I set up my bed for the night, plugged in my phone and put the bluetooth speaker on instrumental worship. I turned on the diffuser and dropped in a splash of Valor because this was a night to be brave.
I had the nurse come in and disarm the bed alarm. After she closed the door I slipped into my pajamas and put a new scripture on the white board: “Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31
It was 2 am and I was ready.
I put the side rail down and crawled in next to my mom. I wrapped my arms around her as I felt the warmth of her body and breath. She was no longer interactive, but I knew she could hear me. We had planned this meeting and I had full confidence she was ready to receive all the love I had for her. “Mama, I’m coming to snuggle with you,” I whispered. “It’s time for us to say goodbye.”
Exactly two weeks earlier I had gotten a text from her asking if I had a new phone number. It made me laugh because she was texting me at the number I’d had for 15+ years. “It keeps coming through as a different area code,” she said. Curious, I picked up the phone and called her and couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Her voice was faint and weak and her words were slurred. I reached out to Sandy, a dear family friend (who is a retired nurse) saying I might need her help. The next day when I arrived to check on my mom, I was in shock. She was asleep in a chair in her living room. When I gently kissed her cheek and said hello, she opened her eyes for a few seconds. We had a brief conversation and then she fell back asleep. I picked up my phone and texted Sandy. “I wonder if you might be willing to come check on her,” I wrote. “I feel like we need your assessment.”
I spent as much time as I could with my sweet mom and then left to pick Jake up from school. Sandy got to the house and knew immediately that mom needed to go to the hospital. My parents didn’t hesitate to follow her lead. Over the next several days the staff ran tests and scans and took biopsies as we discovered that my mom’s body was riddled with courage—this is the word I have chosen to replace the “c” word.
I started asking God to show me what it looks like to partner faith with reality and I found Him speaking His words of wisdom to my heart. “You know what to do. I have you.”
My earlier journey had taught me how to connect with my feelings and REALLY allow myself to embrace the moments right in front of me and anticipate the ones that were to come. I knew from experience that God would light the path and show us what was ahead. My mom had spent most of her adult life really digging into God’s Word and discovering His plan for her life. One of the first things He taught her when I was young was how to stand in faith for my dad to be drawn to God and come back to our home. For years I watched her keep her heart open to a man who proclaimed he wanted nothing to do with our family and God was indeed faithful, He eventually brought my dad home to us. She, along with my dad, was a warrior for marriage and God’s desire for healing, restoration and covenant.
I held her hand as she, my dad and I (plus my brothers and their families, extended family as well and my parents’ close friends) started a 12-day journey together. It was one of faith, love, hope and a KNOWING that God had her on the darkest days, in the loneliest hours, and even in the times when we fully knew and understood that she only had days and hours—not months and years—to spend with us. And in those 12 days I held her hand as much as I could…while she took short naps, when her body was in extreme pain, when the nurses were looking for a good artery to draw blood, and during our meetings with the doctors as they gently shared their findings and what they meant (I squeezed the hardest in those times). I was by her side when the oncologist explained that her time was greatly limited and her diagnosis was terminal. “I guess my question is, how will this end,” she asked the oncologist, “As far as me and what I’ll go through and what it’s like at the end?” The doctor quietly and thoughtfully explained how my mom’s body would start to shut down. I looked over at my mom while she intently absorbed the conversation. I held her hand a little tighter and she gripped mine back.
“Rush Limbaugh shared recently that not all of us get an expiration date,” my mom said softly once the oncologist was done. “When you get an expiration date, you know how much time you have and you make the most of it.”
Her tribe around the world was praying for her, holding her up and believing with us for a miracle. As we prayed for her body to be restored, I had an incredible peace that it would, either here on earth or in heaven. And although we were all fighting for the former, I asked God to give me the grace to accept the latter if that’s how things played out. It was in that moment I realized that God was teaching me how to partner my faith with her circumstances and it all boiled down to this question: Could we trust God no matter what?
That question would be answered for my family and her dear friends over the next few days, the final days of my mama’s time with us here on planet earth.
If you know someone who could benefit from this post, please share. God carved out a path of intense healing for me and I would like to share it with as many people who need or want to hear.