Living Life to the Fullest, Even When It Is Cut Short

Last year around this time I wrote about a young man who had gone through a physical test that had ultimately cost his life. Some would say he lost the test physically. I am not sure I agree. One thing I know, from all the evidence left after his physical departure, he won the test spiritually.

Which one is better, to win physically, and lose spiritually; or win spiritually, and lose physically, or can you win them both or lose them both?

I was blessed to be the chaplain for the day at both the House of Delegates, and the Senate for the state of West Virginia on the last Friday of February this year. I have been blessed to spend a day with our elected officials once a year for close to 20 years. I know my friends tell me how foolish I am to drive over five hours (leaving and coming home), to pray for two minutes. They tell me, and they are right, they can do that at home.

I want you to know not only do I agree with them, I practice it. I pray for all those that are in authority in my daily prayers.

I have been blessed to pray over a number of years, over a number of officials, sponsored by a number officials both Democratic and Republican. They have always been kind to me. I am grateful. There is a special spirit that you experience when representatives from all over the state stand up in one accord, and openly admit, we need help from a higher power.

When I was down this last month, one of our local representatives told me of an event that had just happened the day before and how it moved her. I was so touched by the words she shared with me in the special hall of the Legislature.

Her name is Erikka Storch and she is one of the delegates for District 3 of Ohio County. She told me of a family that they had invited to come to Charleston, to read in the record the life of one young man, and the difference he made in his community.

As they read about his physical challenges versus his spiritual victories, she said, she was torn between being proud she experienced his family, and saddened that he was no longer physically available. As they read and rotated between various several painful and joyful experiences, her heart went out to his family, who seemed to be re-living it with every word.

She looked at her fellow legislatures, and it seemed to her that they as a legislative body or family for the moment were being touched by his family experience. Without her noticing she seemed to have tears in her eyes before the reading was over. It was the next day when she was talking to me, yet she still felt the warmth of that moment.

I know that does not make everything right in the Ohio Valley, our state, nation, or world. Yet to think that a year after his physical passing he is reminding us that you can win physically and spiritually. None of us can control all that we go through in life, but we all control in what spirit we go through it. Let me remind you of who I am talking about.

According to Randy’s mother he had Ewing’s Sarcoma. It is my understanding that Ewing’s Sarcoma is a type of a childhood bone cancer. This type of cancer, I am told, produces a family of tumors that can be very aggressive. I found out that only 1 percent of all childhood cancers are in this family of cancers. What I read is that it could happen to anyone at any age, but it normally happens to children and not adults.

In December 2009 when he had just turned 15, it was discovered he had this disease. It was strange in light of the fact he had never been really sick. He played baseball, was a member of a lot of clubs, had lots of friends, and played the trumpet in the middle school band. The family readily admits he may not have been the best, but he enjoyed playing and traveling with the band.

The summer before the sickness his parents were just thinking how blessed was their family’s life. They had two children, a 22- year-old daughter, whose plan is to be a speech pathology major, and Randy. Three years ago all of their lives were put on hold when Randy took sick. Randy was so proud of his parents and his sister. He had just turned 18 in November, a few months before his death.

The person he loved second to God was Emily, his girlfriend. His mother said that their relationship went deeper than any ordinary teenager’s first love. They were two young people, but that was not teenage love, she said. Randy looked for a love like his parents’ love, and I believe Emily looked for love like her parents’ love. Mrs. Stevens is convinced that Emily was an angel in his life. March 19, 2011 is when Randy met Emily.

We asked Emily how they started dating. Emily said, “Randy and I met when he came back to school for the first time after he was in remission and declared cancer free. He sat at my lunch table and instantly became friends. Randy taught me to never lose hope. He taught me to smile on the darkest days. He showed me that your time on earth may be short. He would always tell me, ‘If God brought you to it, He will bring you through it.'”

Last year he took her to Pittsburgh, for their first anniversary. He loved the Penguins hockey team. One year he went to the Super Bowl with the Steelers with the Make A Wish Foundation. They never had a second anniversary.

Randy said after the third time he found out he had cancer, “I believe that happiness is the key to life, for without it I am taking the living out of life. It all begins in the mind, because if it does not come from within, you will go without.”

Cummings is pastor of Bethlehem Temple in Wheeling and Shiloh Apostolic Faith Assembly in Weirton.