CAMBRIDGE, New York. I, Robert P. Ancar, died on May 4, 2021 from an aggressive form of multiple myeloma. Living with an incurable cancer for four years changed my life in a profound way. I embraced the motto: live as if you were to die tomorrow, learn as if you were to live forever. I was grateful to a loving God that I was able to do this with clarity of thought and a sense of peace by prioritizing the important things in life over the trivial, reflecting on life’s joys and regrets, and pondering an eternity to come. More than ever, I knew I faced a mortality with an unusual sense of immediacy making me become even more aware of how fragile and precious life really was.
I was profoundly blessed by the support of my healthcare team that truly made a difference throughout this journey: Drs. Matthew Pender of Glens Falls Hospital, John Delmonte of Saratoga Oncology/Hematology, Patrick Lynch of Saratoga Nephrology, and innumerable oncology nurses and staff. Originally giving me a few months to live they started calling me an outlier and anomaly when I survived well beyond their original prognosis. I attributed this to the excellent care they provided that brought me further along than they or I expected. Their huge hearts, warm smiles, and compassion meant the world to me. I tried to learn all I could about my illness and the efficacy of new cancer therapies. I was grateful my healthcare team tempered theoretical optimism with pragmatic realism by characterizing novel therapies in a way that did not offer false hope. I knew my long-term prognosis was poor and the challenges I faced would be like running a marathon. I ran this race to the best of my ability, strove to understand this insidious and elusive disease, and never stopped trying to overcome it.
To my dear wife Judy who provided numerous words of encouragement and performed countless acts of kindness, I was most grateful for how she was always my advocate and champion, always. Through every moment we shared the small victories, the sad letdowns, the easy, and the hard. No person could ever ask for a more supportive and caring wife, helpmate, and best friend.
Lastly, I greatly appreciated my family, friends, former colleagues at NYSDOT and NYSERDA, and many others for their empathy and just staying in touch throughout my illness. To all these gracious and kind people, never underestimate the power your prayers, kindness, and encouragement had. Thank you so much. I will always remember this.
From the beginning of this journey, I lived life by relying on the principle of bloom where you’re planted. I learned to live in the moment, one day at a time. However paradoxical it seemed, hoping for a cure while preparing to die became mutually harmonious and compatible ideas. Living in this limbo became my new normal, but it taught me how to genuinely live. Facing the certain reality of death, I became aware of a heightened timeline I knew had a definite endpoint. Seeking some sense of sanity against the backdrop of an aloneness this looming mortality conveyed, I accepted my terminal illness for what it was and relied on God's love and mercies. More than ever, I appreciated the small blessings of life more passionately and wondered if I could have done things differently that would have led to a more efficacious outcome.
While cancer came into my life as a rude intruder, it helped to reset priorities by providing a clearer panorama of the remaining time I had on earth. From this vantage point it provided a backwards looking view of what really mattered, helping to distinguish fallacies from truth. Cancer broke apart threads of everyday life that had over a lifetime crept into the commotion and flurry of daily existence: shallow pleasures; worldly entanglements and pursuits; ease of life; a felt need to always be searching for something more; and the presumptive and arrogant notion that life should go on uninterrupted. All of this was a convoluted maze of hollow mediocrity and dubious motives and beliefs, all forged in what I thought was an attempt to define self-identity, worth, and the meaning of life. Living with terminal cancer had a wonderfully blasting effect that shredded this web of self-reliance and deceit. I learned life wasn’t so much about what I got but how I used what I achieved to the glory of God. The future slowly lost its importance as personal dreams, whims, desires, and ambitions became small and inconsequential in comparison to the simple gift of appreciating every moment God gave me.
Through it all I rested in God’s providence, confident in his sovereign grace. As difficult as it seemed, I believed he was in control of everything that happened along this journey. A loving God met my needs and worked out his perfect will in his perfect way. I thank Jesus Christ who provided an assurance of his love through the liberating truth of his gospel. My hope was in his finished work on the cross and death in my place. Through faith in Christ I discovered the fullness of hope, promise of resurrection life, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life through him was true (1 Thess. 4:13-18). As cancer lost its grip Christ helped me measure all things by reordering eternal priorities. As everything else of this world faded away, I found comfort in the longing for eternity that God promised (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
Living life in this vast universe was an enormous privilege, adventure, and priceless beyond belief. I knew it was also a gift from God I had to give back. I more than ever understood how fleeting life was, a mere speck in the great oceans of everlasting, never-ending existence. I knew my life would transition in an instant (2 Cor. 5:6-8) from brief, numbered moments in time to a moment that never ends. Christ provided a glimpse of a glory beyond comprehension and the immeasurable majesty and perfection of his heaven.
Nearing the threshold of eternity, I committed my soul to the mercies of God, through my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. That ‘sting of death’ was muted by God’s gracious promises: “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26) and “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Phil. 1:21).
I lastly embraced God’s richest promise reserved for those who belong to him: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones” (Psalm 116:15). Since I am one of his, I knew that my Lord and Savior eagerly waited, watched, and joyously counted the days until I came home to live with him. I died well knowing I would be with him forever. At the end all I had left was Christ the Lord of all. To him be all praise, glory, and honor. Hallelujah! Amen!
Arrangements were with the Ackley, Ross & Gariepy Funeral Home in Cambridge. To offer condolences, please visit www.gariepyfuneralhomes.com. Memorial donations may be made to Saratoga Hospital Foundation at https://saratogahospital.z2systems.com/np/clients/saratogahospital/donation.jsp or Grace to You at https://www.gty.org/donate/donatenow.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Robert P. Ancar, please visit our floral store.