Celebrating life

CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson Pastor Bonita Knox says she is celebrating her mother, who died last month from breast cancer, and is celebrating the lives of others through her participation in Relay for Life.

By Sharna Johnson: Freedom New Mexico

When she speaks about her mother the picture is someone larger than life. Her voice is empowered by admiration. She speaks of joy, faith, and love.

Bonita Knox doesn’t see her mother’s battle with cancer as a loss. She sees it as a release and the realization of an ethereal promise.

“She was such a faithful woman and taught me that faith. Part of the reason why I am a pastor is because of her faith and encouragement. She lived a wonderful life,” she said.

“She had her mind, she had her body, she had the Lord and she never gave up. She definitely had an awareness — she was aware she was in the presence of God on earth, as it would be in heaven.”

Knox, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, has spent her profession comforting others in their loss but now finds herself wrestling with her own grief.

But instead of wallowing in sorrow and loss, she celebrates her mother’s life, secure in the knowledge she found peace and comfort in her faith.

Maybel Bishop was diagnosed with breast cancer in May, 2008.

She had a mastectomy the following month and tried some treatments but stopped short of chemotherapy.

“She just felt she wasn’t up for that and we supported her decision,” Knox said.

Less than a year later, the 85-year-old post World War II nurse, cosmetologist and life-long source of love and faith to Knox, died peacefully in hospice care.

Her mother’s memory, desire for community, togetherness and mutual understanding, led her to Relay for Life.

“We relate personally, so until something has your name on it, you may not know to get involved,” she said.

Knox explained the reason she sought out Relay for Life was, “to remember those who have fought and that we need to support those who are still fighting. To remember those that have gone before us and hope someday there will be a cure, and to take advantage of everything there is to know … to put a face to this disease and support these families one-on-one and get to know them.”

Knox was asked to conduct Friday night’s luminaria ceremony at the Clovis/Curry County Relay for Life held at Ned Houk Park.

American Cancer Society’s Community Relationship Manager Dorothy Nelson said her work as a pastor and the loss of her mother just shy of three weeks ago, put Knox in a unique position to speak to other cancer survivors.

Knox said the most important key to grieving a lost love one is facing death through understanding, and then the celebration of life can take place.

“We live in a society that denies death and that is to our detriment. It’s very important to remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return and we cannot deny that we will die,” Knox said.

“We walk with people in this Relay for Life. We walk with them wherever they are in that moment in life, we walk with them, and that goes for all our situations whether its grief or relief or whatever.”