July 7, 2019 - INSCRIPTIONS FROM THE HEART
FEELING HELPLESS BUT NOT HOPELESS: LIFE LESSONS I LEARNED FROM JUNE CANDELARIA
Following is my personal impressions of our friend and brother in the Lord, June Candelaria.
June is a man of a few words. He is most animated when it comes to sports. If you ever watched a Pacquiao fight-LIVE, you would say, "ah-hah, I know what you mean." June's enthusiasm is infectious; as with him, I joined the others watch the 2007 NBA finals between the San Antonio Spurs versus the Cleveland Cavaliers. June was ecstatic that the Spurs swept the Cavaliers 4 games to 0.
In June 2009, June was officially diagnosed with cancer. It was an aggressive one. Through rounds of radiation and chemotherapy, his courage and will to live never waned. I watched as his immediate family, loved ones, relatives and friends came together to show their affection. I learned that June is his family's "go-to" person whenever sibling, niece or nephew is in a crunch. My admiration for the man of a few words grew.
His faith in Christ is sure. His sister reports of him singing the classic hymns with his mom. According to Sally (his wife), he recites from memory the twenty-third Psalm to lull himself to sleep. His uh-hmmms and amens are audible when we pray together. He prayed Psalm 86 (from the New Living Translation) together with the late Pastor Ricky Mapa, whenever he visited him in the hospital.
On Thursday night October 22, Thom and I visited June at the Grey Nuns. I noticed his breathing is labored, but his senses were sharp. We were relishing our conversation. As he moved to sit on the edge of his bed to take his meds, he prayed aloud: "Salamat Panginoong Diyos sa buhay ko." (Thank You Lord God for my life.) He prayed another line of praise. As we were leaving, we saw the familiar amiable look as he thanked us and said, "Salamat sa pagdalaw." (Thanks for the visit.)
As per Sally’s story, after midnight, June became restless and the struggle with pain intensified. Throughout the brief bout with cancer, may I add that he endured the pain quietly. His determination to prevail is obvious through his brave demeanor. In what would be his final night, he signaled a two thumbs up to indicate it's all good. He would fall asleep on Sally's bosom in an embrace. A few short hours later, at dawn, Friday October 23, June finally slept, now very still, to wake up in the joy of the Lord's presence forever.
The life lessons I learned from June? I have lots to go if I ever am to become a person of a few words; to look amiably and sincerely at every one with whom I lock eyes. Should I ever have to endure physical pain, I hope to replay in the video screen of my mind June's courage and will to live and prevail in spite of the pain. To always seize the moment. To determine with full intention to exert the extra effort even if it seems irrational and inconvenient when the situation is literally between life and death. To never give up. June's last words to me and the short glimpse God allowed me to watch in June's life reminds me of a word I determined to delete permanently out of my vocabulary and that is the word, quit. By God's grace, I say with June, "Quit? No, never!"
And lastly, You and I know that "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1). God is still in control. It's why we are not hopeless, because our Hope reminds us, "Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted...The Lord Almighty is among us." (Psalm 46:10-11)