hand, whispering over and over again that I loved him so much, and not to be scared. I remember the smell of his room, his pale, almost translucent skin that looked like a breath might slice through directly to vein and bone, the steady rush of the ventilator as it breathed in and out and the monitors that flickered in the dark.

Ian stepped out of that ICU and into the open arms of Jesus surrounded by the people that loved him the fiercest, people who would carry him with them every second of every day until at long last, they got to see him again. We would forever be marked by the ugly scars of that February afternoon, when a family of six left one behind.

When we were little, my parents used to read my brothers and I a bedtime story called “Soup from a Stone”. It’s a fairy tale about a hungry traveler photo (10)who stops by an old woman’s house to ask for something to eat. Brusquely, she informs him that her cupboards are bare and she has nothing to offer. She begins to shut the door when quickly, he asks if she might instead give him a stone so that he can make stone soup. Intrigued, she invites him inside, and he promptly begins to boil a rock, murmuring all the while about his utter fondness for stone soup. As she watches, he casually mentions that while stone soup is delicious—stone soup with onion is really something. She quickly brings him an onion, which he throws into the pot with the stone. This pattern continues with carrots, beef, salt, peas—until at long last, they share two steaming bowls of “stone soup”. All the while, the old woman keeps marveling to herself, “Soup from a stone? Fancy that.”

It’s a story of something from nothing, and I’ve always loved it. “Something from nothing” is how I so often see God work—bringing water out of rocks, dancing out of mourning, dead men out of tombs. It’s the redemptive story of God at work over and over again in our lives—the hope that though we bring nothing, He has everything.

DSC_0117Because Jesus bled out and died in our place, there is hope when hearts stop beating. When eyelashes are gone and breath is labored, when desperate prayers sound more like sobs and the suffocating weight of grief crushes, when it’s been two impossibly long years since you’ve seen your little brother–even then, especially then, there is hope. The story of God is about hope for the hopeless, about life after death—about soup from a stone. [Fancy that.]

I miss you, baby brother. I’m two years closer to seeing you again, and I can’t wait.


  1. Nell Brock says:

    My grand daughter met Ian in early 2011 when his group sang at Meredith College when she was a freshman. He sang You’re More Than A Number In My Little Red Book and as he sang he gave her his “little red book.” Of course she gave him a fake phone number. But he located her on Facebook and told her she was hard to find. They made plans to meet at a coffee house from Meredith College. It also happen to be Valentine’s day so he arrived with a dozen roses!! He had made the roses out of newspaper. They were better than real roses. I just wanted to share this story with you because I realize you still want to hear stories about your curly headed brother. She learned to shag because of Ian.

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your grief. My dear friend died two years ago on March 1, and I’m going to send this post to his wife (my best friend). You have a strong and sure voice- I love your writing. And thank you for the comfort of remembering the hope of redemption in Jesus and His blood. Peace to you and your family-

    • ashleypdickens says:

      Thank you for the encouragement, Jessie. I’m so sorry about your friend–what a painful thing. I hate that you and her husband have had to walk through that–I pray that you’re both experiencing Jesus in new and deep ways in the midst of it.

  3. Ashley, this is so true. Thank you for your words! I read that book over and over as a child, but never stopped to think about how we live a life as Christians where we are always hauling our stones of nothingness around and God does all the rest.

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