3 December 1952 - 24 April 2021
I first saw Becky Olson at the Dorchester Conference in Seaside, Oregon in the mid-1980s. Her husband Bill had just defeated one of the more-powerful members of the Oregon State Senate, and he was surrounded by a crowd of well-wishers.
As charismatic as he was (and still is), it was his wife that I noticed first. She was more than just a supportive wife (though she was that, as well). She had a glow and strength of her own that made her a step above just another political wife. In the next forty years I would discover just how true that first impression was.
Becky was the embodiment of hope. No matter how dire circumstances were, she firmly believed that circumstances could not erode her Christian faith -- that circumstances could never snatch her from peace at the center.
I befriended Becky and Bill in my professional capacity in 1988. She was as heroic as any biblical heroine during the process, and I learned a lot from her about facing adversity. From our first meeting, the three of us became trusting friends. I knew I could contact either of them at any time when I just needed someone to give me a little more hope in my day.
Becky was an Alaska girl -- because she was also a child of the military. She eventually landed in Seattle where she started a career in film, married and gave life to two children -- Tanya and Joshua. Her life then took a different turn. But let's hear how Becky described in her own words:
She went to college in Seattle, which is where she met her husband on a boat, as of course you do in Seattle. Becky was technically on a date with another guy when her future husband spotted her, but that didn’t stop him from introducing himself. They fell in love, settled outside of Portland, Oregon and raised five children.
The three additional children were from her marriage to Bill -- Elizabeth, Elijah, Micah.
She was one of those people that succeeded at everything she did. Certainly she was talented, and that always seems to be true with successful people. But, with Becky, there was something else. She faced the same problems we all do in her professions. To her, though, they were not stumbling blocks, they were opportunities to learn and to pivot.
The largest of those blocks was cancer. Breast cancer. The first diagnosis in 1996 came as a shock, but what it did not do is hinder her hope. She founded Breast Friends, a non-profit organization, to focus public attention. In 2004, when her doctor diagnosed breast cancer for the second time, she quit her job and devoted all of her time to Breast Friends.
Well, that is not quite true. She focused her professional career on Breast Friends, writing The Hat That Saved My Life and becoming a motivational speaker, podcaster, and radio show host -- and being an inspiration to thousands of people who suffered with various physical inflictions. There was still too much life to live to do only one thing.
She was always a supportive mother and wife. She ramped up her game because she was not going to push down the people that mattered most in her life simply because of her condition.
And she lived life to its fullest. She traveled to places she always wanted to visit: Spain, France, Italy, Iceland, Israel, and, of course, Greece. We both shared a love of Greece, and I re-lived many happy moments there listening to her recount her experiences. Especially about food. The mere mention of roasted lamb would send both of us into reveries.
Nothing better symbolizes her underlying hope than her dancing and singing talents. For her, life, with all of its possibilities, was a banquet.
Last night, I thought of Becky while I was humming a tune. I could not not think why I had drawn the connection until I paid attention to the lyrics. It was Graham Kendrick's "Teach Me To Dance."
Teach me to dance to the beat of your heartWhen the end came, after six diagnoses of cancer that bit by bit worked its destructive way through her body, she was still full of hope because she had spent her life moving in the power of God's spirit.
Teach me to move in the power of your Spirit
Teach me to walk in the light of your presence
Teach me to dance to the beat of your heart
So, like a child in your sight
I dance to see your delight
For I was made for your pleasure
And always dancing in the beat of His heart.