My sister Gina Lynn Brown and I were born to our loving parents on September 28th 1959 in Jacksonville FL. They did not suspect they were going to be blessed with 2 bundles of joy instead of just one until our arrival. I made my entrance at 3 lbs 7 oz and Gina followed 5 minutes later at 3 lbs 8 oz. In 1959 when babies were so small the survival rate wasn’t that high. We beat the odds and grew into happy, healthy children. We both attended elementary, middle and high school together and went on to be college roommates at St. Johns River Community College. After graduation, we both married, and I became the mother of two sons and Gina was blessed with a son and daughter. Each of us had a love of education and became teachers. I chose elementary education and Gina worked with high school students. We were also blessed to be named Teacher of the Year at different points in our careers. As you can see, our lives have paralleled each other in many ways yet God created each of us with unique and individual qualities as only He can.
Gina and her family eventually settled in Keystone Heights, Florida where she taught until just weeks before she took her journey home. To say that teaching was her passion is an understatement. She taught over 20 years and loved every second of it. She always said that apart from her family, her students were the love of her life. For some, she was their Mom, for others she was their friend and mentor. Many of her students have said she changed their lives for the better because of her love and support for them. Her students had a teacher who walked the walk and talked the talk.
Things suddenly changed in June 2009. After finishing the school year and getting ready to enjoy her summer, she started experiencing some pain in her side and running a fever. At first it appeared to be nothing more than an infection but within two days of going to the doctor, we heard those words that you never forget, words that change your life forever. You have cancer. After many doctor appointments and tests, she was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. It had spread to both sides of her liver. She had absolutely no symptoms before the fever and stomach pain so our family was in complete shock. Our lives would be changed forever by those 3 little words. During her yearlong battle with cancer, she continued to teach. From June 2009 until June 2010 she endured difficult chemotherapy treatments every two weeks. Even with her rapidly declining health she rarely missed school. Many of her students would come to talk and she always listened. She never mentioned her own sickness or difficulties. She worked through the last day of the school year to wish her students her very special farewell. In less than one month, she was gone to meet her Lord.
Never once did she say, “Why Me God”, or “This isn’t fair”. She was an inspiration to all around her. She used her trial to inspire and touch the lives of all that knew her. During her illness she continued attending the First United Methodist Church in Starke, Florida regularly. She rested on Saturdays so she would not miss a Sunday worship service. Every week she looked forward to seeing her friends, Pastor Mike and the Praise team. We feel that the support she received made her struggle so much easier. What a testimony to her church family who not only showed their love for Gina but for our entire family. On July 7th 2010 Gina lost her brave battle with cancer and went to be with her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. While she no longer dwells on this earth with us she left a lasting legacy; a legacy of courage, strength and love. She invested herself in the lives of her family, friends and students…her unfailing faith touched many.
The vision for Gina’s Blessings began with my brother Terry. He watched our sister live a life of service within her community. Out of his love for her he wanted something to ensure that her life’s work of education and her unselfish spirit would continue to be invested in the lives of others. Before she died, they talked about fulfilling God’s mandate to spread the gospel throughout the world. We believe Gina’s Blessings does just that.
Gina’s Blessings, is about transforming the lives of those in need thru the Gospel of Christ and the power of Education. This project will provide educational opportunities for children who may not otherwise have that chance. While we continue to miss Gina each day…the sound of her voice, her encouraging words and her resilient spirit, Gina’s Blessings will now provide a platform for her voice. Through your prayers and support we can continue Gina’s legacy of her love of children, her passion for education and give her voice a loud and clear proclamation of God’s grace and unfailing love.
Tina Brown McRae
Below is a video of Gina taken in the spring of 2010 during the 40 Days of Purpose
program at the First United Methodist Church Starke, Florida. At this time, Gina had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and only had about four months to live.