Sam VanGieson was a student at Lincoln Christian University who passed away at age 26. He was only 23 years old when he was diagnosed with cancer. He went into remission at age 24, only to have to have the cancer return at age 25. Sam married his wife Savannah in November 2012, then passed away on March 1, 2013. I was impressed when Sam and Savannah decided to go ahead and get married, even though their marriage would be short—it lasted only four months. Their marriage was a testimony that Sam was determined to live his life to the fullest until his final day on Earth. Sam spent his final weeks and months encouraging others and teaching them how to live. Here are some of the things he wrote in the months and weeks before he died:
I still trust that God is going to take care of me. More than anything, I hope that through this I can do some good in this world. Do not fear that I have given up hope, because I have not and will not do such a thing. There is always faith, hope, and love to be found in this world. You just have to open your eyes and look for it. That’s the good news. I am thankful for my life, down to every second. Please pray for something miraculous to happen. I do not know how much time I have left, but does any man ever truly know such a thing? All I know is that I intend to live the remainder of my life, regardless of how much is left, in a manner that floods other lives with faith, hope, and love, to live in such a way that encourages, inspires, and supports people, to extend kindness, gentleness, and patience to any and above all, to show forgiveness and grace, to share joy, laughter, and smiles with everyone I come across, to be brave, strong, and very courageous, and to shine my light in this present darkness. Even in pain and suffering, something magnificently beautiful can be born. Above all else, I am going to love with all my heart.
I have given my life to the will of God, whether it be a miraculous healing or it be a journey. Either way, cancer, you did not win! Christ is victorious! I have a loving family and friends, a roof over my head, and food to eat. This, personally, is more than enough for me. Cherish what you do have, not what you are “missing.” No material thing will make you complete or whole. I speak from firsthand experience and, hopefully, with a spirit of gentle kindness. I must say that I’ve never felt more loved than during this period of my life. Or perhaps the love which was already there, became more apparent than ever. My mom has been with me nearly all of my doctor appointments and taken extensive notes. I cannot even begin to count the amount of people who have prayed for me, wished me well, hugged me, donated (food, money, time, and resources). Because of their great generosity, I’m humbled to say that I have an amazing family and friends. But more than that, this year has taught me that I’m not alone in this fight, in this life. As much as my family and friends have done for me, I can honestly say that God has provided more. I would have never made it this far without Him. I greet each day with a courage and strength that isn’t mine, with a hope that isn’t like anything here on this Earth, with a love that conquers all.
REFLECTIONS: Think of all the ways that staying on earth can be a blessing as well as all the ways that dying and being in heaven can be a blessing. As the Lord to give you a “win-win” attitude about life and death.
As it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For me to live is Christ and to die is gain