Sometimes, you just need to take a break and sometimes you’re forced to. Six months ago, if you had told me I’d spend the next five months combing through grief, loss, anger, sleep deprivation, emptiness, self doubt, and a whole slew of other emotions, I wouldn’t have believed you. I wouldn’t have believed that today I’d be learning what it’s like to be on this earth without the one person I mostly thought I was nothing like. The one person I almost always disagreed with. That person is my mother and December 7th, 2017, changed my world as I knew it forever.
Over the years, there were many things I came to simply accept of my mother. She was who she was and that was not for me to change. For the past six months, not ready and unwilling, I was forced to take a break from life as I knew it. Here’s why. Cancer. Surgery. Month long hospital stays. Medications. Appointments. Conversations with doctors. The list really goes on and on. My mother was diagnosed with advanced stage 4 colon cancer one night, and to save her life, underwent major surgery hours later. To go back to the things I came to accept over the years, those were mere drops in a bucket for what the next six months would teach me.
After spending a month in the hospital, facing challenge after challenge, my mother was released to go home, still very much needing daily basic and medical care and no real answer as to what it all means. Yet, hope still remained.
Lesson No. 1 – Hope
She never lost hope. Without going into great detail, this was a situation where anyone would be crazy to have hope. Hope for a cure. Hope for normalcy. Hope for even one more day of life. I live a life completely based on faith. And boy was it tested in my heart. I could list a lot of things my mother and I were guaranteed to disagree on, and six months ago I’d be hard pressed to list just one we could see eye to eye on. Lesson learned. Her faith and hope never ceased to amaze me. Literally day by day, no matter the pain, struggle, or reality, she put out enough faith and hope to fuel the entire family.
Lesson No. 2 – Do Your Job
Not in the traditional sense of the word. I had to figure out what my “job” was in this season as my mother’s daughter. This one really did me in. It may not have looked like it on the outside, but on the inside I had a real struggle. My heart was torn. How do I be the person she needs when I ultimately felt like she was never the person I needed? The disconnect was real and strong. Yet I knew, and I felt, very clearly that I had something she needed, and even more so, even in this place, she had something I needed. Not even knowing what those things were, I showed up. I showed up to do the doing. Appointments, phone calls, angry back and forth drama filled moments, the quiet and still, the weak and lonely. Lesson learned. As much as I may have disagreed with some things. She did her job, the best she knew how, and now, it was time for me to do mine. Oftentimes I think we focus on fixing other people and they are not ours to fix.
Lesson No. 3 – Be A Fighter
We all have the ability to fight within us. As a mother, I fight every day to do it right and raise them well. But facing a battle for your life teaches you what fight really means. My mother never gave up. Not even when she knew her body could take no more. Everyday, she lived to fight and did not allow the battle to win her over. Even when it did not look like it, she was in control by way of her faith and her desires.
Lesson No. 4 – Believe
There are always obstacles. Life can be so hard when cancer rears its ugly head. People you know may change too. But what makes it worth it is when you believe the best is still coming. Ever heard the saying we are blessed to be a blessing? Believe that you are and without a doubt you will be. Lesson learned. We choose what we believe to be true in all situations. My mother’s cancer was diagnosed at an incurable stage. Yet, she believed there was life still here for her. There were times when I saw this as her denial. But I’ve learned what you believe, and even deeper, what you have faith in becomes your reality. This is how she was able to both live and die on her own terms. What’s even better is we all have it in us. We are more than life and death. We are everything in between, no matter how short or long the time is. Believe it.
Lesson No. 5 – In the silence, listen.
Transition tends to be difficult for many of us. It’s something we know and expect. This, was downright hard. In my moments of silence, I had to be patient and listen. I had to search for my purpose, and hear my calling. I had to just listen. Emotionally, I can be all over the place. Being honest about it, I did not know how to keep my own emotions in check before this. In the silence I listened, and I learned.
Truth can hurt you but it doesn’t own you or dictate the life that you lead. Relationships can be physically finte yet still infinitely present. We learn how to express love and can only change this by way of more learning and growing. Our power in life is not lost in death. I found the broken heart of a young girl who was still clinging to things that were not her own in the silence. Then, I found peace, strength and transformation.
It’s amazing what life can teach us when we are forced to bear it. I certainly don’t wish what cancer brings to any family. However, I chose to find the lessons in even this season of life. The season of loss and change. It brings me peace and joy to know that perhaps my mother’s greatest gifts to me were given when I’d least expected it. And that, is a lesson, all its own.