Sunny Side of The Stream: One Boy’s Hope While Dying of Cancer Caused an Alcoholic Stranger to Trust in God and Find New Life

By Aliya Kuykendall Published on March 2, 2024

“Course I want to live — long life. … Who doesn’t? It’s not really my plan though,” Ethan Hallmark said in his I Am Second video, in which he and his family describe their faith in God amid a battle with childhood cancer. Ethan went to be with the Lord on Sept. 26, 2014, at age 13, two months after filming the video. He’d be 23 now. Cancer took his life, but it also brought him closer to God. And he brought others to God during his battle as well.

One man, in fact, experienced a total life transformation, going from a depressed alcoholic with a traumatic childhood to a sober, Christian man with a family. According to a Feb. 29 Faithwire article, Aaron Palmer met Ethan on a beach in Hawaii while the Make-A-Wish Foundation was fulfilling an item on the boy’s bucket list: fishing at sunrise on a Maui beach. A drunken Palmer saw Ethan fishing and was drawn to him — and 30 minutes later, Ethan had given him a new perspective on life. He stopped drinking nine days later.

Even when he later began telling the story of how his life changed after meeting a boy on the beach, Palmer didn’t know the boy’s name. Nine years after Ethan’s death, he sent this message to the Make-A-Wish Foundation:

In 2011 I met a Make-A-Wish Foundation award recipient. I met him on a beach on Maui, it was the beach right next to Ka’anapali Golf course, I was staying at the Royal Lahaina resort and was taking a beach walk very early in the morning. This boy saved my life. … I at the time was struggling with alcoholism and had been drinking very heavily the last 6 months. I met this boy and realized this boy … had more Joy, Hope, and happiness than I did. It was a huge slap in the face by God. That boy helped change my entire perspective on life. … I have been sober ever since.

It took some effort, but Make-A-Wish staffers located Ethan’s family and also told Palmer that the boy had died. They shared Ethan’s “I Am Second” video with him.

Palmer watched it with his wife three times, and heard Ethan say,

Psalms 40 verse 5 is probably my favorite verse. It says, “Many are the wonders you have done, Lord God. The things you have planned for us … None can compare with you. If I were to recount your mercies, they would outnumber the sands on the seashore.”

I know that it’s kind of weird that my favorite verse is “mercies” and whatnot. But it’s true. Even though this cancer’s had a lot of bad stuff, there’s been a lot of good stuff. I met friends that I would have never met. One friend I know has come to Christ just because I played with him. …

I’ve grown closer to God. My family has. I wouldn’t trade my relationship with Jesus for anything. Nothing — at all.

This is something I’ve written to my brothers and sister and my friends: 

I don’t know if y’all know it, but I’ve seen the true love of God through all of y’all. At times it felt like God was far away, but he was right there in you. Keep putting your faith in God, and always remember that he is always with you, and even in the depths of suffering, He is good. Love you guys. …

Even if I do pass away from cancer, I’m going to be focused on the goal. And when I get there, even if it’s soon, to kneel before him, and … hopefully, hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Palmer was able to meet with Ethan’s family and explain how he had essentially saved his life. To read more in-depth details from this incredible story, check out the article on Faithwire.

 

Aliya Kuykendall is a staff writer and proofreader for The Stream. You can follow her on X @AliyaKuykendall and follow The Stream @Streamdotorg.

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