Regina Pontes is a woman who lives her faith. Today we take a few moments to find out more about this courageous person: how she lives, how she works and how she interacts with others.
Dr. Knight: There are so many places to begin, perhaps you could tell us a bit about your early family life. What was your early family faith life?
Regina: I viewed my family life as the quintessential 60s-70s upbringing. Most of the families in my neighborhood were the same. Most families had two apparently loving parents and multiple children. We kids were sent out to play with their friends at the beginning of the day and didn't return home until the sidewalks rolled up and street lights came. Kids rode their bikes around town, played in the street, got many scraps, bruises, and yes, broken bones or stitches playing a little too hard. Everyone knew their neighbor and God forbid you got out of line; you had your neighbors and parents to contend with.
Most, including my family, church, and CCD, Sunday School or synagogue attending albeit all at different times. John F. Kennedy's portrait was lovingly displayed in a place of honor right next to the pope's portrait. My reality of vastly different worlds occurred beginning at 19. Touring Europe with Youth of America Singers was extremely eye-opening! Some of the stories the kids told of their lives broke my heart and made the hairs on my arm stand up and a shiver run down my spine. What an awakening.
Dr. Knight: The jolt of a stroke cast you into the reality of perseverance. What issues began to unfold for you?
At first, it doesn't seem to be strengthened. It felt like a weight I couldn't get out from under. I then begin again with baby steps. Miniscule activities become molehills or mountains. This is my Mt. Everest! It's when you pass through with the grace of time that you realize that you persevered, not because of the strength in you alone but because of God's love shares in getting you through one day to the next.
Dr. Knight: Let’s look at the lighter side, what is your favorite movie and book? Why?
Regina: Fun question. Hard to choose to be honest. With respect to mainstream movies: Brian's Song and Being There are my top two. Religious-oriented and marketed movies would be The Fourth Wiseman and The Way both starring Martin Sheen! I've loved his work since Paulist Productions "Insights" days, 1968-1983. Mr. Sheen really does practice his Catholic faith especially as it relates to social justice issues. With respect to my book favorite, C.S. Lewis' The Four Loves is my top. I see each of Lewis' defined loves interwoven beautifully within all of these movies. Each movie wonderfully captures the essence of the love Lewis so eloquently defines.
Storge: Affection Love: Phileo: Friendship Love: Eros: Romantic Love.: Agape: Divine Love.
A definite must read!
Dr. Knight: The startling news of your brother’s death forced you to make some life-altering decisions. Could you share some of those with us
Regina: As described in my book, the main decision to change my ministry from music ministry where my service for God's love to others was centered and expressed back to focusing on my parents' perceived need for help. Little did I foresee just how drastically the tables would turn and I once again would need their help just a few short years later. With the writing of this book, I now feel my service to others has returned, albeit in a medium than I ever envisioned: writing a book and speaking of my journey. I left the creative writing to Richard. In hindsight, I remember finding a handwritten post-it note from Richard to me stating: "I'll take the present, you take the future". I abide that dictate Richard wrote and published his writings on a dedicated Facebook page (Poet"sCorner-Richard'sOriginals) and book entitled Songs of the Wilderness on Amazon.com. When I completed that task, I embarked on my own writing journey.
Dr. Knight: How did you incorporate your faith life into your work as you began to see your life change?
Regina: During my cancers and other ailments I believe people in my work environment had the opportunity to witness firsthand how faith sustained me in enduring and overcoming these potentially life-altering struggles. Had I been working exclusively in ministry within the church, my exposure to be witness to others not questioning their faith or lack entirely thereof would have been non-existent. My work in the secular arena broadened my ability to evangelize by example if you will. Once the stroke occurred and my ability to work in those companies ended, the world became my canvas in terms of being able to evangelize with the publication of the autobiography.
Dr. Knight: Your best friend, Nancy, gets cancer. How does this strengthen your notion of perseverance?
Regina: To me, Nancy was a shining example of perseverance and humility. A mother's love as complete as Nancy was evident when seeing the undying love she possessed for her children. She was first diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer when her children were just at ages of 6, 4 and 2. She knew the challenges that awaited her but resolved to manifest strength and determination throughout. She once even stated, "if I have to endure the ravages of chemo every two years or so to be here for my children, I will accept that cross willingly". She remained ever humble working daily to build the children's strength of body, mind, spirit and overall character until she passed at six years after her first diagnosis leaving behind her three children then 12, 10 and barely 8. I learned a great deal about persevering simply by physical will but more so from an emotional and spiritual dimension as well from witnessing Nancy's difficult yet ever faithful walk with Christ.
Dr. Knight: When Nancy passed away, how did this effect/affect your faith life?
Regina: After Richards's death and then Nancy's, Nicholas Wolkerstoff’s book Lament For A Son spoke to me as it spoke to my mother. This book's message of keeping awake and present for our remaining family resonated with me to not only be present to my loved ones but to others as we all endure the struggles of death within all humanity. As a theologist, Professor Wolkerstoff brings us to the mourning bench – a concept similar to Gethsemane and the waiting disciples as Jesus faces his own grief. As a father who lost his only child, Wolkerstoff lovingly commands the same attention to remain present and attentive to that grieving process. I was strongly affected by this book and its message. Obviously after both Richard and then Nancy's deaths, this book's message of keeping awake and present to her family resonated with me not only but to be ever present to my loved ones and to others as well as we all endure the various struggles and ravages of life and death all human experiences.
Dr. Knight: As your journey continues with cancer, what stands out for you as meaningful for your life in general?
Regina: Awakening in our journey, not simply a learning experience of self but also a means of encouragement, to know we are not alone. Each of us must be ready to learn and be receptive to another's coping mechanism to overcoming and/or enduring our journey – both shared and individually - ahead. I hope it is to be understood through one's own life journey we must all travel to its inevitable end.
Dr. Knight: The book gives some great insights for people struggling with cancer and for those in the medical profession. How do you think this book will help both the groups?
Regina: My book will hopefully be used as an education of and advocacy for self, loved ones or medical professionals which is essential. In overwhelming times, this book will hopefully refocus the reader back to overcoming the hurdle at hand, whatever it may be. Consolidation of information is extremely helpful in understanding the lessons learned that someone else has already had to endure and overcome. I am ever reminded of the movie The Doctor (1991) starring William Hurt. The premise revolved around a self-centered doctor diagnosed with cancer becomes better able to get closer to his patients and understand a life outside his career. I hope for the same takeaway from my book.
Dr. Knight: The end of the book and the appendix gives some great links and information in regard to how to deal with medical equipment, whom to call and how to deal with many practical issues. Are there other issues that we should be mindful of?
Regina: If I can impart at least one important takeaway it's simply a practical, financial perspective. If your job offers LTD (Long Term Disability), TAKE IT! Invest in it and yourself! I can't suggest this strongly enough. It has been a life saver for me. You never know what awaits your future. It could ease your fiscal burden.
Dr. Knight: What other insights might you have in dealing with these life-altering issues?
Regina: Simply thank God and Jesus upon waking every day for the gift of life to not simply just be present in every moment but to live, learn, love and thrive!
Dr. Knight: We’d like to thank you for your insights into the serious illnesses that became part of your life and along with your faith make a significant difference for you and for those reading your book. Thank you!