He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4–ESV).

Two particular people passed away recently.

One I’d met only a handful of times; the other I’d never met, until his funeral.

One was a gracious author and teacher; the other was a burly truck driver.

One was a mentor to many; the other was the uncle of a friend who likely mentored few.

One had been a believer for many years; the other came to Christ in his dying days.

Perhaps polar-opposite people. Still, they shared one thing in common.

I met Yvonne Lehman for the first time when I attended the conference she founded more than three decades ago. I was so excited to be at the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference in the spring of 2005. An aspiring writer, I was inspired by Yvonne’s bubbly personality and spunk. She defined pizzazz, and it didn’t surprise me one ounce that she wrote cozy fiction and romance, as those genres fit her like a perfect pair of stilettos. Spiritually, she taught me to trust God with my writing. Practically, she taught me what a novella was. (I didn’t even know there was such a creature!)

I attended the BRCWC again several years ago, and it was then that I met a woman who told me about a critique group that met in Black Mountain, in Yvonne’s home, in fact. We traded information, and I promised myself I’d carve out time to attend. Though I received regular emails updating me on their next gathering, for one reason or another, I never made it on any of those particular Saturdays–something I sorely regret now.

I did, however, correspond with Yvonne on numerous occasions. She’d sent out a call for submissions for her Moments book series, and I sent an essay I’d written to be considered for a future book she’d entitled Can, Sir Moments, which was due to be released in 2022. She loved my piece called Can’t See? Can-cer!, and as recent as early March of this year, had written me to confirm that my story would be included in the compilation. I was excited, to say the least.

When I received word from a mutual writer friend that she’d passed away early last month, I was sad and surprised. Many of us had prayed for her after she’d suffered a stroke some months earlier, but we had no idea that her health had declined. For many, a bright light had been extinguished on earth, though we find solace in knowing she’s now free from all physical confines, enjoying Jesus’ presence.

And one day we’ll see her again. She knew and loved Jesus for many years, and if it’s true that we earn jewels in our heavenly crowns for doing the will of the Lord, Yvonne’s is ornately decorated for certain–though it’s unlikely she cares much. I can almost hear her now–

“Sugar, who needs a crown when you’re sittin’ with the King?”

So happy she must be, basking in the light of the One she lived to serve.

Yvonne passed away was on May 7, and heaven is certainly sweeter. Why, I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if, upon meeting him, she called St. Peter Sugar.

Yes, that’s Yvonne, but then, there’s that other person who recently passed away.

As I mentioned, I’d never met him. The uncle of a friend, David Price had been a patient of my husband’s. To my understanding, confirmed by what I learned at his funeral, he’d been a hard worker much of his life. He had a daughter he cherished and other family members and friends whom he loved and who loved him in return.

From the words spoken by those who gave his eulogy, he also struggled with something–a thorn in his flesh, so to speak. And this affliction got the best of him sometimes, making life difficult–for him and, it seems, for others too.

One of Bill’s most difficult jobs is having to tell patients grim news, and such was the case with David. After giving him his diagnosis–explaining that the severe pain he’d been experiencing was caused by cancer pressing on his spine–my husband came home concerned. “I don’t know if he knows the Lord,” he’d confided, to which I replied, “Just ask him.”

Which Bill did. And he was relieved to hear David’s answer. Looking up at him through the rheumy eyes of suffering as this once strapping truck driver lay stretched out on a sterile hospital bed, David replied, “Doc, I’m good now. See, I spoke with my pastor, and I reckon I’m ready. I know where I’ll be a-goin’.”

At his funeral, this testimony was confirmed when one of the pastors shared that he’d asked David if he could pray with him, to which he’d replied–

“You can, sir?”

And I thought of dear Yvonne and the book she’d been compiling, and I smiled.

David “Yogi” Price 3/251962-5/13/2021

This burly, rough-around-the-edges, logging truck driver who fought an addiction that he couldn’t quite seem to overcome became God’s child when he said “Yes” to Jesus only weeks before cancer took his life. Unlike Yvonne, perhaps David’s crown has less jewels, but I’d venture to say that’s okay. He’s probably more comfortable in a ball cap anyway, and undoubtedly he, too, is enjoying his Savior’s presence. He is finally free.

Indeed, death did not win–not for Yvonne. Not for David. Because the former things–like cancer–have passed away.

Though I didn’t get to see Yvonne again in person, as I sat in my pew in that little country church, saw the body of a man I’d never met laid out in his casket, I thought of her. I thought of death–yes, of cancer and disease and whatever else causes one to step from the imperfections of this life into the next–into the glory of heaven or into the absolute absence of God, which we call, in all its darkness and desolation, hell.

And as I looked at the one who’d once been David Price, I knew he was no longer there, and I was struck. Because cancer thought it had won–believed it had had the last word. But in truth, those mutated cells that multiplied–tried to take over, causing agony for weeks–were still inside that empty shell, held captive and condemned to burial. It was them–those cells that formed to create tumors that pressed on nerves and caused pain–that were dead.

Yes, cancer was defeated in the body of the living man David Price. And David Price is very much cancer-free because he said “Yes” to Jesus.

Yvonne was remembered a lot this past week. Once again, I, along with many others, attended the BRCWC in Black Mountain. Her joyful, sassy presence was missed, and, in some ways, the event didn’t seem quite the same.

But I’d like to think she was watching, and maybe with David too. I can imagine she leaned in with her cute little sideways grin and gave him a wink. Nudging him, perhaps she said–

“Sugar, see that one right there. I taught her something, and so did you–me in life and you in death–and she is all the richer.”

And I am. I’m so thankful for the confidence I have that both are before their Creator in heaven today and have in common hearing Him say–

“Well done, My good and faithful servant.”

Because death doesn’t win–not when one says “Yes” to Jesus. And if someone asks me, “Can you say that with utmost confidence?” I’ll reply with a smile–

“Yes, I can, sir.”

And that will indeed be a good moment to share the hope I have in my Savior.

If you have memories of either Yvonne Lehman or David Price, please feel free to join me in remembering by sharing in the comments below. 

Dear Jesus, help us love like Yvonne. Help us appreciate Your grace like David. May we live for you until we die, and then may we enjoy your presence forever. Amen.

In loving memory of Yvonne Lehman, who gave much because she knew how much she’d first been given.