It wasn't the response expected from a young man with terminal cancer.
“He would tell us, “I am so grateful for the cancer,” because it helped him refocus on his faith and what is important, such as his family, said Greg Krafft, minister at Cedar Creek Church, where the Pascutes attend. “I knew I was in the presence of a great soul.”
Craig Pascute, 29, died April 3 after struggling for more than a year with cancer of the esophagus. But his faith and impact still are being felt by those he left behind.
Pascute was diagnosed with cancer in early July 2012, said his wife, Amanda. He had been experiencing severe pain, and it took doctors several weeks to determine the cause.
After finding the cancer, doctors told him he had about a year to live. Pascute later learned he would need chemotherapy to have a chance at making it one year.
He dealt with his diagnosis and treatment the way he approached everything — with an upbeat attitude, Amanda said.
He did worry about his family.
Amanda is a stay-at-home mom for their two boys, Zack, 7, and Jake, 9.
“When he and I would talk alone, that is what we would talk about,” she said. “It never was about him.”
However, Craig found peace with that, too.
“I think in his mind he knew we would get taken care of,” she explained, saying family, friends and the people of Cedar Creek Church all have reached out to help them.
Donations still are being accepted to help the family with bills and with planning for the boys' future education.
Knowing Craig touched a lot of lives has been a help as Amanda grieves his loss.
“It's great to love Jesus when everything is going good,” said Krafft, who invited Craig to teach his Sunday School class two weeks before Craig died. “It is powerful when the wheels come off the bus.”
What really inspired people was Craig's consistent faith and positive attitude about his situation — “consistent through good days and bad,” Krafft said.
About 350 people attended his funeral, and many of them were people Amanda didn't know.
They met a nurse at Lutheran Hospital during one of Craig's many stays there for treatment. The woman, who took care of Craig on many nights, had just moved here from Michigan.
“She ended up giving us a large donation,” Amanda said. “She said, 'My heart goes out to you.'”
Another Lutheran Hospital patient told nursing staff he wished he had Craig's conviction and commitment.
Craig's employer, Triple Crown Services, went out of their way to accommodate his illness and treatment. The company and employees also joined together to provide Christmas for the Pascutes this past December.
In addition, though they only attended Cedar Creek Church for five months before Craig died, church members have been like family.
“Nobody lets me alone for more than about 12 hours,” Amanda said recently. One week, she was invited out to lunch on four days.
The support has made it possible for her to move forward slowly.
She and her sons have moved in with her parents because she wanted to the boys to have a male role model in their lives.
The boys are “doing as well as can be expected,” she said. “They miss Daddy. They don't understand.”
She eventually plans to go back to college for the training needed to start a career, possibly in nursing.
And she'll always be thankful for the people who were there for them when they needed them most.
“We were shocked by the amount of people that felt the need to let us know they were thinking about us, praying for us,” she said.