I got a somewhat sobering and unexpected text tonight. It was from my aunt, who wanted to know if and when I might be getting back to my parents house tonight.
My mother has brain cancer. This is the third time that she has started treatments and she had just had a port put in for the chemo drugs today. My aunt wanted me to know that mom was doing okay, and that mom didn’t want to be a burden and was pretty much sending her away.
I eventually made it home from church (band practice) and walked in to moms room where the light was still on to check on her. She normally hears the door open and even if she was already asleep says hello and asks how I am. Tonight she didn’t do that, so I made sure she seemed okay and quietly stepped back out. Before I left however, I noticed something beside her on the bed. It was her Bible.
If anyone has a reason to be angry at God and lose faith in him, surely my mother has reason also. This is the third time cancer has attacked her. She first found out she had cancer the same day we were supposed to have a home inspection as part of the adoption process of a little girl. Mother was adopted and wanted to adopt as well. She wanted a daughter to take care of and rescue. It all went away that day in the hospital.
She had a surgery and radiation to treat the cancer, forcing it in to remission. One of the permanent side effects of the treatment was a serious impairment to the way her brain functioned. She could no longer speak easily, had trouble remembering things, and was restricted from driving for several years. The cancer had gone into remission but she lost her daughter, her freedom and her ability to easily communicate with the outside world.
Surely this was enough to justify anger with God.
After several years, mom tried to return to work at the hospital. She had been an RN before her tumor, with all of the intelligence that implies, but her new reality made it so that she had to walk away from her former career.
10 years later, the cancer returned, resulting in a second round of treatment. A second loss of driving privileges, a deeper imprisonment. Her ability to communicate suffered again as well. The cancer leaving her feeling increasingly isolated and alone as it affected more of her brain.
Her second son left for Iraq just a few months into treatment. No one knew if he would return, and the predictions made by the medical professionals seemed to say that even if he did return alive, mom probably wouldn’t be.
That same son was also recently diagnosed with his own cancer, now has his own battle to fight.
Surely she has reason to be angry at God.
Yet, her Bible sits beside her as she sleeps tonight.
Where her career was taken away, she volunteers at a local hospice. She raises money for Relay for Life, she serves at a local food ministry, and on the board of the youth center where I work. Always ready to give a hand where she can…
Where her communication was taken, she writes notes of encouragement. Notes of care and love for her family and friends. While she struggled to communicate in our own culture, she left her comfortable home and served for 10 days in the sweltering heat of Nicaragua. In a land of poverty and hopelessness, she brought hope to those she touched.
She has not given up on God, but rather clings to him as her only hope. As Job refused to curse God and die, so does she!
And as tonight she sleeps with a hole in her chest and only uncertainty ahead, she clings to the one who is waiting patiently to restore to her new life.
She read his love letter tonight.
I hope that one day my faith will be as hers. Complete.
( My family, immediate, extended, and church family, have all been an incredible part of her life, and have served her sacrificially when she needed it most. Thank you all. Your sacrifices are not forgotten.)
Edit 10-19-14: It has been a year since this past note was written. A year filled with ups and downs. The false hope of a “recovery” in February followed by the onset of stroke like symptoms in July. My mother hasn’t been able to say much since July, and on her birthday (today) we don’t expect to be able to hear her voice at all. We aren’t always sure what she is thinking or feeling, and it is easy to hope for the best, but through it all, she has accepted what is out of her control. On September 29th, the decision was made to begin hospice care. While she hasn’t finished her race yet, we are all aware that she could be crossing the line any day now.
Edit 11-2-14: Mother crossed the finish line this evening at roughly 6:30pm.
She was victorious.
What a beautiful tribute to your mom. I am a life that she has touched. Thanks for sharing…you have a gorgeous mom!
I know that you have touched our family’s life as well. I was pretty young the first time you guys were around, but I still remember having a package of “smarties” and thinking I was the most clever little kid in the universe when I called your husband “Smarty Marty”. He was graceful enough to play along. It’s just a small memory, but it clearly meant something to me if I can still remember it (especially since my memory isn’t the greatest). I’ll pass along your greetings to mom.
Your mom has been an inspiration in my life. From her smile and great laugh, to her courageous spirit. Thank you for sharing her story. You, your mom and your family are in my prayers. She lives what God has commanded us to do,
Be strong and courageous. do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,for The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
Sandra, I know that you have been a great friend to my mother over the years and your family has it’s own survival and faith story to tell. Thank you for everything you’ve done to stand beside her over the years, I know it means a lot to both of us.
I had no idea your family has gone through such difficult times. As an oncology nurse, it sometimes becomes “normal” to hear stories like this and I almost become numb to it. But hearing stories outside of work brings me back to reality that each one of my patients, like everyone fighting this horrible disease, has a life outside of having cancer. They’re someone’s child, someone’s parent, someone’s spouse, someone’s friend, and above all, one of God’s creation put on earth for a purpose.
Thank you for sharing your (and your mom’s) story. Your family will be in my prayers.
Difficult times yes, but there are so many good times that there wasn’t room to share. It’s those moments that make recovery and healing worth it to so many. Thank you for serving people who must often times feel like there is no hope. You share in the healing work of Christ.
I was almost in tears as I read this! Thank you for sharing. You have a gift with words. I didn’t know she was adopted and was wanting to adopt. That, along with everything else, must have been so hard to give up. Perhaps her life will encourage someone else to adopt a little girl or boy. Your momma is a wonderful lady, and it is a blessing to know her! And you. 🙂
Thanks Nicole, It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the present that we never tell stories to each other of times when God showed up in our lives, or stories of when God seemed absent. I’m so wrapped up in what’s next that I can only see God’s hand at work (such as in mothers adoption story) when I stop to look backwards to where he has taken our family. I bet there are stories your family could tell to reflect God’s glory brightly as well. I’d love to hear or read them some day!
Joshua, I am so sorry to hear about your mom. She and I were college roommates. I hadn’t heard that her cancer had returned. I feel so awful for her to be going through this again. Can you contact me and let me know how she is doing?
Thank you for loving her through the struggle. I know that this has had an impact in your life as well. You were fairly young when she was first diagnosed, so you could have chosen to be angry with God as well. I am so thankful that you are clinging to your faith even when it doesn’t make any sense. You wrote a beautiful tribute to her. It touched my heart.
Please let your mom and dad know that we will be praying for them. Wish I could make it up to visit. Tell her happy birthday!
Your mom and I were friends at fwbc. We lived across the hall. She was a nursing student. I was a Christian Ed major. We went our different ways. Then several years later when was delivering my second son, I was being taken in for emergency surgery, The Lord had our paths cross again. The nurse that was in charge handed me off to the surgical nurse. I had not seen her, but I knew it was Collie, her sweet laugh gave her away. I was over whelmed with God’s peace. I felt like God had provided her for me then. God provides when we least expect it. Praying that God will provide for you and your family during this difficult time.
Thankyou for sharing, I will keep you all in my prayers! She is a life that has touched mine!
Thank you so much for sharing your mother with all of us over the years, and for using your wonderful gift of words in this tribute. Every time I read it I feel so many emotions. Sometimes our prayers for healing and restoration come in the form of a complete healing and welcome back to the Father’s arms. Collie has fought the good fight. And while we all know that, I know from experience that reality can be more complicated.
I remember my husband telling my son and me that it was a journey he needed to make by himself but not because he wanted to leave us. The joy on his face when those gates opened (and we could feel it) is something I will never forget. I believe that if your mom could communicate her feelings now, she would be telling you something similar.
While I have known Collie for many years, I have really become inspired by her love for others and her desire to be God’s hands since I have returned to Hicksville in 2012. One of the first things I became involved with was Relay for Life on the survivor committee. Collie had put together on her own gift bags for breast cancer survivors. She also helped at the Relay reception that year, and as I became chair of the survivor committee she continued to be a part of that effort in some way. Another favorite memory is of Collie and Jacob at the Survivor Dinner in 2013. Those pictures are wonderful!
I also know of Collie’s desire to touch others through the Christ Cupboard food pantry ministry where she was a faithful volunteer as she was able. I am sure there are many other ways Collie has reached out to others. She was truly God’s servant, and touched multitudes of hearts and souls.
With love and prayers of support.
Josh, I am so grateful for serving alongside you at the Alley all these years, and as a bonus, getting to know and serve along with your father and mother as well. What a privilege it’s been getting to know you all! Always appreciated hearing your mom’s perspective on things…her gentle presence at our meetings was always a joy. Her help during our “Chocolate Party Fundraisers” was also a welcome addition. I pray you find comfort through Christ Jesus and His “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) as you, your mom and family travel down the road Home. There is an assurance in knowing you all travel that road together because you follow The Good Shepherd. Sadly, your paths will diverge at some point….but one day they will reunite, and what a joy that day will be! (John 14:3) Press on, Josh!