I didn’t know Ed personally, but we worked together. Maybe for years, but I only became aware of his existence last July when we started together as FTF’s (full-time-flexibles) at the REC.
The first time I saw him, he had a bandage around his knee and he raised a question about getting time off for surgery during our orientation, during which it was made very clear that we had to report to work when we were scheduled, no exceptions. An exception was made for him.
Weeks and months passed, and tall, skinny Ed got even thinner. He started walking slower. Then one day, I noticed he was toting around an oxygen tank. And he walked even slower. But he never missed work.
One day we happened to be in the same part of the same break room at the same time, and he wasn’t looking too hot.
“You look like you’re fighting a hard fight,” I said.
“I’m fighting cancer,” he confided.
I found out he was going through chemotherapy, and his legs swelled each time he had a treatment, and those were the days he wore his big green pants and sandals. He was smiling, despite his weakness, and was upbeat and positive. I told him I would pray for him and he thanked me with a grateful smile.
Then came the hard weeks and months. He became so weak that he started using one of our rolling chairs as a walker, propping himself up on the back as he pushed it in front of him, and would pile up his stuff on the seat to cart around because he could no longer carry it. The oxygen, which he used to only wear while sitting down and coming to and from work, now accompanied him on his breaks. I got choked up every time I saw him, saddened by his diminished state, and inspired by his fortitude.
“How much longer will you have to do the chemo treatments?” I asked him in passing one day. I was still hopelessly optimistic for him.
“A long time,” he said, so weak he could barely smile, but he smiled anyway. He always smiled when he saw me. “My body is being stubborn.”
That was my first inkling that he really might not make it. I didn’t know him except to give him a friendly smile in passing, but my heart ached to know that after fighting so hard, he might not win his battle with cancer. I cried that day as I worked, and many days after, praying to God to strengthen Ed and help him through this struggle, whichever way it may go. That if it wasn’t His will to heal Ed, then to keep him from suffering too much.
And then the news came. He didn’t show up one day, and I heard through the grapevine that he had taken a turn for the worse and was in the hospital.
A week later, last Saturday, he passed away. He worked all the way up until a week before he died.
God forbid his fight and his strength and dedication go unnoticed. I didn’t know Ed. But he taught me by example that we are stronger than our circumstances. That we can overcome practically anything to carry on with life until it ends. He inspired me in his last months, and witnessing his strength and commitment to his job made me a better person. I can tell you that there have been days I really felt like I couldn’t work, whether for health or emotional reasons, but I didn’t call in because I knew Ed would have showed up no matter what. And if he could do it, dying, I could do it, my life ahead of me.
Thank you, Ed. Your legacy lives on in my heart, and perhaps in the hearts of many of your co-workers. You were a shining example to us. Every time I feel weak, I know I will remember your strength. When I’m weak, He will make me strong, and I will be thinking of you for the rest of my life, leaning ever harder on my Lord for the strength and courage that you displayed.
With God, I can do anything. I’m stronger than my disease and any circumstance that befalls me. Today, I’m thankful to Ed for teaching me that.