In 2016, the world met pastor and vocal Christian Sunday Burquest on “Survivor: Millenials vs. Gen X.” She made it to seventh place, and secured many friends and fans along the way — including fellow contestant and ultimate winner of their season, Adam Klein.
When she participated in the show, she was cancer-free after initially being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. She had surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy to deal with the invasive disease, and she beat it.
But last June, she made the sad announcement that cancer had come back and spread to her ovaries and lymph nodes. With a serious diagnosis of esophageal and ovarian cancer, doctors didn’t think she had more than a few months to live.
“Here’s my thinking,” she told People last year. “No one knows how much time you have left. Accidents can happen. Miracles can happen. Someone healthy can die unexpectedly, and someone sick can live for much longer than expected.
“So I don’t think of this as a death sentence; I think of this as something that has happened, and is now a part of my life. And I’m going to live my life as fully as I can.”
Last Sunday, she passed away at the age of 50, leaving behind her husband, four children, and two daughters-in-law, as well as a legacy through the impact she made on fellow survivor contestants and the lives she touched through her ministry.
Her daughter, Kennedy Burquest, wrote a touching tribute to her mother, highlighting her hope in a future reunion.
“To my unbelievably beautiful mama, Thank you,” Kennedy began in her post. “Thank you for fighting as hard as you did for as long as you did. Thank you for being a best friend, a role model, a sister, and my mother all in one. Thank you for raising me to love Jesus, and show that love to others. That’s something you did so well.
“It breaks my heart to know you will never get to see me on my wedding day, or be there when I have my first kid. But I know you’re watching over me. Although it hurts me so bad to watch you go, I’m so happy you are happy again. I’m happy you get to be with Jesus, and see your dad. I’m happy you aren’t in pain anymore. I’m happy I got to have these past few months with you.
“I loved taking care of you. You’ll always be my favorite patient. I love you to heaven and back a million times. I know one day we will meet again. Until then, I’ll spend every minute missing you, and trying to make you proud. Rest easy mom, I’ll see you soon.”
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Klein commented on Kennedy’s post to encourage her and honor Sunday.
“You are your mom in so many ways, Kennedy,” Klein, who lost his own mother to cancer, commented on Kennedy’s post. “She always saw you that way. When I look at you I see her, too. I will get to see my friend Sunday as I watch you on your journey, as the grit girl you know that you are.
“Your special connection with your mom will always carry you through the tough decisions and important moments in your life. ‘What would she do’ is a thought I often have, how would she feel (you’ll know), and you know your mom better than anyone. She will guide you, until you meet again.”
To the end, Sunday held on to her faith — and though she’s gone, she will not be forgotten.
“Things happen to you, but you can handle it with strength and faith,” she told People last year. “And my faith gives me strength.”
“The stage has been set for God to do great things, no matter what.”
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