The Two That I Knew…

It’s the end of October and I don’t think I can let the whole month pass without highlighting the fact that it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I’ve heard it said that everybody has been affected by breast cancer because everybody knows somebody who’s had it. I know that’s true for me because two of the most precious women I’ve ever known have died from it.

Monique was my youth pastor’s wife the last couple of years I was in youth group. She was from Germany and had married a US Marine. She returned with him to the US and began a new life here. Two abortions she’d had as a young woman caused her to be unable to have children. But she poured that love and passion out in hours of counseling at the local crisis pregnancy center and being an amazing friend and youth pastor’s wife.

My favorite memory of M is one night when I went to youth group sick. I don’t remember why I did that, but I did. And during the service I became so sick that I just passed out in a chair. When I came around, M was holding me. I can still remember the texture of her sweater against my cheek. But mostly, I remember that at that moment, I felt more loved and safe and cared for than I ever had in my life.

After I left home, M and I lost touch. Through friends, I heard that she and her husband had moved to Virginia. Some years passed and I heard nothing at all until months after she’d died. I had never even known she was sick.

I still miss her.

Sheila sat next to me in the choir. But way before that, I had met her on my first visit at my new church. She stood out for two reasons: the bright, peacock blue scarf tied around her head and that she made a point of coming over to hug me. From that first moment, I knew that she loved me—and she didn’t even know me.

About a year later, I was sitting next to her in the choir loft one Sunday morning. I leaned over and asked how she was doing and she answered, “I finished the radiation. Now I can focus on getting my strength and energy back.” I smiled, squeezed her shoulders, and thanked God in my heart.

Within a matter of weeks, we had all heard the news. This same sweet woman that had finished the radiation for her breast cancer? The cancer had spread to her brain and lungs.

I wept and cried out to God saying, “Lord, You can’t take my friend! I just found her!”

The next Sunday morning, she was so weak that her husband had to help her climb the four steps to the choir loft. But she came and smiled and sang. I stood next to her weeping as I listened to her sing:

No guilt in life

No fear in death—

This is the power of Christ in me.

From life’s first cry,

Til final breath,

Jesus commands my destiny!…

Until He returns or calls me home,

Here, in the power of Christ, I’ll stand!

(from “In Christ Alone”)

After that, Sheila went very fast. When she began having nosebleeds, the doctors found the cancer had spread to her bones and liver. On January 24, 2008, I got the call at my office that she was gone.

I sang in the choir and on the praise team at the funeral. We sang her song—In Christ Alone.

Knowing Monique and Sheila, I think that the one thing they would want you to know is that it is the love of Christ that makes all of the difference in life. Love God and love each other.

And I’m fairly sure that when I see Monique in Heaven, she will throw her arms around me and say, “I missed you, meine kleine leibchen!” (my little loved one) Yes, Monique, I’ve missed you, too.

About Sarah Salter


  1. I lost my best friend to breast cancer in 1992. Her picture is still on my desk at work and on my family room wall. We shared the same love of Christ, the same goofy humor, and I can’t wait to see her again. Your post made me cry (of course) and just made me miss Ellen all over again. Yes, we’ll all be together in Heaven. Thanks Sarah – wonderful tribute to your dear friends.

  2. Sarah Salter says:

    Thank you, for sharing your story here, Candy. I keep M’s picture in my desk drawer at home and I think of Sheila every week in the choir. Last time we sang Sheila’s favorite song, someone sitting in the back told us that he clearly saw her sitting in the choir singing it with us… And don’t worry about crying, Candy. I cry over blog posts all the time… Sometimes while I’m writing mine and sometimes while I’m reading others’.

  3. So very sad that this evil disease takes away those we love in such a painful way. It’s just not right. Stupid cancer.

  4. I’ve lost 2 dear friends in as many years to cancer. But they were both sure they were going to be with Jesus, and that gives me comfort. Thank you for sharing your story.

  5. Thanks for sharing this, Sarah.
    We’ve all been touched by cancer in one way or another. It’s a horrible thing, but these are beautiful memories of wonderful women!

  6. Loss is so painful. I’ve never lost anyone to breast cancer, but I know what losing someone feels like. These stories are tremendous and important to tell.

    And I’m not going to lie, reading her battle and singing that song with those words sent chills up and down. Thank you for sharing this.

  7. Thank you for sharing Monique and Sheila with us….I am sure it was a blessing to be part of their life, no matter how long/short it was.

  8. Sarah Salter says:

    Thank you all for sharing your stories, too! Our loved ones live on in our memories, don’t they? So, we haven’t completely lost them. Thank God for this!

    Jason- My music buddy! God had perfect timing with having us sing that song in choir, didn’t He? Those lyrics were exactly what we were going through at the time. I still think about Sheila every time I hear it…

  9. mama & Ruby says:

    Sarah-will this take my comment?!? This is one of the reasons I will be willing to have my head shaved.-MAMA

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