This summer, on July 10, I had the honor to travel to Washington, D.C., and testify to the House Oversight and Reform Committee as patient speaking in favor of protections for preexisting conditions. Perhaps the greatest honor was the fact that this committee was chaired by Rep. Elijah Cummings, who passed away this month.

I'm heartbroken by the death of this kind, caring, gracious and courageous man. He showed me and the other speakers such respect and compassion. He congratulated me on the birth of my son earlier this year, and he gave me a personal mantra which will always personify my feelings about activism and rising above challenges: Pain. Passion. Purpose.

These were more than just words to a man who had been standing up to adversity and hatred since he dodged rocks and bottles thrown at him as an 11-year-old integrating a segregated public pool. A man who fought past his own debilitating illness to give people like me a chance to be heard. And who spent the final months of his inspiring life fighting to protect the Constitution and restore justice and accountability to a broken Washington, D.C.

Rest in power, Rep. Cummings. One of the great ones has left us, and our nation is lesser for it. But it is so much greater for his service and the life he lived.

Paul Gibbs, West Valley City