I woke up October 30, 2014 full of hope, excitement and anticipation for the year ahead. For the first time in 10 years we would have a grandma living in the same town as us . My mom had woken up one day that July and just knew she needed to move to us. She bought a house sight unseen, one that was only one mile from ours. She just knew Texas wasn’t suppose to be her home anymore, even after 33 amazing years in that community. She just knew this year everything needed to change.
As we waited for the moving van to arrive on that beautiful fall day, we talked about the sleep overs, family outings and projects we could do together. She was excited to make friends, get involved and open this new chapter of her life. She was full of hope for her life here, eager to see what blessings lay ahead. She just knew she was where she needed to be. In hindsight we just didn’t know exactly why.
Today, October 30, 2015, I left the house keys on her kitchen counter, releasing her home to some other family. Exactly one year ago we were moving her into this house, with dreams in tow. Now it lays empty, void of her smells, her furniture, our plans. As I walked the halls for the very last time, I shed tears for the loss of her presence. I cried, mourning the memories yet to make. I broke over the way we suffered together, shared life together, and clung to hope side by side. The emptiness of her place was overwhelming. The finality deafening.
This Year Changed Everything.
Today, I mourn her death in a new and fresh way. No longer will I ever be able to enter my Mom’s house, a place that brought instant safety and an ease I could always find at “home.” Her house, whether in Texas or Oregon, was a sanctuary where I would run to if I was afraid, lonely or downtrodden. It was a refuge, a place where joys were celebrated, dreams were brainstormed and losses comforted. We had a couple hard seasons along the way, but I always knew I was loved unconditionally and that her door was wide open for me. As I locked the front door for the very last time, a lifetime worth of memories, joys, trials and struggles replayed before my eyes. She just knew she needed to move close. She just knew she needed to be here. We know with absolute certainty that she “just knew” because God is omniscient, all-knowing. God spoke to the depths of her heart in July, pressing her to move. He knew what lay ahead. He knew what we needed most of all. We thought it was for her to live life well beside us for years to come. In reality, it was so we could walk beside her as she faced her death; and in that we got the privilege of witnessing her testimony lived out to the full until the very end. We saw her legacy. We were changed by her journey.
Mom lived almost six months from diagnosis to death. She was in and out of the hospital often, eventually giving up the chemo that was tethering her to life, yet destroying it along the way. She was determined to live life well, to the full. Days she felt like lying in bed, she would get up, dress herself in her favorite Chico’s jacket and call me to ask, “Where are we headed today?” She picked berries, danced the hula in Hawaii, went to high school basketball games and played with her family. She laughed, she cried, she listened and she lived. She comforted a nurse who had just miscarried a baby, all the while being on the fringe of death herself. She called friends, sent cards to people who were hurting, and continued to be a tour guide to out-of-town guests. She passed out Hersey kisses to her doctors and nurses while in the hospital on Valentine’s Day. She made quilts for her granddaughters. She talked about hard stuff and planned her funeral. She was weak. She was sick. She was weary. Some days she would tell me she was just ready for heaven; this was just too hard. But she kept fighting. Kept persevering. Kept reaching out and kept loving people. And most of all she rested in deep peace, knowing her time ending on earth meant a new beginning in heaven. This is how she chose to end.
John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I [Jesus] have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Mom lived out her faith greater in the last six months of her life, then in 71 years combined. She clung to the hope of heaven, yet didn’t lose sight of the opportunity for today. She trusted God, even when the greatest trial of her life came, and she lived and loved well despite no promise of tomorrow. Cancer came to steal, kill and destroy Mom; but Jesus came to bring her life and life to the full.
For Mom, everything changed this year. She went from being fully alive, to experiencing death, to being completely and perfectly healed. For us, so much of life still looks the same. We still have the daily grind: the school work, the job obligations, the church commitments. We are still fully alive on this earth. Yet, everything seems different as we now look through the lens of this loss. Life feels strangely shifted, as if a new normal needs to set in. This year changed everything, but most of all it has dramatically changed my faith.
Over the past six months I have seen God move in a way that I had never experienced before. I saw first hand what it means to rely on Him for every part of every day. I witnessed countless prayers answered, some lifted up by people who hadn’t prayed in decades. I saw comfort being wrapped around people like a blanket in the dead of winter. I was able to rejoice while weeping in a way I never have before. God has been palpable, ever-present. He has been just what we needed Him to be in this darkest of times.
The song, “Christ Be All Around Me” by All Sons and Daughters has been on repeat for me over the past several months. My favorite verse repeats this line over and over again:
“Your life, Your death, Your blood was shed, for every moment, every moment. Your life, Your death, Your blood was shed, for every moment, every moment.Your life, Your death, Your blood was shed, for every moment, every moment.”
It has become almost a chant for me. A battle cry. I sing it, yell it, proclaim it out loud, reminding myself that God sees me in THIS MOMENT, in THIS SEASON, in THIS PAIN. And He has already met me here, long before it ever came to pass.
When we think of Christ’s death on the cross we often only associate it with Him dying for our sins to give us salvation. His death brought the reality of eternal life to us. We don’t have to fear death if we believe in His name. We don’t have to live eternity separated from Him. The lines of this song brought the realization to me that not only did Christ die for eternity, but He died for EVERY moment of EVERY day. His blood was shed for this cancer diagnosis. He died to see us through the hardest six months of my life. He was crucified for this pain and for this loss. Not only did He die for my situation, but He also came to this earth for yours. His death came for the wife whose husband just walked into the arms of another lover. His life was given for the child who is bullied on the playground. His skin was pierced for the baby who dies prematurely in its mother’s womb. He bore the cross for the wayward son and the discouraged daughter. Jesus Christ lived and died, and was resurrected for every joy, every sorrow, every tear, every triumph. FOR THIS MOMENT, FOR EVERY DAY.
We don’t have to be afraid. We don’t have to worry about tomorrow. We can rest knowing that it has been covered. And not just covered but…
As I shed my tears today and mourn the absence of my Mom, I lean on the cross; that is the place where Jesus’s death meets my pain today. I can surrender my hurt, knowing full well He alone can bring me freedom from it in my tomorrow. People change. Seasons change. But God’s promises are secure for yesterday, today and tomorrow.