Two weeks ago, a beloved professor from my seminary days died of colorectal cancer.
At the beginning of each term for the past several years, he would slowly enter the classroom and arrange his tired body in a chair at the front. Looking across the rows of expectant faces--his classes always filled to overflowing--he would say in a voice made raspy from treatments, "There is something I need you to know. I have an incurable disease." After a brief explanation, he would begin teaching with his characteristic passion and expertise, never mentioning it again.
Even had he not passed, I would have been thinking about him during these past couple weeks of political bickering. He was a tireless, influential advocate for the right of women to teach with authority in the Church. During his decades of advocacy, he faced unbelievable levels of hatred and vitriol from those who disagreed with him. He had an extraordinary ability to remain both civil yet unyielding in the midst of debate. Indeed, he was known for developing relationships with his ideological opponents. In an interview he once explained his secret: “You have to have a good sense of yourself in your own convictions, so that in any relationship, you never feel threatened.”
Every class he taught, every sermon he preached, every moment he was present with his family after his diagnosis in 2002 was a stand for hope in the face of life's end.
He was only 70 when died. He had years of scholarship and service left in him. Cancer took that from him. Cancer took that from us.
So I'm grateful that Hollywood, in all its glitz, is gathering to raise money for cancer research today. For my former professor. For my grandmother, a breast cancer survivor. For Judy. For Whymommy. For Lillian. For all of us who have been affected, directly or indirectly, by the disease.