I met Ronda Parker in the summer of 2011 at Short Mountain Bible Camp. She was a counselor for the girls and I was a counselor for the boys. We had a lot in common. First of all, we were Christians, which is the most important thing to have in common with anybody. But we had also dealt with cancer, and we had both received our original diagnosis at the same time in our lives – while our children were very young.
We had the opportunity to grow in our Christian friendship through Bible camp. We talked from time to time about health issues, other challenges, and the faith needed to overcome. We prayed for each other and shared our recent health news and reports.
Ronda passed away this last Sunday after a 12 year battle with cancer. By faith she gained the victory.
Cancer patients learn some things that other people cannot learn. First of all, they learn to come to terms with their own mortality. When you receive your diagnosis there are a few thoughts that come to you immediately. One is, “How much time do I have left on earth?” Another is, “How soon can I have surgery?” When you have something inside your body that may take your life, you want to get it out of you as soon as possible. And another thing – once you have a disease that is life threatening you lose the assumption that you will live to be old. You never get that back. It was a false assumption anyway, because nobody knows their time. You were just either oblivious about this before, or you were simply mistaken.
Cancer patients also know life is a gift. Life becomes much more precious to people who stop taking it for granted. When you are sick it is offensive to watch people waste both health and time. When you are fighting for your life it is hard to understand why people don’t exercise or eat right. It is also hard to understand what people are waiting for when it comes to making their lives count. Every day is more exciting. Every sunrise is more beautiful. Every relationship is more meaningful. Cancer can be a great blessing to us spiritually. It makes you prioritize.
Ronda did something very meaningful for her funeral service. She made it clear that she wanted the plan of salvation to be preached to everyone in attendance. She told her preacher, “Don’t hold back!” He did not hold back. After I led the first song, there was another song, and then the obituary. Another song followed and then the eulogy. This memorial was one of the most powerful I have ever attended. Ronda used her physical death as a way to give people a chance for eternal life. She knew it might offend some people, even family members, but she loved everyone too much to keep them from the truth.
A final thing I would include about having cancer, is that you begin to think about the implications of “goodbye.” When you love people you do not want to be separated from them. You want to be in their lives and you want them in yours. To love and be loved is what makes life worth living. You know that they will go on with their lives when you are gone and you will cease to be a part of the daily process. It becomes increasingly important for you to leave a lasting impact; an impact that will live long after you have gone and perhaps last for generations to come. Ronda made that kind of impact.
The last thing she told her preacher, the quote that ended her service, is perhaps the most powerful thing I have ever heard a person say at the end of their life. Please keep it in mind. Ask yourself how it applies to you. I want to preach this quote from Ronda for the rest of my life. I believe it will help her to live on through us and that it may change eternity for others. Ronda ended her final conversation with her preacher with these words, “Tell everyone assembled, who is a Christian, who has obeyed the gospel, ‘See you later.’ Tell everyone else, ‘Goodbye.’”
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:4
Photo background credit: Jonelle B. on Creative Commons