Remembering Eric Stripling
We are heartbroken by the passing of CAC family member and alumni Eric Stripling. He and his wife Tonya, CAC elementary teacher and alumni, and their children have been an immeasurable blessing to our school for many years.
He influenced countless lives with his genuine heart and generous laugh; he will be greatly missed on Mustang Mountain.
Below, a few friends and CAC family members have shared memories and lessons learned through their relationship with Eric and the Stripling family. Please join us as we remember Eric’s beautiful legacy.
A Message from Dr. Carter Lambert
Every now and then, people enter your life and change everything. Eric and another friend changed my life without knowing it. God used them at a pivotal time in my life. It started as a simple gesture to encourage but turned into something much more. I was struggling and doing a pretty good job of hiding it from everyone but God. God used them to wrap his arms around me and say, “Remember me? You’ve lost your way. It’s okay. I still love you. Come back. The promise is still here.”
I share this because I know I am not the only one who had this experience with Eric. God used Eric to bless others, to save them. Eric’s illness gave him a unique perspective on what really matters and he dedicated himself to helping others know God as he does. One of the last things he said to me was, “Everything, everything that distracts us from God, it is time to kick it to the curb. And to be telling everyone that good news and that it is eternal. The great news about me going through this, is I can smile because I get to go to heaven. Oh man, what great news!” I miss Eric. We miss Eric, but we rejoice that he is seeing his Father face to face. I thank God for letting me see Christ through Eric and can’t wait to see him again.
A Message from Brad Horton
“But exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrews 3:13
Eric and I made this verse our home for the last 6+ years. Seldom did a day pass without Eric contacting me via a call or text. “Hey, what have you been studying?” and “Where are you in the Word today?” He was relentless, to-the-tee referencing the scripture above. I could write a book; I doubt I ever will, that could detail a lot fun, silliness and sheer goofy things that Eric, our friends, and I have shared throughout 40 of his short 53 years of life. I won’t go there…unless I write that book. For now, I want to simply impress upon you what Eric would want me to impress on you.
Eric would ask you, “Do you know and believe in Jesus Christ?” Those of you who knew Eric knew that he never let any opportunity pass to tell others about his Savior and the entire plan of salvation. This often took place while we were standing in line to order at Taco Bueno, or anywhere, for that matter. I have known a few good men, but I have never seen a good man become such a great man in the face of what many would consider a tragedy until Eric.
At a freakish height, Eric always pulled oxygen from a different atmosphere than most. During his illness, he started breathing and seeing this life from a vantage point of eternity that many mortals will never hope to obtain. Eric exchanged our air for the breath of Life after the arrival of what could have been the end of everything, including spiritual life. He took a lifetime of devotion, love, and duty and shoved it into a span of 6+ short years; time that he repeatedly recanted was the best of his life. He was so thankful to have a brain tumor and he gave God the glory for every single tiny cell that tried to tear down his immense 6’8” frame.
We shared a lot in common: being left-handed, the love of music (but not the BeeGees), playing guitar, golf, fast food, Candy (i.e. Juanita’s peanut brittle), and our height . . . okay, not everything. It was a Mutt and Jeff kind of thing, but I could take care of the low hanging fruit, while Eric pulled down the high limbs. What a blessing he has been to me and so many of you.
Eric and I would routinely share the news of the death of common acquaintances. We would somewhat jokingly express the irony that most of those who had died offered their own sadness and condolences to Eric many years ago, expecting that he would have been gone long before they. Over and over this occurred, and Eric would generously remind me that life is a gift, every day; we are to use it to its fullest and thank God for it. And never, ever, fail to check in with the ones you love, those you are learning to love, and those who may never love you back. Remind them that God is good, cancer is bad, but God makes it all alright.
Eric packed his bags a long time ago. He didn’t need much, traveling lightly for the last many years. He would remind each of us about God’s “provision.” I know you heard him speak of it also; I will not forget it. What a blessing to have such a friend! What an honor to be able to see Eric’s faith and courage live and thrive, despite excruciating treatments and medications that slowly destroyed his body. He would never complain to me, even though I begged him. I expect many of you reading this received the exact same experiences and gifts from Eric as I did. Think of what he taught us by his example and let’s share the Good News with boldness just as he did.
I miss you, my dear friend, but I know you are heading to where you have been laying up your treasures! To God be the glory.
A Message from Amy Burton
“Be joyful always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Thirteen years ago, Laura and Ashley Stripling were born, and soon after, so was my daughter, Hannah. Their friendship began from that moment, which then deepened the bond between myself and Eric and Tonya. Over the course of those years, Hannah and I have been blessed to watch the Striplings live out this verse from 1 Thessalonians. Their family has always shown joy in the everyday of life, they pray for everyone and about everything, and they overflow with thankfulness in all of their circumstances.
After Eric’s cancer diagnosis, the bond between our families strengthened, as Laura and Ashley were enrolled in CAC, Tonya joined the faculty, and the twins began to spend more time in our home and Hannah in theirs. What I began to witness was that very word: witness. Eric took his circumstance and used it to witness to others about God’s faithfulness in his life, the joy in his heart for the Lord, and the joy of Heaven as his future home. Tonya began to witness to the staff and students at CAC, sharing the same testimony of God’s faithfulness, the joy in her heart for the Lord, and thanksgiving for Heaven as an eternal reward. What a beautiful gift Laura and Ashley were given, to watch their parents take a difficult season of life and use it to share Jesus! They soaked it all in, allowing that gift to spill over in their conversations, flashing the same joy-filled smile of their parents in each of their interactions.
Even though Eric’s health continued to decline, his love for our family and his joy in the Lord never faded. He would stop me and Hannah at church to thank us for praying for him and tell of the joy of getting to go to Heaven one day. He would ask the girls, “When is Hannah going to come over?”, and last month, he even joined Tonya, Laura, and Ashley as they took Hannah out to dinner for her birthday. They showed us the strength of family when joy comes from the Lord and gratitude is expressed for every moment of life. Those memories will forever be etched in her mind and mine.
There is no way to know how many people have been impacted by Eric and his family. He and Tonya both shared their joy at each cancer treatment and hospital stay. Tonya has told her students about people she met at the hospital who needed to hear about Jesus while she waited on “Mr. Eric.” Laura and Ashley have told Hannah stories of strangers they have met in McDonald’s who knew their dad. And, I witnessed the love and gratitude Eric had for Tonya as he made his way up to school, with her dad’s help, to bring a beautiful vase of flowers for their 30th anniversary. She was not there at the time, so he sat at her desk and had his picture taken with the flowers so she would know he had been there. Be joyful always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances. Praise God for the power of prayer, the support of family and friends, the fruit of gratitude, and the reward of eternity in Heaven!