Memorial Service will stream live

The memorial service for Penny will stream live from First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta on Saturday, October 8th, 2016 at 11:00am. So, for all of those out of town or out of country in Brazil or Kenya or elsewhere and cannot attend, we hope you will join us and be inspired as we celebrate God’s gift to us through Penny as well as the ultimate promise of resurrection that we know in Christ. Penny demanded that we were bright colors and have no dragging hymns, and she wants us to gather to bolster her family and friends up in prayer and laughter as we worship in her favorite worship space and eat cookies afterward. So, if you watch from afar, wear bright colors and bring your own cookies (BYOC) and we will feel the Spirit connecting us.

Go to:

“Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” (Rom.8)

Live Love Laugh

Stage IV to No More


A Sad and Grace-Filled Day

thrift-store-dinner-16Tuesday was a sad day to let go of the one I and so many hold so dear. We had some time to prepare and call in reinforcements, and what was so gut-wrenching ended up being one of the most grace-filled days of my life. So, let me share it with you as well as the days leading up to it (thanks to the swarm of visits, calls, texts and emails I am finally getting to write what I started at 7:15am yesterday).

 The march started the day after the wedding. Looking back around July 4th when the Leptomeningeal disease almost wiped her out, I could not bear the thought of Philip getting married without his mother. That next weekend, he proposed as Nicholas and Kenan rushed home early from vacation, and we hurried to have Penny bless the rings so she would be a part of the event. They set the wedding date in December, and Penny with eyes closed insisted that she would be at the wedding. Philip and Jessica scurried to change it to the only earlier date they could find a venue, September 23rd, and even that seemed doubtful. But thanks to her doctors, nurses, supportive friends and caregivers, she made it to the wedding and you saw pictures of her dance with her boy. But she kept reminding us that her goal was not to last until the wedding but until they returned on their honeymoon.

 The day after the wedding she had a turn—she could no longer walk and we had to put her on oxygen 24/7. We knew something changed. On Thursday evening our doctor advised that Penny could go to the hospital for some tests that might help us address her declining oxygen level and weakness in her legs. Surprisingly, Penny jumped at the chance and said, “Well, let’s go tonight.”

 We had no idea she would slip so quickly. She got little sleep the next three nights as we discovered the culprit was blood clots in her legs moving to her lungs. Nicholas, Kenan, and I held vigil that weekend while Philip and Jessica rode out Hurricane Matthew and, by the grace of God, were not stranded in Aruba. They made it back Saturday night and went immediately to the hospital to see Penny. 

On Sunday, the six of us took communion together at Penny’s bedside for World Communion Sunday with Dr. Marilyn and Rev. Joe Sandifer. After communion she hugged each of her boys and started crying.  We were concerned about her getting upset, but when she pulled back, she weakly said, “I’m so happy!” She achieved her goal of seeing all her boys married (including her nephew, Aubrey, married on August 28th), which is pure grace. On Monday we realized treatment was no longer viable and brought her home under hospice care. That details the week leading up to that “sad but grace-filled” Tuesday.

 During the wee morning hours, Petal, her caregiver and I struggled every three hours to get Penny comfortable. Apparently the clots were moving. The drugs could not contain the discomfort and I finally called Marilyn at 7:00am and she scurried over with her precious preschool granddaughters, Brisson and Willow who started the vigil by dancing on our front porch. Our dear friend Kay played with them as Marilyn helped us get new meds to quickly comfort Penny. I called in the family to join us for a bedside vigil.

So many friends joined the vigil on the front porch and den from 8am until nightfall, beginning with Floyd from one of our first youth groups in the 1980s. I counted friends from seven different churches we served holding vigil during the day and several others contacted me unable to be there. Our friends and colleagues sang hymns in the front of the house as we loved on Penny in the rear bedroom. We were literally enfolded in the arms of the communion of saints—and that even included the holiness of some who are agnostic, atheist and Muslim. It was a taste of the way God will make it all one day.

 At 11:00 Penny’s good buddy from seminary days, Steve Price, showed up from South Carolina as he did every week to lead Penny in his crazy dances. And only Steve’s giftedness could have the whole vigil dancing at Penny’s deathbed, with Philip waving Penny’s arms in the air and Penny opening her eyes in wonder and joy. We moved ceremoniously to “The Prayer” by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli in such a holy moment; and then Steve led our whole vigil laughing and dancing with his signature, cheshire-grinning craziness “Star, star, star, star” and “Milk, Milk, Milk, Milk.” I have never seen such a celebration around a deathbed. What joy in celebrating Penny who continued to inspire and celebrate life with her motto—LIVE LAUGH LOVE!

 The cloud of witnesses headed out to the front porch continuing to sing hymns as family took turns assuring Penny she was not alone. Revs. Joe Sandifer and Dave Fry gathered us for a prayer and singing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” About 2:30 her breathing changed. It sounded like she was taking a gulp of air and then exhaling saying, “Yeah.” So, we each started kissing her and saying goodbye and massaging her head and reassuring her: “Penny, do you know God loves you?”…”Yeah!”… Do you know Jesus has made a place for you?”…”Yeah!”…“ “Do you know I love you?”…”Yeah!”…”Do you know Nicholas and Philip love you?”…”Yeah!”…”Do you know we are ready for you to go?”…”Yeah!”…”Then, relax…relax…relax…and go to sleep and don’t worry.” And while I kissed her head and whispered in her ear, she started to relax and let go. Her breathing immediately started slowing, and slowing, and she calmly breathed her last breath with us caressing her and letting her go. It was a beautiful way to go.

 And then she lay there as if asleep and for a few hours everyone who wanted to could say “Goodbye.” Rev. Lindsay Armstrong and Dr. Marilyn led us in anointing her body and sending home. We let her go “into that good night” and into God’s hands. It was sad, but the whole day was filled with grace and, we will gather this Saturday at 11:00am, October 8th, at the sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta, the same sacred space where Nicholas and Philip absorbed the faith, where Penny served as Family Minister for years, and where we held the wedding for Philip and Jessica two weeks ago. We will celebrate Penny’s life and the promise of resurrection. Penny said you better wear bright colors and wigs are most appropriate. This is a celebration! (Childcare is available and parking instructions can be found here.) Better get there early.

 In lieu of flowers we ask that donations be made to Columbia Theological Seminary  that is training the next generation of Presbyterian ministers to inspire people to love, to Winship Cancer Institute  which is our local research institute without which Penny never would have made it to the wedding, or designated to “Brazil Mission in Fortaleza” c/o First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta  where a portion of Penny’s ashes will be interred.

penny-ginger-cakeWednesday would’ve been Ginger’s 63rd birthday, and Penny made it to heaven just in time to eat cake with her sister and mother.

When you remember Penny, always Live, Love, Laugh.



What goes up…

They say what goes up must come down. Many also say people “lose their battle with cancer.” But I’m not sure a cancer patient “must come down” or that dying is losing the battle.

 Penny has fought hard and stayed up for the sake of her friends and her family. She has always felt called to inspire others to love. And as long as she is doing that she is never coming down; she is not losing the battle with cancer. penny-in-scrubs-2015

 Although our last post was encouraging news last week, on Thursday our doctor decided we should conduct some tests in the hospital to see why Penny was losing strength and her oxygen level was dropping. She had not been able to get out of bed since the day after the wedding. Penny was eager to get to the hospital Thursday night and get some answers in order to get stronger. But a night in the emergency room will deflate anyone. Then she did not sleep Friday or Saturday nights either. We discovered some pulmonary emboli as well as clots in the legs even though she is on blood thinner. These are the reasons for the rapid decline. And this decline has continued such that as of Monday night we have brought Penny home under hospice care. She is too weak to visit and the family gets some short minutes a few times per day. It is a sharp drop, but I would not say it has brought Penny down.

 Yesterday, Lindsey dropped by the hospital. She is a good friend fighting against her own husband’s cancer. Although Penny had been asleep all day, she lit up when she saw Lindsey. Penny poured her energy into lifting Lindsey’s spirits, and Lindsey thanked Penny for teaching her so much, especially that love is what it’s all about and to never lose hope.

 Penny’s life is fading but I assure you she is not down. We are shedding tears because we don’t want to leave each other, but that is not defeat. She is still inspiring others. She is still doing what God put her on earth to do.

 So, let me issue one more challenge on Penny’s behalf. She wants to inspire. She wants to help Lindsey, Mike, Rachel and others whom she mentors and is partnered in the battle against cancer. So, instead of leaving a memorial gift for Penny down the road, honor her life and join me in giving to Winship Cancer Institute who have been our lifesavers for two years. It won’t help Penny’s body any more, but it will continue her calling to inspire and help her friends who still hope for a cure. We thank all of you who have contributed to Winship through Team Penny that now totals over $5,000. I still challenge the rest of you to join the fight. Go to: .

 I also welcome you to drop by our front porch for our vigil at 956 Blue Ridge and lift up a prayer. Penny is too weak to see visitors, but I welcome you to drop by and will let her know you have come to pay your respects. I assure you she will not come down and she will not lose this battle. She is inspiring so many to continue to fight and to continue to love and to cling to hope.

 We are so thankful for all your support and generosity too. You all have lifted us up, and we have so much to be grateful for. I assure you Penny is not coming down, and she is not losing this fight. Her faith, hope and love will continue to sustain us. And our God will continue to sustain her.

Live! Love! Laugh!

Stage IV to No More!

We can’t run but we can give back to Winship!

Last year so many of you joined Team Penny in the 5k walk/run for Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute. Together we raised over $10,000!

This year we are unable to participate directly in the walk due to my declining strength and now Richard has a bummed knee from playing basketball with the groomsmen. So, we decided we could at least “sleepwalk” for the Winship 5k which is this Saturday, October 1st.

We hope you will donate to Winship through the Team Penny website below and designate for lung cancer. I would not be here now if it were not for Dr. Owonikoko and Dr. Curran who have successfully treated my lung cancer and leptomeningeal disease with cutting edge drugs that are beyond the evidence-based protocols. We are so fortunate to have world-reknown experts in our backyard, and they/we need more financial backing to enhance their research and care for cancer patients, not only for myself but for your families and all who are desperate for hope.

I hope you will join me and Richard in generously supporting Winship. You can go to my Team Penny page and hit the “Donate Now” button under the “Join the Team” button and it will allow you to donate in my honor or another and to designate for lung cancer research.

Click or Cut and paste:

Richard and I have started with $1,000 donation and will give more later. Our goal is to raise more than $10,000 that we accomplished last year. We are so grateful to Winship and to all of you for your support and prayers.


Stage IV to No More!





Wedding Bells

Our wedding bells finally chimed last night, and it was quite a celebration. It was quickly planned but turned out perfectly.

 We hoped I would be able to walk down the aisle with the boys, but unfortunately, the weakness in my legs prohibited that from happening. The service was extra special being performed by Tony Sconza who used to live with us, Tony Sundermeier who is the wonderful new minister at First Pres, and Richard. The ceremony was very personal and so special to be in the sanctuary where Philip was baptized and confirmed. Our good friend, Billy Dean, added a verse for this occasion to his song , “Voices Singing” (find his song on YouTube).

 Thank you to Jessica’s family for such a beautiful reception. Philip and Jessica danced their first dance to Billy singing Slow Motion and then Philip chose Billy’s song, “If There Hadn’t Been You Where Would I Be” for his dance with me, and I had the strength to dance with my precious boy. It was quite a celebration with so many of our family and friends.

 With concern about my strength waning in the two weeks leading up to the wedding, we did see our Doctor this week and received good news. The CT scan showed the tumors drastically reduced and the weakness has been due to side effects. So we cut back on my chemo meds and move forward.

 So now we will set new goals and look forward to enjoying time with our boys and TWO daughter-in-laws. Please continues to pray for us and…LiveLoveLaugh!

 Stage IV to No More!

Celebrate Good Times!

What a wonderful day of doctor’s appointments this was! The radiology oncologist, Dr. Curran, was thrilled with the success of the 3 weeks of whole brain radiation in June. The Lepto is not completely gone, but more than he could imagine. He loved the dancing videos too!

Dr. Owonikoko also felt very hopeful about the new cancer medication. Everything will be monitored but NO tests until October and November! Feels like a miracle! So please continue to join us in prayers of hope, celebration, and thanksgiving!

(When our boys came over tonight to hear the results of the doctors’ visits, Penny donned in several loudly colored scarves and thrashing a sparkly pompom came dancing out of her room (with only a little assistance) to Kool and the Gang celebrating the good news. Wish you all could have seen Nicholas and Philip escorting her and dancing down the hall; however, the video did not turn out. But you can picture it anyway. This an unofficial, unedited commentary–Penny Hill did not approve “this” portion of the message.)

Stage IV to No More!

Live – Love – Laugh

Hot August Nights

We arrived home from the hospital on Wednesday, August 3rd, and I’ve stayed out of the hospital since then. I’ve been getting stronger every day but still have a long ways to go. My legs are getting stronger as I exercise them each day but it is my breathing that has such a ways to go. However, it has been an awesome and joyful two and a half weeks.

I have friends visiting and helping out every day. We made it to Philip and Jessica’s lovely engagement Penny and Richard.PhilJess Shower. 3.Aug 13.2016party at Nicholas and Kenan’s home last Saturday. (pix) My staff has been to visit me. One of the main highlights this week was being able to join Nicholas and Kenan at First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta this past Tuesday when Nicholas rejoined the church and Kenan joined which really made my heart sing.

 Steve Price comes every week from South Carolina for dancing and inspires me to dance, dance, dance even when he is not here. Guerry Mashburn has emerged as the great scarfinator. He’s been here several times and led us in scarf lessons and made a party out of it.

Supper Club.Aug 2016My supper club came for a party on Thursday night the 17th, and Ritz Litter.Aug 2016then we celebrated to next two days as Philip birthed his latest litter of four pups.



The culmination of this week was the Presbytery farewell celebration. Rev. Dr. Scott Weimer, Rev. Dr. Tony Sundermeier, Rev. Lindsay Armstrong, and Rev. Dr. Paul Roberts all spoke in honor of my ministry, and also I had the chance to say goodbye to all my church colleagues. The speeches were videotaped and we will post them when they are ready.

 So, the medical update is that the new medicine appears to be working. I don’t have any obvious side effects, and we will find out how I am actually doing on Wednesday when I meet with my doctors at Winship.

 So, please continue to pray with us as we move on to Stage IV to No More. I believe in a God of miracles.

 Live! Love! Laugh!