As my mother’s only child, I’ve seen a lot of people come and go in my mom’s life. Some good. Some bad.
What my mom always longed for was to be loved. What she never fully realized is just how many people DO love her.
Last week, I again watched a lot of people come in and out of my mom’s home; coming to say their final goodbyes to her. As each person recalled her presence in their lives, it all came down to “strength.”
My mom was not perfect by any means, despite her best efforts to prove to everyone she was. She had flaws and faults and constant struggles that seemingly overwhelmed her. But never once did she let those things prevent her from surviving. My husband even said once that cancer was probably afraid of her, and quite honestly, I think in the beginning it was. Because she fought hard during the first bout, with only a 40% chance of survival. While others—mainly me—felt she was pushing them away and shutting them out, it was her only way of “fighting.” It had to be done. She didn’t attend support groups, and she didn’t ask anyone to be with her during her chemo treatments. She just ventured on. She was a soldier in this battle. And cancer kicked and screamed.
While many may see her today in her death as someone who lost the battle with cancer, I see it differently. I see my mother as an overcomer! Cancer may have eventually had its way with her body, but it could never, ever crush her determination to keep fighting, even to the very end.
Those of us who were so very close to her were lashed out upon, kicked out, and shut out. She just wanted to keep going on like nothing was happening. She didn’t want to be the victim. She didn’t want to be taken care of. She just wanted to fight this thing the only way she knew how: with vigor, dignity, strength and unfortunately…alone.
Upon first meeting my mom, many of you were greeted with a feisty and “sassy” sarcastic response. Anyone who came into contact with her would quickly discover that she was NOT to be reckoned with. She was a tough nut to crack. She was often hard as nails. She may have even come across as cold, uninterested, or uncaring. Again, this was her defense mechanism. She lived a hard, tough life. And giving love freely didn’t come easy to her. She made you work HARD for her affection. Any tenderness you experienced, often felt like a fluke, but you relished in it because you could see who she was deep down inside for a brief moment. That usually didn’t happen very often, but at least you were honored to get a glimpse.
And then recently she came back to church and the real Kathy began to unravel and unfold. Miraculously I saw her transform into a soft woman with a gentle demeanor and a child-like heart—the real Kathy. Upon going to confession here at St. James, she came back in tears. She told me she felt like the weight of the world had been lifted from her shoulders. She then pulled me in and cried in my arms and exclaimed, “I feel like a whole new woman.”
That’s the goodness of God. That’s what He does. He transforms us. He renews us. He “tenderizes” us when we’ve left our heart unattended to for so long. He refreshes us and brings us back to life, even in times that seem so dead.
Hebrews 12:7 tells us that the trouble we go through isn’t punishment, it’s mere training and discipline. My mom often believed that cancer was her “punishment.” But she eventually also found out the meaning of what God said in Nehum 1:7, “I welcome anyone looking for help, no matter how desperate the trouble.” When she sought God, He was there, ready and willing to rescue and redeem her. And she felt it and lived it.
Isaiah 57:15 says:
For this is what the high and exalted One says—
he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
"I live in a high and holy place,
but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
My mom was often lowly in spirit and in the end revealed a contrite spirit. We can be comforted in knowing that God was with her…always, especially today. And what comfort and joy we now have in knowing He’s with all of us, too.
In the end, my mother is cancer free. She won that battle even if you see it differently—she is utterly victorious today despite the grave! Today she is dancing down streets of gold, singing new songs, and celebrating an eternal life of love, joy and happiness—everything she longed for here on earth and never seemed to find. Today she’s making a new home with loved ones once past. Today she’s sharing laughter and memories with the angels who surrounded her her whole life! Today she is meeting God…face to face. And today we can all celebrate with her as she begins a brand new existence, never knowing the pain and suffering of cancer or heartache again.
Friends and family of my mom, Kathy, the bad reports from the doctor are over, and now the good news is that she’s finally at peace. My mom was a huge disco music lover. And today she’s changing the lyrics to an oldie but a goodie. Today she is boldly singing in heaven, “I HAVE Survived!”