By Liz Wort
Earlier this week, the Duke track family lost another of its members when Allie Stankavage Morris lost her battle with cancer at the age of 30. Allie was a ray of light to everyone who knew her, with a beaming smile on her face 24/7 and a huge hug always at the ready for anyone who needed it, including strangers. After being diagnosed with a very rare form of cervical cancer a little over a year ago, Allie fought valiantly and bravely and was declared to be cancer-free last February. Not long after, however, the cancer came back and she was given less than six months to live.
Allie was one of the most positive people on the planet. Everyone knew her and everyone loved her. She had that rare, innate ability to make you feel like the most important person in the room. She was a fighter. And she always saw the cup half full in anything she did and the silver lining in every storm cloud. If anyone could have beaten cancer simply with a positive attitude, it was Allie. She was healthy, she was young, and she had just started her married life with her husband, Paul, a few short years prior to her diagnosis.
With Allie’s passing, we now have two members of the Duke women’s cross country team who have left this world too soon. Sally Meyerhoff, Class of 2006, was hit by a car while training on her bike in Arizona in March of 2011 at the age of 27. And now Allie.
It is hard to come to grips with these kinds of tragedies, when young, vibrant friends miss out on so much of what life has to offer. We’ve spent the week reflecting on this, talking with family and former teammates to share memories of Allie and acknowledge that life is precious and we do not know the number of days we are given on earth. Only God does. Any day could be our last. This reality does not mean we should live in fear, but rather encourage us to embrace life and the things that really matter: God, family, friends. Not the meaningless stressors of everyday life or material things that often occupy our mental energy and time.
I read one post on Allie’s Facebook wall from a friend who noted what she had learned from Allie: “Love more. Forgive quickly. And be kind.” That was Allie. Her life motto was “never let anyone dull your sparkle” and she was known in the Duke track circles as the “Team Mom” – always striving to put others first and cheer someone up. She had a genuine, humble and inclusive spirit and an energy that was infectious. She brought people together and sunshine into the room. Allie also had a vibrant faith and lived it out loud.
A few Bible verses have come our way this week that speak the truth in the midst of tragedy.
Psalm 90:12 – “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
Lamentations 3:21-25 – “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’ ”
Ephesians 3:20-21 – “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
We love you, Allie, and we will never forget you. Thank you for sharing your sparkle with us. <3