In January 2000, some people were breathing signs of relief that they made it to the new millennium and that the hype of “Y2K” never occurred. Computers were still working, and life seemed to go on as normal. I was 17 years old and a senior in high school in Northeast Ohio. My world consisted of school work and getting ready to enroll in college in the fall. Within one week, though, major changes took place in my world.
In one week’s time, my family attended my grandmother’s funeral (she passed away from breast cancer), and my mom had major surgery because she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. I remember wishing I could go back to my “normal” life as a regular high school student, but this was my new normal. I remember being angry at God – If He was a loving God, how would He allow cancer to take the life of my grandma and then make us watch my mom suffer from the same disease? If He was all-powerful, then why didn’t He heal them? I grew up in a Christian home, going to church every Sunday with my parents and my younger brother (my 3 older siblings lived in other parts of the U.S.), but at the time I felt so distant from God.
In the fall of 2000, I moved away from home to attend college to pursue my dream of becoming a teacher. I made the 2 hour trip home when I could, but I had to have faith that God would watch over my mom as she was going through chemo and radiation treatments.
I graduated in December 2003 with a degree in Early Childhood Education and moved back home to substitute teach for a few months. I was blessed to get a long term subbing position at the same school where my mom taught 3rd grade. It was great going to work with her each day and then sharing our teaching experiences at night. After subbing for several months, I was offered a full time teaching position in the Cincinnati area. I felt God was calling me to move, but at the same time I didn’t know anyone (it was 4.5 hours away from home), and my mom’s health was starting to decline. I prayed about it, and decided that I would take a huge leap of faith and move to Cincinnati. While it helped knowing that my Dad was such a wonderful caregiver for my mom, it was still a difficult move to make.
From 2000 – 2009, my mom bravely battled breast cancer. She kept detailed notes of every test, doctor’s appointment, treatment, etc… She researched new treatments, and had basically every type of chemo and radiation available to her. We went from one test result to the next, hoping and praying that the next treatment would be effective. Unfortunately, my mom’s cancer continued to spread to her bones and other major organs. It’s heartbreaking seeing someone you love suffer and knowing that you can’t take away their pain. I hated feeling helpless. My mom didn’t complain about her situation, though. Instead, she sought out and encouraged others she knew who were also battling cancer. She also spent hours knitting blankets for others. My mom may have been short in stature, but she had a huge heart.
Over the years I watched the effects of cancer on my mom’s body, but as her body became weaker, her faith grew stronger. Devotionals were part of her daily routine. Many times she fought through the side effects of chemo to attend church related functions and family events. Her love of God never wavered and seeing that helped strengthen my faith.
My mom spent the last week of her life in a hospital, and my family was once again by her side. I’ve never seen someone endure so much pain and suffering, but I remember that it was incredible to see how much peace my mom had about everything. She told us she was ready to go home (heaven) when God was ready for her. At one point she even shared with my uncle and I, “I believe everyone is going to be healed. Some just aren’t healed on Earth. It’s just like it says in Ecclesiastes – there’s a time for everything. This is not the end, but it’s only the beginning. I want you to read a book by Randy Alcorn called Heaven. I just want you to have the same hope I have.” It was an amazing sight to witness my mom share her faith with my uncle. She also shared with us what verses she wanted read at her funeral and the songs she wanted played. My mom had been anticipating her homecoming, and all of the verses/songs portrayed God’s comfort and a sense of hope. On March 23, 2009, at age 63, my mom went home after a nine year battle with cancer.
Since my mom passed away I’ve learned to no longer take the little moments in life for granted. I’ve also learned to look for blessings in the midst of adversity, just like my mom did. Blessings are all around…sometimes we just have to look a little bit harder to see them.
I completed the Motherless Daughters class back in November 2009, and I’m so thankful for this ministry and all of the support it has given me. Because of the class, I realized how blessed I am to have had such a wonderful relationship with my mom for 26 years. It made me appreciate my family so much more, especially my Dad. He showed me what it truly means to love and care for someone in sickness and in health, and that has given me a glimpse of what God’s love is for me.
I look forward to the day when I’m reunited with my grandma, my mom, and other loved ones, but in the meantime I know God has a purpose for me. Each of us has a story, and God can use our stories to accomplish incredible things. Through them He can bring comfort, peace, understanding, strength, hope, and healing. We may be motherless daughters, but when God speaks through our stories it reminds us that we’ll always have a loving Father.