This story first appeared in the September 2017 edition of The Hilltop.
Esther (Suelzle) Ybarra’s life was celebrated at her memorial service Sept. 2 in Corban’s Psalm Center. Esther attended Corban in August 2014 on a volleyball scholarship and was active on that team until her cancer diagnosis in October of that year.
She was first diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer that attacks muscle tissues after she sustained a crushed vertebrae. After her diagnosis, prayer circles popped up all over campus, with students, especially her volleyball teammates, praying for her healing.
After recovering from a variety of surgeries and treatments, Esther married Jacob Ybarra, also a Corban student, in October 2016. From this time until her cancer returned, Esther found great joy in being Jacob’s wife. Esther became pregnant with their son Thaddeus, who died a month before her own death.
One of Esther’s good friends, Dani Morseman, shared her thoughts about Esther:
“Esther, or ES, however you knew her, she was one of – if not the – most beautiful women of God you’d ever meet. Whether you were her friend or just someone who knew her, she would put a smile on your face with a simple, ‘Hello.’”
One of Morseman’s favorite memories was when the “tribe” (a group of about 15 friends) visited Esther at OHSU after a soccer game. “A couple of guys in the group were on the baseball team, and they brought ES a baseball that they all had signed with encouraging words,” she said.
At that visit, Morseman and Marissa Telarroja showed Esther the tape on their wrists. “In black sharpie, the tapes said ‘ES#12,” Morseman explained. “We had dedicated every game to Esther, and the look of joy and happiness on her face was priceless.”
Morseman continued, “As the doctors helped her out of bed, the ‘tribe’ waited outside. When she was ready, we all walked down the hall behind her, cheering her on.”
When they returned to her hospital room, Esther wanted to focus on the group there, how they were doing. When one of the group asked Esther how she was doing, her response was, “I am doing fine. Don’t worry about me.”
According to Morseman, “ES was a light in our world, and even though she is no longer physically here, she continues to be our light. She always gave us hope and strength that she would beat cancer.”
Morseman admitted that she misses Esther every day, “but we know she is no longer in pain. She is with our Lord, and that is more than anyone of us could ask for.”