This community lost a gift on Nov. 15, 2013, when Beth Gephardt lost her long battle with cancer. Beth was many things to many people: a beloved and cherished wife, mother, grandmother and friend, an educator, child advocate, a dedicated and innovative board member for the Animal Protection League and an asset to any other cause she was dedicated to serving.
When Beth told me she had cancer in 2009 and the prognosis was not good I cried. In her teacher's voice she said, "It is what it is. I've had a blessed life and I have no regrets." I realized I was going to have to change my attitude. Cancer or not Beth wrung every ounce of life out of every moment as if it could be her last. She did more living with cancer than many people do when they are healthy. Family and friends watched her in awe.
Beth's battle with cancer reminded us all of our mortality. That at any given moment life can change. It frightened many of us — made us aware of loss and living with loss.
Beth had chemo; she was in cancer studies and through it all she looked great even when she lost her hair. She had several wonderful wigs we were all a bit jealous of and wouldn't have minded wearing. Sometimes we could almost forget she was sick. Beth dealt with cancer with grace, honor and courage. One of her friends said it best: "Beth taught us how to live and how to die."
I hadn't realized until the other day just how long Beth and her husband Dave and I have been friends, more than 25 years. They are just a part of my life. I think it would be safe to say that Beth was one of, if not the most positive person I've ever known. Early in our friendship her positive, cheerful nature could often annoy me to no end. I said to her once that she just didn't understand how hard life could be. That terrible things happened and that she just didn't get it. Very calmly she told me that she was well aware of that but she chose to live in the positive. That it is a choice, how we choose to view life. It wasn't Beth who didn't get it; it was me.
In 2011 the Animal Protection League decided we wanted to have a golf tournament as a fundraiser. Beth was an avid golfer. She called some of her closest friends, formed a committee and gave us Pars for Paws. It has become a hugely successful annual event that Beth chaired. In honor of Beth it is now called the Beth Gephardt Pars for Paws Memorial Golf Tournament.
Winnie, her little dog, went everywhere with Beth. Winnie gave her comfort at the hospital and was by her bedside during her last days. Winnie is grieving right along with the rest of us. At one point during the last week Beth smiled and said it was like Christmas. All her kids, grandkids and friends were packed in her house. Pastor Rick Vale said at Beth's life celebration that she danced with life. I think she would like that analogy. In my mind I see her as she passed, dancing and laughing her way to heaven. You were greatly loved, my friend, and will be terribly missed. Perhaps those of us left behind should learn to dance.
Maleah Stringer is executive director of the Animal Protection League, 613 Dewey St., Anderson. She can be reached at 356-0900 or at email@example.com.