Tony Trent: Faith was everything to Tyler

Monday, March 2, 2020
Tony Trent speaks about the importance of faith during his son Tyler’s fight with bone cancer Saturday evening.
Banner Graphic/BRAND SELVIA

While it is still hard to reflect on the loss of their son and brother to cancer, Tony Trent, his wife Kelly and their two other sons Blake and Ethan find purpose in continuing a mission he began.

What has remained constant through it all is their faith in God.

Trent spoke about the hardships his family faced during Tyler’s illness to a small audience gathered inside Parker Auditorium at Greencastle High School’s McAnally Center Saturday evening.

Trent’s visit was sponsored by the Greencastle Wyldlife Club, in partnership with both the Greencastle Middle School and Greencastle High School FCAs and the Purdue Club of Putnam County.

A segment from ABC News’ “Nightline” program first gave context to the end-stage of Tyler’s battle with osteosarcoma. However, it also highlighted how he persevered to become an inspirational figure to many.

Tyler, then 20, was a student in October of 2018 when he predicted that the Purdue University football team would upset No. 2-ranked Ohio State. The Boilermakers went on to defeat the then-unbeaten Buckeyes in a 49-20 victory.

Tyler would pass away a few months later on Jan. 1, 2019. Before then, he had raised thousands of dollars for cancer research through Riley Children’s Hospital and the V Foundation, as well as the endowment named in his honor.

“It’s always hard to hear my son’s voice and to see his face in that video,” Trent began, speaking as to why he continues to tell Tyler’s story more than a year after his death. “I believe God has us here in this moment for a reason.”

“Cancer robs us of so many things,” Trent continued. “It affects you physically, emotionally, mentally and monetarily, as well as loss of time away from family.

“Can I just say that cancer is hard?” he summed up softy. He believes it is carrying on Tyler’s legacy as a leader and a fighter which inspires him to talk about how faith comforted their family during his illness.

The crux of the presentation was about four attributes of leadership Trent believed his son exhibited in his fight against bone cancer, as well as in his efforts to bring awareness to it.

First, he said that great leaders start small with a commitment to vision.

Trent quoted Psalm 103: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy ...”

Trent related that as he was coming through with this terminal illness, Tyler would just say, “I’m good.” when others asked how he was.

The second attribute Trent pointed to is that leaders make others around them better.

He said that Tyler was always thinking about and focused on other people.

“They forgot that he was sick,” he said. “He was like a receptacle in that way.”

The third is that leaders have hope. Tyler hoped that his efforts to promote cancer awareness in general, as well as raise money for research, would have an impact beyond himself. That included a goal of writing his own book so that he could share his experience.

“The Upset: Life (Sports), Death ... and the Legacy We Leave in the Middle” was released in late December of 2018, and proceeds go toward cancer research at Purdue.

Trent said that through sales of Tyler’s book and other various efforts, about $2.8 million has been raised through the Tyler Trent Cancer Research Endowment at Purdue’s Center for Cancer Research.

He noted how “raw” Tyler was in being honest about how the disease had crippled him, and about how he relied on his Christian faith to find comfort.

The final attribute, Trent provided, is that leaders adapt their perspective about their and others’ circumstances.

He read from a column that Tyler wrote for The Indianapolis Star in December of 2018, in which he professes that there was a deeper meaning behind his illness.

“Then the realization comes, if I was able to constantly change what I wanted to be as a little kid, why can’t I do it now?” Tyler wrote. “When we change our perspective on our own dreams, we realize that it was not God who blocked those dreams. He just morphed them into His perfect plan.”

Speaking through his son, Trent asked the audience what their perspective was in life.

“(Tyler’s) desire was to live for a greater purpose, to point it back to Christ,” he said. “We will be remembered for how we responded to hardships in life. Who will you serve?”

It was Tyler’s belief that God had the best for him in the end that was the most important realization, even through all the anger his father himself once held.

Trent quoted the Epistle to the Colossians that he said encapsulated it all: “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”

“God has a plan for your life,” he said. “You just have to believe it and embrace it.”

Trent then read from another column Tyler penned for the The Indianapolis Star not long before his passing.

“Some could say we are all in hospice to a certain degree,” Tyler wrote. “Let’s not forget that my doctors gave me three months to live almost two-and-a-half months ago. So why can’t we live grateful lives? Why can’t we make every day count like it’s the last?”

During one of Tyler’s first hospital stays back in 2014 - when he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma - they wrote this phrase on the door window: “God is holy - I am not; Jesus saves - Christ is my life.”

Tyler believed he could not lose either way. He could either be with Jesus or with those he loved.

“Everyone has a story, it just takes someone to listen,” he concluded.

Following the presentation and a short question-and-answer session, everyone was invited to the lobby for refreshments and a book signing by Trent.

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  • My wife and I had the privilege of chatting with Tony Trent at his book signing at the Indiana State Fair last August. Talking about his son's death is not easy for him. However, I am convinced that he sees it as his responsibility to do so in order to show others what a Christian faith can do to heal and also to sell more books to raise money for cancer research. Tony continues to inspire others. What a tribute to his son.

    -- Posted by rawinger on Tue, Mar 3, 2020, at 8:35 AM
  • Tony did an awesome job speaking about his son's life. Made me want to pursue my passion all the more-we never know how long we have.

    -- Posted by patience1 on Tue, Mar 3, 2020, at 1:33 PM
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