Remembering a Lung Cancer Legend

Today will be a day I won't soon forget. It's the reason I've recently stepped back from lung cancer advocacy work.

I have moved to Jacksonville, FL and am only an hour from where I raised my daughter. Occasionally, my friend Cliff and I would meet for lunch, especially when I had appointments here.

Cliff is a man of God, and though I woke early this quiet and peaceful morning, I know I will attend his memorial today. Cliff Norton was one of the first people I met after being diagnosed in 2012.

Comfort in shared struggles

Finding out we lived close to each other, I was so excited I had someone close to me with lung cancer, someone who could relate to me.

I knew that when I was down, I could call him. He always made me feel better by reciting scripture and God's promises.

I was saved at the age of 15, but I think I found God when I got sick in 2012. That's when I learned all of this is beyond our control. Cliff knew this, and it seemed he started his day with God every day.

Shortly after I was diagnosed, someone sent me a copy of "Scripture Confessions". So, while in Houston, at the airport from MD Anderson, I turned it over to God. Reading that book meant so much that I carried it everywhere those first two years.

That book reaffirmed everything Cliff would preach about. I began to look to him as a huge inspiration.

It was almost as if he was immortal. He will be watching in heaven as we celebrate his life this evening.

Seeking connections

I do want to find him on the other side. My relationship with God over these past 11 years hasn't changed. I finally met someone here who wants to go to church and become more involved.

I don't know if you read my past blogs, but I've dated many guys I thought were the "one." But this man is also a man of God and keeps me grounded. If you ask anyone I know, that's a hard task.

He's never met the lung cancer community but is attending Cliff's service with me today. After I sobbed about Cliff, he finally understood why I hadn't been advocating. I don't know how the advocates do it because it is mentally draining and so hard to lose loved ones.

Remembering my friend

When I first moved down here, I called him. He answered in that cheery tone, and I told him, "I just moved to Jacksonville; we can go to lunch more often!"

We talked for a few minutes, and he had to go take a call he had been waiting for. Later, he called and left a voicemail about how he was sorry he had to go so quickly and to call him when I got settled in.

Well, Thanksgiving came, then Christmas, and before I knew it, we were entering the new year. I promised to call him after the first to set up our lunch date.

Then, on the second, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, which was rare. I saw that he went home on the first day of the year.

I immediately began sobbing and called my mom, who in turn started crying as well. There isn't anyone I know close to our lung cancer community who doesn't know Cliff, so the outpouring of prayers for his family has been tremendous.

He never met a stranger. If he did, he wanted to make sure they knew Jesus Christ.

Honoring Cliff's memory

I've openly discussed my religious views at a recent lung cancer event. Afterward, I met a couple who both complimented me on being so open about my faith in a place filled with scientists.

I can't remember when I met Cliff exactly, but I knew he was a University of Florida fan. Since I was a UGA fan, we instantly became friendly rivals. He and my friend are always messaging to talk smack.

So I'll probably be the only person there wearing UGA gear, but it's what he would've wanted. We even argued over the name of the world's largest cocktail party.

I'm not sure who my friend and I will get our stock advice from anymore! I know I don't seem upset in this article and that is because I know where he is.

Having words of comfort

I'm sure I will cry at the service, but he wouldn't want that. I'll see him again.

I'll end this article with something Cliff would've said in a time like this. "Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all." -Psalms 34:19.


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