To my friend Roger W. Sanders

I never thought I'd be writing this so very soon, and I hate doing it.  Yesterday, on November 5, 2018, my dear, sweet friend Roger Sanders passed into eternity after suffering briefly with ALS.

I remember when I first encountered Roger way back in 1999 or 2000.  He wrote me an email with his C.V. asking to join our informal little group studying created kinds.  I'd never gotten an email like that before, but after I looked over his C.V., I knew this was someone special.  He had an extensive background in plant systematics, and I knew he'd be a valuable addition to our group.

I could ramble on about his professional qualifications, but that's boring (and I've already done that here).  I want to remember Roger as I knew him.  He and I were kind of an odd couple.  I vividly remember his first week when he came to work with me at Bryan College.  As I was standing outside his office talking to my assistant, he came out, smiled, held out his hand, and said, "Seed?"  I frowned and looked at what he had in his hand, a small plastic bag of seeds.  "What are they?" I asked.  "Sunflower seeds!" he said.  "What are they for?" I asked, still confused.  "For eating!" he said.  "Oh, no, thanks, I don't eat seeds."  We both burst out laughing.  I don't know which one of us was weirder.

Roger, Kurt Wise, and Mike Matthews at the natural
history museum in Rapid City.

Roger was very fond of his alma mater, College of the Ozarks.  Whenever he talked about it, he would say, "College of the Ozarks, where Connie and I went to school."  (Connie is his wife.)  He said it again and again, and it became a little private joke in our office behind his back.  Eventually, it came out, though.  One day he started to talk about "College of the Ozarks, where Connie and I went to school," and I just started to laugh.  I explained to him what was so funny, and he thought it was pretty funny too.  After that, whenever he would mention College of the Ozarks, I would either interject "Is that where you and Connie went to school?" or, if I was too slow, he would say in an exaggerated voice, "where Connie and I went to school."  It was our joke, and we laughed every time.  We even shared that joke when I saw him for the last time in June.  We still laughed at it, all these years later.

I also never knew how Roger was going to react.  Years after we first met, when I came back from Christmas break to announce my surprise engagement, his entire reaction was to raise his eyebrows and say, "Oh!"  I had to prompt him, "Don't you want to know who I'm going to marry?"

Roger, me, and my wife Stephanie at one of our
creation retreats in North Carolina.

Roger helped me launch Core Academy of Science in 2013, then in 2016, he and Connie retired and moved back to their beloved Ozarks.  They wanted to be closer to family, and Roger was looking forward to finishing up some research and still being involved with his creationist colleagues, conferences, and Core Academy.  A month later, he started having weird twitches.

When he told me he'd been diagnosed with ALS, I was suspicious.  I told him to get a second opinion, which he did.  Every doctor he saw confirmed the diagnosis.  His symptoms were the classic signs of ALS.

I was angry and disappointed and dreading the future.  I knew some people lingered a while with ALS, while others went quickly.  I didn't know what to expect.  When I finally saw him in the summer of 2017, he seemed mostly OK.  One of his arms was hanging a bit useless, but he was walking and talking and seemed like the Roger I remembered.  I was cautiously optimistic.

When I saw him just a year later, he was in a wheelchair with a neckbrace keeping his head up, with all his limbs mostly useless.  I went to see him to collect the last of his office and library collection.  We mostly talked and interacted like usual, chatting about business and research, and laughing and carrying on about this and that.  In the evening, he shared about a dream he had that Jesus was waiting for him.  We all choked up a bit, but I still had no idea he'd go so fast.

Roger and I looking at spring wildflowers.

Roger's influence is not done though.  I still have contributions from him that need to be published, and he gave me permission to edit and publish video we shot of him.  Roger has one more article to be published and a book project he worked on for a loooooooooong time.  I'm so sorry that I didn't get it finished before he passed.  He also gave me his research files, in the hope that I would be able to find someone to pick up where he left off.  So I am glad to say that his influence on the world of creation is not done.

I have no words of wisdom to share today.  I am still just sad.  Please pray for his family, as they deal with this sad loss.  When Connie wrote me to tell me about Roger's passing, she wrote, "He no doubt is identifying plants or trying out his new legs in heaven right now. He said last week that he couldn't wait to walk again when he gets to heaven."  I look forward to our reunion in the kingdom of God.

Roger and his Lantana.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com. If you enjoyed this article, please consider a contribution to Core Academy of Science. Thank you.

Have you read my book?  You should check that out too!