Last summer my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. We all prayed without ceasing and felt a genuine peace that she would survive this disease after the proscribed long course of chemotherapy and surgery. She put her trust and faith in Christ as she navigated the first three months of weekly chemo. We were sad when she lost her hair, but after a bit of mourning (she really liked her hair!) she accepted her hair loss as part of the process and carried on.
Midway through the three month stretch of “hard chemo” as we started to refer to it, my mom fell very sick. She went into the hospital in mid-February and I made my first trip to Humboldt on the 17th. I’d end up making three trips up north to help my sister care for my mom over the next month. It felt like “survival mode” for most of that time as the necessities of life, for mom, me, and my family was all that really matterred. This season of life isn’t over as she continues to heal in preparation for either more chemo or surgery, but I’m pausing to reflect on the past month in profound ways.
During my first visit, mom was in the hospital and slept a lot of the time. I was focused on being there to attend to her needs and to give my sister Sarah a break from the daily caretaking she’d been doing for over a week. Sarah has three school-aged kids and she’d been juggling her roles as daughter and mom with grace. It meant a lot to me to be able to help. As I sat in the hospital, sometimes reading, but mostly just watching my mom sleep, I felt a deep sense of life coming full circle. We were in the same hospital where I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes nearly 30 years before. I kept reflecting on life and how God ministers to us in the hard times with the love of people around us.
There was a huge recliner in the corner of the room which reminded me of the one my mom slept on beside me for five nights when I was in this hospital. I joked with her that I wouldn’t be sleeping on that uncomfortable thing! That’s something a mom does for her child, but not the other way around. When the nurses commented to Sarah and me that we were lovely daughters to be there for our mom, we replied, “She’s taken wonderful care of us, so its the least we can do.”
I was also reminded of the week Teo spent in the NICU. When someone you love is sick and/or in the hospital, being there with them is so clearly the best and most important thing you could do. I cherish that simplicity of focus and the stillness it creates in me.
The first evening that I saw my mom in the hospital was hard. She wasn’t herself and had trouble articulating her thoughts. Sarah had told me what to expect, but it wasn’t the same as experiencing it directly. As we left, we both cried as we expressed the thoughts we didn’t share in front of mom: “Is she going to survive this?” It was the first time I’d given those dark thoughts any consciousness.
As I arrived that night at my dad’s house, he greeted me at the front door as I walked straight into his arms and sobbed. My stepmom was dealing with her own tragedy, so they both created a safe place for me to be authentic and express my sadness. That night, my dad poured me a glass of wine and the three of us talked until late in the night. Thus began my routine for the next four days. After spending 10-12 hours at the hospital, I’d arrive and Dad and Moni’s to a warmed up dinner, a glass a wine, and a long supportive talk about life. The rawness of emotion met the hopefulness of faith as we shared, connected, and trusted in God’s goodness.
Returning home from this first trip to Humboldt, my family picked me up from the airport on a Tuesday night. I’d already booked a return flight up north for Friday. My sweet husband was very supportive when I relayed to him mom’s condition and the sense I felt that I needed to come back after teaching for a few days and getting more sub plans pulled together. Having lost his father to cancer over 25 years ago, he empathized and fully supported me spending this time caring for my mom. Plus, he loves my mom deeply too, so he’d take care of our kids so I could tend to my vocation as a daughter.
Vocation was on my mind a lot this month. People talk about middle age being that time when you’re raising your own kids and potentially caring for your parents too. I love the idea of vocation: the work God has given you to do in this life, for his kingdom. As I transitioned between San Diego and Humboldt and back again three times within a month, I prayed about my changing focus on each of my vocations: daughter, sister, wife, mother, teacher… When I returned to class after my first trip, I was touched with my 9th graders asked in unison, “How’s your mom?” and then listened empathetically as I told them about my visit.
Throughout this challenging season, I have prayed continuously. Mostly for my mom, obviously. But also for myself! For presence, peace, compassion, and strength. I prayed to feel my genuine emotions and connect with my family members as we navigated this uncharted territory together. My sister Sarah and I became a tag-team unit, as we took turns caring for mom and consulting with one another when decisions needed to be made, especially the hard ones. You really learn how much your family loves one another when the trials of life arise.
Being authentic with people in my life during this challenging time was so important. My principal and I met between my second and third trip and she prayed for me with such tenderness and grace. Taking to Sienna and Mateo frankly about why I had to make these trips in such quick succession was helpful for me and them. Sienna told me, “I miss you, but I’m glad you’re there for Gaga.” In the midst of busy school workloads, they couldn’t take the time away to travel up north. But, they could sacrifice their mom’s attention for several days. We’re all doing our part.
Resting in the care and grace of loved ones is so meaningful. When I think of the love and support I’ve received from Dennis, Sienna, Mateo, my Dad, Moni, Sarah, my brother Rob, my students, my co-workers (who’ve subbed for me and helped coordinate subs), Aunt Sue, my cousin Jenny, my friends, my Pastor, etc. I feel such peace and gratefulness. Then there are the friends and church family that have surrounded my mom with love and care. We truly are Christ’s hands and feet to one another in this earthly life.
Please pray for my mom’s continued healing. I’m looking forward to the day we can look back on this season together and marvel at the good God has done in her life through this beautiful web of care and love.
2 thoughts on “Care and Love.”
So sorry to hear about your mom’ prayers for your family as you fight for her!
So sorry to hear about your mom but you shared it so beautifully and God is right there with you all! I will pray and add her to our church pray line! 💗