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Christian Chronicle family mourns and celebrates the life of Rebecca Stafford

We miss you, Rebecca, but we know we’ll see you again.
Our hearts are heavy with sorrow and joy here at The Christian Chronicle. Rebecca Ann Stafford, 20, died March 10 after a three-year battle with cancer.

Rebecca Stafford (Photo via matthewsfuneralhome.com)

Rebecca is the daughter of our longtime administrative assistant Tonda Stafford and her husband, Barry. The family attends the Memorial Road Church of Christ in Oklahoma City. A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday, March 15 at the church. (Read her obituary.)
Tonda Stafford started working at the Chronicle about a month after I arrived here. She succeeded our longtime assistant Gwen Antwine. We watched from the sidelines as Rebecca and her big sister, Lauren, grew from shy, quiet girls into dedicated, Christ-centered women.
Tonda came to my wedding, and she and Barry became the backbone of our small-group Bible study. When our daughter, Maggie, was born, the Staffords adopted her as one of their own. Rebecca babysat for us. My wife and I came home from dinner once to find Rebecca and our 3-year-old sitting on the couch, their eyes glazed over from watching too many Disney princess movies. Maggie adored Rebecca.
Tonda sat at the front desk of our former offices in the Bible building at Oklahoma Christian University. I remember the day in 2009 when she asked for my wife’s cell phone number and then asked our advertising director, Tamie Ross, if she could use her office. It seemed like Tonda was on the phone for hours with my wife — a pediatrician. All I knew was that Rebecca was sick.
In the weeks that followed, Rebecca’s sickness took on a name — Ewing’s sarcoma. Bone cancer. Surgery, radiation and chemotherapy followed. And prayer, lots of prayer. News from the doctors seemed to change like the Oklahoma weather. Bad followed good. Reasons to despair became reasons to hope.
Rebecca inspired us all as she quietly fought the cancer, completing high school and her first year at Oklahoma Christian despite ongoing chemo. Her parents set up a page on Caringbridge.org and kept hundreds of friends updated on the fight.
During her treatments, Rebecca decided that she wanted God to use her life to help others. He did. Students at her high school collected money for cancer research as part of their “swine week” fundraiser. The students gave a record-breaking $527,000 to the Jimmy Everest Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders in Children at OU Medical Center.

Rebecca Stafford, foreground, and her mom, Tonda, in their home in north Oklahoma City on Aug. 10, 2011. At right is the stand that holds Rebecca’s medicine. (Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman, via www.newsok.com)

In 2011, reporter Bryan Painter interviewed Rebecca for The Oklahoman. (See our blog post about the story.) During the interview, Rebecca read a Bible verse, Psalm 73:26, stitched into a quilt draped over her frail legs. “My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, But God remains the strength of my heart; He is mine forever.”
The verse “just tells me that God’s with me through everything, whether good, bad — or in between,” she told the reporter.
Earlier that year, Rebecca was a bridesmaid in her sister’s wedding. We watched her walk gingerly down the aisle in her deep pink gown. On one arm was her escort, on the other a black bandage that reminded us of her ongoing treatment. The beautiful event became the focal point of an editorial written by Bobby and Tamie Ross on the importance of God-centered marriage.
Recently we learned the news that many of us had long feared. The countless treatments Rebecca had endured had failed to rid her body of cancer. We prayed every night for divine healing and peace.
Then, at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Tonda posted on Rebecca’s Caringbridge page, “At peace. Safe in the arms of Jesus.”
We will see you again, Rebecca. Know that you have inspired hundreds, if not thousands, of us with your Christlike example of love, compassion and bravery.
We praise God for the time he gave us to be with you and we look forward to the day when we will meet you in a place free of pain, suffering and loss.
Wait for us there.

  • Feedback
    Rebecca will never be forgotten. Thank you for sharing this, Erik. Love you Barry and Tonda.
    March, 14 2012

    A beautiful tribute, Erik. Thank you for sharing her story.
    March, 14 2012

    Rebecca taught us so much about being tough and totally relying on God in any and all circumstances. I know she made her heavenly father just as proud as she did her family here on earth – not just these last three years, but with her whole life. We’ll see you soon!
    March, 14 2012

    Beautiful tribute for a beautiful young soul. Our prayers are with all of you at this time.
    Michelle Mickey
    March, 14 2012

    Rebecca’s life, as brief as it was and as young as she was, inspired countless readers and people that knew her and knew of her. May God bless her family. The grief is theirs, but the rejoicing is hers as she is “safe in the arms of Jesus.”
    James Haney
    March, 14 2012

    Erik, thank you for the touching tribute to Rebecca and the encouragement to Barry, Tonda and Lauren.
    Gwen Antwine
    March, 14 2012

    Our hearts go out to Rebecca’s family. We have sent a child on ahead of us and know the pain of doing so. But, we also have the peace of knowing we will all be together again for all eternity. Just know we are praying for you.
    Jon & Carol Raymond
    March, 14 2012

    “Dear Father, take care of this family you love so much today, and tomorrow and every tomorrow. We promise to bring them before you on a daily basis. Help us to learn from them to trust you more and more. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
    Terry Lemmons
    March, 14 2012

    What a lovely tribute to our precious Rebecca. We love you, Erik, and your beautiful family.
    Tonda Stafford
    March, 14 2012

    It is indeed a joy when one lived his/her life for Christ.
    Rebecca lived an exemplary live during her sojourn on earth.
    Let us emulate her for for being dedicated in His Master’s service.
    May God help us to remainfaithful in His service.
    It is a tribute of encouragement.
    Good night sister Rebecca.
    Mojima Etokudo
    March, 14 2012

    May the love, mercy and grace of God continue to innudate this family throughout eternity. God cares so much for us that He has a bottle for our tears (Ps. 56:8).
    robert brooks
    March, 14 2012

    I am so thankful for the internet because I’m presently in the Philippines doing mission work and I can continue to receive CC updates. I would never have known of Rebecca except through this article. My wife and I have two married daughters in their twenties who attended Lipscomb, so I relate closely to Rebecca, at least in relationship. The blood of Jesus is amazing; it is the tie that binds us together in the body of Christ more closely than any other relationship on earth. Tears streamed down my face as I read this. I am thankful for the love of Christ that saves us, for this exemplary young lady, and that we can all be united with her again. My prayers go up to the Father on behalf of the Staffords.
    Dale Byrum
    March, 14 2012

    Erik what a wonderful tribute of Rebecca’s life, I know that had to be heart wrenching to write. The video at the end was truly Rebecca and every word she said is how she lived her life. She will be sorely missed and was loved by so many. What an example! What courage she showed us all and how we all need to live our every day…love and sympathy to her loving family.
    Virginia Ware
    March, 14 2012

    A beautiful tribute and inspiring words from a young, victorious warrior.
    May we never forget her strength and words. Your family is in our prayers.
    March, 15 2012

    Rebecca, farewell till we meet in the land beyond the sky to part no more. Please brethren, Can someone contact Erdoo Segher, a Nigerian girl studying at the University of Oklahoma, U.S.A. and study the Bible with her? Please help.
    Akerigba Jacob
    March, 15 2012

    My prayer for you – God’s wonderful peace that is beyond our understanding.
    His love and mine,
    Karen French
    March, 16 2012

    Our hearts may be broken but yet our spirits will be strong knowing that your wonderful family will be reunited in heaven one day. Praying for your strength. Much love to you all, Cliff & Amelia Lyle
    Amelia Lyle
    March, 27 2012

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