"God didn't send me out to collect a following for myself, but to preach the Message of what He has done, collecting a following for Him" (1 Corinthians 1:17)

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Saturday, May 12, 2012

My Mother’s Last Mother’s Day

I’m fighting back tears today as I try to write this living memorial to my mother for Mother’s Day.

me mom tavin pattys day

Today she is in the hospital fighting for her life…again. The cancer—we think—may have no spread to her bones. Her calcium is high, she’s very weak, incredibly confused, and unable to stay awake longer than a few minutes.

Tomorrow,of course, is Mother’s Day. I had big plans and a big turkey. This month is full of special moments (my birthday, my wedding anniversary and our son’s 3rd birthday) I had hoped to share with my mother since the news that she would not make it past Christmas. Now we’re wondering if she’ll even see summer.

I’ve been greedily asking God to restore her and build her strength back up, but maybe it’s time for me to change my prayer to something less selfish and more humane.

My love/hate relationship with my mother throughout my life has never been a secret to anyone. My mother and I have had more than our fair share of disagreements and fights that led us to discontinue speaking to one another for months, sometimes years.

There was a point in my life when she was my everything.

mom and me

I placed her very high on a pedestal and considered her to be the most beautiful woman in the world.

My mother first found out she had breast cancer shortly after I moved in with her down in Knoxville, TN in 1994. I remember desperately wanting to heal our relationship, and felt this need and desire to be with her every step of the way through whatever she was going through. But eventually she shut me out completely. I was no longer told what was happening or how things were going in her treatments. 

All those things I hated about my mother are the very things that made her beat cancer that first time. She just shuts down, shuts away, and does what she needs to do without any help from anyone else. She survived because she didn’t talk about it, didn’t share it, didn’t attend support groups, and didn’t see herself as a cancer victim. To her, the best way to beat it was to just keep living.

I have spent most of my adult life resenting my mother and believing I was much better off without her. And without her I went. I picked up the pieces of my life, healed from all the devastating things we put each other through, and felt very content and free with her no longer in my life.

After I moved to Chicago and got my life and my head back in order, my older son, Josh, tried to get me and my mother to reconcile. So I agreed. She came to visit me and Jared in Chicago for the 4th of July fireworks.

chicago fireworks

It was that day—that wonderful, amazing, fun-filled day—that the healing began.

It was also not much longer after that when we learned the cancer had come back (14 years after remission). We had already agreed to move back to Kenosha and take over her mortgage on her house so she could buy a newer home. We knew God was sending us back here to help her through whatever she was going to endure.

And then Tavin was born.

mom and baby tavin

It was painful to see, but my mom had decided to keep herself at arms length with Tavin. She was already incredibly close and had a deep, unbreakable bond with Josh—and she wasn’t going to hinder that bond by bonding with another grandson. Had Tavin been a girl, things may have been different.

Throughout this second and final bout with cancer, my mom’s view on life hadn’t changed much. Again, she went on as if nothing were happening. But that would often times be difficult for her to do.

She just wanted to keep living, but cancer had other plans. No matter how hard she tried to push on, cancer kept pushing her down.

at italianfest

This is a picture of us at Italianfest in Milwaukee two years ago. We went there to see Frankie Valli. We were all excited about it for weeks. This was one of our many pit stops we had to make so she could sit down and relax. By the time the concert started she was so worn out she could hardly breathe.

I can’t tell you how many holidays she’s missed these past three years. Despite her best efforts to keep living and pretend cancer wasn’t winning, she was down for the count. She has spent most of these last few years sick, hurting, unable to move, or worse, in the hospital.

Throughout these past years, I have been achingly seeking God to heal her. I had no doubt He could do it. One day last summer, on a gorgeous morning, I was out back spending my time with God alone. I was praying for peace and comfort for my mother and I felt an overwhelming comfort sweep over me and heard God tell me that she will know peace.

My mother and I also recently had a beautiful moment when I felt God was in the room with us. We had just found out she wouldn’t make it past Christmas of this year, and I had this overwhelming urge to run to her. So I put my shoes on and drove over to see her. When I walked in the door she said to me, “Don’t do this…” And I said, “Don’t do what?”

“I know why you’re here, and I’m asking you not to do this.”

“Mom, you don’t know why I’m here.”

And she began to rattle off, almost word for word, what I had planned to say to her. I sat at her feet and wept. We both confessed and apologized for past pains we inflicted, and she told me I was “the best thing” that ever happened to her. I was her “baby.”

I waited my whole life to hear those words. And I felt a lifetime of wondering what I ever meant to my mother being lifted from my shoulders.

Many of you have been following along on this journey with me, and you’ve heard me say a dozen times that she’s losing her battle with cancer. But a former guest blogger on my site, Tracy Steel, whose mother is also going through the same battle, put it another way:
“I am celebrating the fact that God will completely heal my mother the instant she sees Him face to face. She will never lose this battle. She is close to winning.” http://onedegreeministries.com/2012/05/my-mother-is-a-miracle/
I couldn’t have said it better. So I won’t. But I will tell you one thing, Tracy’s view on her mother’s battle has changed my perception of my own mother’s struggle. I’m deeply saddened by seeing my mother suffer, but maybe she’s finally winning. And maybe it’s time for me to let her do so.

eat that mozz stick
    me and mom
    mom and tavin st patty's day

    I love you mom. I always have. Even in my burning rage, that anger stemmed from a love no one will ever understand. I’m sorry for the time we lost in that anger, and I’m sorry that we missed out on so much. But God restored us, restored our connection, and brought us to this special place today.

    I’ve decided to put you back up on that pedestal, because I don’t know anyone who fights as hard as you do. I don’t know anyone who loves so hard like you do. I don’t know anyone whose life has been so hard and has overcome it the way you have.

    This life has beaten you up from one side to the other. I don’t blame you anymore for your reaction to that abuse. I just wish I had understood it better, appreciated it, and loved you through it.

    No one deserves a mansion in the sky more than you do. No one deserves to walk on streets of gold more than you do. NO ONE deserves eternal peace and happiness…more than you do.

    The devil and cancer will lose this battle…

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