On a crisp evening in February 2015, I sat beside my mom in an ER room as the doctor confirmed our fears. Mom had cancer…for the third time. Unsure of the details, the days of waiting began as tests were ordered and prayers were said. Several days later the oncologist pulled up a hospital chair beside Mom’s bedside and delivered the fateful news. It was a worst case scenario – stage four pancreatic cancer.
As the words crashed into us with a heavy blow, denial set in. Surely the doctor was wrong. Maybe her case would be an exception to the rule. Perhaps her story could be different than those that had gone before.
The weeks began to pass and Mom was able to come home. Though weak, she was able to enjoy visitors and take short outings. In her best moments we could pretend like she wasn’t dying. Hard days sprinkled the good, and hospital trips became more frequent. Her attitude was amazing. Chipper and upbeat, she wanted to live life to the fullest to the very end of her days. Willing to have tough conversations, she wanted others to feel at peace about her death and not leave any talks left on the table. Mom had long-desired to travel to Hawaii, so with her doctor’s blessing, our entire family spent eight glorious days by the Maui shoreline. All these things made our last few months with Mom time to cherish. A gift.
The hard part of these five months came in the rhythm of every day. Having small children at home and no other family in town, I struggled to be the primary caregiver on top of my regular responsibilities of being a wife, mom, church leader, and school volunteer. Feeling stretched and worn, I struggled through most days, yearning to give my best in all these various roles and desiring to be present in all circumstances. Many days I felt inadequate. Some days I felt like a failure. There was too little time. Too much pressure. And enough emotions to drive me crazy. Many nights I fell into bed wondering how I could manage tomorrow better.
In these moments of wrestling, grace collided with my story. Friends reminded me that I was giving my all. Scripture assured me that, though I am not enough, God is. Family flew cross-country to step in and give me some time for self-care. All these gifts reminded me that through this incredibly arduous season, I could rest knowing that I was loving well, and giving what I could, and that it mattered.
All of it.
Mom’s final months were some of the hardest, most raw, and beautiful moments of our lives. I can be thankful for the big and small ways God demonstrated His love for us. The only thing I would really change in this story is not having to walk it to begin with. But as life happens, and our fallen world demonstrates, we don’t always get to choose our journeys, but there is good and blessing in all that comes our way.
Our Terminal grew out of Mom’s death and hardest struggle. My prayer is all of you who visit these pages find grace sprinkled amidst your pain and everyday hardship. And that other people’s stories encourage you to love others well through their final terminal of life.