My saving angel was… a chronically ill little girl.
If you’ve read
, you know that the “star” of the title chapter of the book is my stepdaughter Rhiannon. As I wrote the book, I mentioned several friends and memorable moments from Rhiannon’s life and our shared life as dad and daughter. Unteachable Lessons
I thought it might be nice for this blog to collect some of my favorite snapshots of Rhiannon over the years. I hope you enjoy these as much as I enjoyed gathering them for you.
Since many of these are old snapshots, the quality of the image varies. My apologies for that, but I hope you’ll still get a sense of what a special person Rhiannon was.
Fran holding Rhiannon as a baby, 1985. She spent her first few weeks in neonatal intensive care. She was so sick with polycystic kidney disease that at first doctors thought she wouldn’t leave the hospital. But she lived over 29 years.
Four generations of strong southern women. Clockwise from left: Mama Frances Ham (Fran’s grandmother and namesake), Gladelle Verzyl (Rhiannon’s Grandmommie), Fran, and Rhiannon.
Before her stroke, which Rhiannon had at age 3 in 1988. She would never stand, or walk, unassisted after that.
Rhiannon, either shortly before I met her or shortly thereafter. What a cutie. This is the little girl who kept tugging on my beard and announcing, “I’m so happy to meet you!” (page 10)
I met Fran and Rhiannon in May 1992; this picture was one of the first ones taken of the three of us.
Our first “formal” photo, October 1992. Fran and I weren’t even engaged, but I think we all knew it was coming.
Rhiannon’s Baptism, May 1993, just a few weeks before Fran’s and my wedding. Behind Rhiannon, L-R: me, Fran, Gladelle, and Meg Anderson (Godmother and very dear friend).
Fran and Rhiannon, June 26, 1993: the day we became a family.
Me and Rhiannon, June 26, 1993. All smiles but not quite as close.
Christmas morning, mid 1990s. Adorable as usual.
Late 1990s: With Rhiannon at one of her homecomings. Such simple joy. I mentioned this picture on pages 26-7 of Unteachable Lessons.
Rhiannon with our feline companion, Clarissa. Of all the cats that lived with us during Rhiannon’s life, Clarissa was the most bonded with Rhiannon, often riding on her wheelchair with her and sleeping with her.
Rhiannon was a “Wish Kid” — a recipient of a wish from the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Her wish: not merely to go to Walt Disney World, but to have breakfast with Mickey Mouse. Here her wish was granted, November 2003.
2004: Visiting the World War II Memorial in Washington DC. I really like this picture of the two of us — especially Rhiannon’s unabashed elation.
December 2004: Rhiannon and I fill in for Prancer and Rudolph. This is Fran’s favorite picture of us. “My reindeer family,” she calls it.
Also December 2004: My mother, Sylvia McColman (who would have a stroke six months later, and die 18 months after that), with Fran and Rhiannon. The three most important women in my life.
March 2005: Fran and I renew our vows and have our marriage convalidated by the Catholic Church. Fr. Greg was our pastor, and Rhiannon adored him.
Circa 2004-2005: Fran, Rhiannon and me at Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain, GA. I love this picture of Fran.
Rhiannon’s 20th Birthday Party, 5/19/05. Her classmates and teachers gave her some moolah, which she joyfully displayed with her “Birthday Girl” pin.
Rhiannon’s Senior Prom Picture, 2007. My all-time favorite picture of her.
2011. Our last “formal” family portrait. Rhiannon by this point is pale and suffering from chronic anemia.
Fran and Rhiannon singing at a L’Arche Atlanta event.
Our friend Liz joins Rhiannon and Fran for a “silly hat” tea party. You meet Liz on page 16 of Unteachable Lessons.
Spring 2012: on the Emerald Coast of Florida, one of our two favorite vacation spots.
Summer 2013: In our other favorite vacation spot: Asheville, NC.
Christmas, 2013. Rhiannon gives me a Gonzo plush toy, since our final pet names for each other were “Kermit” and “Gonzo.” Three weeks later, she entered hospice care before passing away at the end of August 2014.
Carl and Fran McColman, Summer 2019. Before Rhiannon died she spoke to each of us individually and made us each promise to look after the other. So we are trying to do that. We miss her, but we believe living with joy is a good way to honor her memory.
If you haven’t read
— I hope you will. As Brian McLaren says in his foreword to the book, “In Chapter 1… you’ll meet Rhiannon, and she will steal the show. You won’t forget her, I promise.” Unteachable Lesson s
Order it from
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, ChristianBook.com, I ndependent Bookstores (Online or Near You), or if you live in the USA, get a signed copy from me.