Two years ago this month, I sat down to a thanksgiving meal, thankful to have my mom beside me, yet clouded with sadness. I fully expected it to be my last with her.
Two years ago, Mom and I went Christmas shopping. I savored every minute, thinking this was the last Christmas shopping trip we would enjoy together.
Two years ago next month, I solemnly hung Christmas ornaments on the tree, reminded of the many Christmas memories over the years. My mom loves Christmas. I hung ornaments she had hand-selected for Drew and Alyssa each year, thinking this would be the last year for her to add to their collection.
I stared at the lighted mantle wondering how Christmas would have any joy next year. I opened each gift from her, mourning not getting Christmas gifts from my mom next year. It wasn’t about the gifts. It was about how she knows me better than anyone else. Each gift was selected with joy and love.
Two years ago I watched as a childhood friend grieved the loss of her mom to cancer and I sobbed as I read her status updates feeling that I was reading my future. My husband, having lost his dad to cancer three years prior, had no words. He couldn’t think of anything to help my pain.
Each holiday, each get-together, and each milestone carried the thought that, “this would be my last….” By the six-to-nine-month calendar, I might have her on Mother’s Day but I would likely not have her on my next birthday.
Last fall, my mom had exceeded the nine month mark, though the treatments had weakened her. I watched her labor to walk to the field to watch Drew’s final soccer game of the season. She had just had a chemo treatment and was extremely weak. But she was grateful to be able to watch him play. I pushed the thought aside that it might be the last game she’d see him play.
I struggled to enjoy the days I had with her because in a way I was mourning what I thought was coming. Like a slow pull on a Band-Aid, I figured if I pulled it off slowly it wouldn’t hurt so much. Much of my joy of being with her was robbed that first year.
One year after her diagnosis, her prognosis hadn’t changed, but my heart began to lift.
One year ago this month, I rejoiced that I got to have another Thanksgiving with my mom. I wasn’t solemn like I was the year before. I was grateful! I got to have my mom for another Thanksgiving.
One year ago next month, I hung Christmas ornaments more happily. I got to have my mom for another Christmas! We enjoyed each moment, from the Ladies Banquet at church to the Christmas Eve candlelight ceremony.
With each holiday, “this might be my last with Mom” wasn’t even a thought. It was, “I get ONE MORE with Mom!”
Here I am, two years later, simply grateful. Mom’s cancer is still there but it hasn’t spread thus far. She’s weak from two years of treatments but she’s the strongest woman I know and only the astute eye can detect how much her body has endured. She serves in the church faithfully when others would have taken a break. She’s an inspiration.
Drew and Alyssa were 6 and 2 when she was diagnosed. Now they are 8 and 4. They have had two years of extra memories. That’s a lot in kid years. She was able to see Drew’s first-ever baseball season and Saturday will mark another fall soccer season of Drew’s that she was able to enjoy.
Yes, at times I get scared. Really scared. And yes, I prayed just last night that God would allow this new treatment that her oncologist recommended to be covered by insurance and for it to cure her.
But mostly I pray that God will sustain her. Healing would be a miracle for sure, but from where I sit, two years has been a miracle. And unless something unexpected occurs, I’m looking at another set of “extra” holidays that two years ago I never dreamt I’d have with Mom.
I am praying that God would sustain her for another couple of decades. I am still praying that she will live to see both of her grandchildren to come to know Jesus Christ as Savior. But no matter how long God chooses to sustain her body here, I know he will sustain me.
Two years later, I’ve seen enough of God in Mom’s life to know that he is with us. And two years later, anticipating yet another Thanksgiving with Mom, I am grateful.