Remembering Michael Pretorius: A Letter to the Trevecca Community

| Mission

Michael and Amanda Pretorius on their wedding day.

Written by: Amanda Pretorius

My husband, Michael Pretorius, graduated from Trevecca in 2015 with a degree in worship arts. In the fall of his senior year, he woke up one morning with severe abdominal pain, so two of his friends on campus skipped class to drive him to the hospital. After several tests that day, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer at age 21, the same disease that had taken his father’s life seven years prior. 
It’s tough for someone who was an achiever to open his palms and accept help. It’s tough for any of us to realize we are not capable of fulfilling commitments or responsibilities due to circumstances out of our control. Michael was graciously given space to heal through his treatments by the phenomenal staff at Trevecca who worked with him to complete his schoolwork. 
In the spring, through rounds of chemotherapy and surgeries, Trevecca’s athletic director, Mark Elliott, continued to honor Michael’s scholarship for cross country, even though he wasn’t actively participating that year. As the season was ending, his coach, Austin Selby, invited Michael to run a final race before graduating. He chose the 800m. With a bald head and tremendous encouragement from his teammates, he came in dead last. It was tough, he said, but he felt like he had won the race. 
Overcoming the toughest challenges in life is possible - when you have people supporting you and a school like Trevecca sacrificing for you to stay and finish the race. 
Michael was honored to share his story of overcoming and then to receive the first Michael Pretorius Courage Award created by Mark Elliott in 2016. Michael looked forward to presenting this award to exceptional individuals who triumphed over adversity in the years to follow at the annual Trojy’s ceremony. Michael lived with his eyes aglow and vowed to himself to be a person who freely gave his attention to listening to others share their stories. He wanted to see every individual through the lens of love, the kind of love that lays every selfish desire on the line for others to be lifted and seen. The love of Jesus.
We were introduced through a mutual friend after graduating from Trevecca, and we married the next year. His body remained cancer free for the next few years. In October 2019, his journey to healing began again when metastasis was found near his spine during a routine check. Michael chose to keep a positive attitude with hope on the horizon and to be changed for the better. It’s because of people like you that he was able to focus on life and healing, to run the race set before him, to take that final step of surrender in perfect peace. 
His soul became more vibrant and beautiful as he realized the depth of love and power Jesus freely gave to us, even though the aggressive disease continued to spread. When Michael passed at the end of July 2022 and responsibilities swirled into the funnel of loss around me, Trevecca stepped up once again by opening the community church to our family to celebrate Michael’s life. 
Your willingness to spend time in conversation and preparation for our family to come together days after his transition meant the world. You opened your doors and made space for us to laugh and grieve – to meet each other in the moment between our past and future. This is the moment we all share, now. The inhale and exhale of life through our lungs makes this moment precious. 
Our family is humbled Michael’s story will continue to inspire others to live a life of hope, love and courage through the Michael Pretorius Invitational. His legacy is beautiful because he had support when everything else was shaken. When people step in to keep the walls of everyday life from caving in, it frees our soul to breathe and focus on the path set before us. 
I’d like to offer a special thank you to Dr. Boone, Mark Elliott, Austin Selby, Gregory Ruff, Michael Johnson and all the staff at Trevecca who invested in my husband, held his arms up when he needed it, loved him through it and continue to encourage others through their battles. Every sacrifice and choice we make to serve others creates a ripple beyond what eyes can see. In Michael’s own words, thank you for teaching us love.