How Cancer Couldn’t Stop One Man from Living out His Faith

Don and I were the best of friends! He gave me his high school class ring to remember him by.

When I was in college, one of my best friends had no hair. His name was Don and he wasn’t bald because he was trying to be a rebel. He was bald because it was the result of chemotherapy treatments. He used to work at an ice cream parlor called Farrell’s and one day he bumped his shin against a table and he suddenly found himself in an inordinate amount of pain. Troubled, he went to the doctor to check it out, and, there, he was diagnosed with bone cancer. Once treatments began, he lost his hair. But he didn’t lose his spirit.

We took a spring break trip, organized by Cru, a Christian fellowship group we were involved in, down to Daytona Beach. The purpose of the trip was to look for opportunities to share our faith with fellow spring-breakers. It so happened that our week in Daytona was at the same time as some kind of motorcycle convention. I watched in awe as Don would go up to the tattooed, leather-jacket-wearing bikers and initiate conversations with a spiritual bent.

He wasn’t foolish or fearless. There were times when he appeared reluctant to approach someone he didn’t know. I would then teasingly ask him, “Are you a man or a mouse?” He would smile and then go for it. But, honestly, I don’t think it was my words that made him any bolder. Don had a deeper motivation: it was the love of Christ that compelled him to reach out. (II Cor. 5:15).  Back home, in Maryland, it was the same thing. His heart made him volunteer as a Young Life leader at Kennedy High School. He would go there regularly up to connect with teens, attend their school play, or soccer match. He wasn’t explicitly using words to share his faith, but he was supporting them, and befriending them because he was so eager for them to know the power of God’s love, that he himself had experienced.

Eventually, the cancer overtook Don’s body, and no treatments were able to beat it down. But his spirit was never overtaken. Not long before he passed away, our pastor stopped by to visit Don, as was his habit. Don asked him to wait, so that he could finish his devotional time with the Lord before they connected.

Don lived with purpose, motivated by the love of God, which he received and then, in turn, poured out to others. When I hear the song “Live It Out” from this “What’s Next?” Body & Soul session, Don comes to mind. He could’ve spent his time, watching TV in his living room easy chair. He would’ve had every excuse for being there. But he did not choose comfort. He chose instead to “live it out.” He took risks. He challenged himself and relied on God to fulfill His purposes through him. Reminds me of Someone else I know.

Hilda Labrada Gore is the DC Metro Regional Director and the Director of Communications for Body & Soul. She is also the host of the Wise Traditions podcast (which focuses on food, farming, and the healing arts), available on iTunes, Stitcher, and even YouTube!


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