I was dying. And I knew it. I was under no delusions that healing was on the table for me and I had accepted my lot in life. Or death, I suppose, as it were. Cancer was “exploding” all over my body, in the words of my oncologist, and I had a few good months left – at best. My brain tumor was wreaking havoc in the way of grand mal seizures that left me for minutes on end without oxygen, leaving me to try to regain my body functions and memory after each one. And after each one it got increasingly harder and had more long term effects that didn’t dissipate. I had tumors in my lungs that were so inflamed that any exertion left me in a coughing fit and I found myself night after night sleeping upright on the couch because laying down in bed next to my husband, where I longed to be, would result in painful coughing fits. My hip and back ached constantly, crying out in pain, and reminding me that the cancer was eating my bones. Little by little.
Each day I had to relinquish more and more control of my life and the life of my family over to family and friends. I thank God endlessly for the selfless love we received, but there is no 30 year old mother on earth who wants this for her family. And so I struggled mentally with my lack of involvement with my kids at the level I had wanted for myself.
My body and my mind were both betraying me more and more each day. And there was no hope in healing. And so we faced each day as we had to.
I watched my kids, then 2 and 4, living a seemingly normal life. At least, as normal as we could provide in the midst of all my treatments, scans, and appointments. We tried to build a sense of normalcy around the fact that Mommy was dying and we treated it as a fact of life rather than a scary and sad event. I bought them a book called “A Kid’s Travel Guide to Heaven” and we read it every day. And while it’s certainly not scripture based, it did help open the discussion and help the kids to see that that was where Mommy would be. Waiting for them to come.
I needed them to know that if they understood the gospel of Jesus Christ and that if they accepted the gift of salvation that we would be together again. And I needed them to know that although Mommy was happy to go to heaven, that it would never be my choice to leave them. Never. I was desperate for them to understand this. And the tears would fall. Rolling down my cheeks in silent protest. Just as they are right now as I write this.
A sibling squabble was a reminder that I wouldn’t be there to help them bond as they grew up. Setting the kids in front of a Veggietales so I could get a break because I was in too much pain was a reminder that I wouldn’t be a spiritual influence for them for very much longer. A sweet hug goodnight and even the frustration of trying to put young kids to bed were all too painful reminders of all I would be missing out on. And selfishly, this tore me up inside. Everything in me longed to be there for them as they grew up, and so the tears fell.
People often ask me how I did it. How could I face this? How could I cope? There is truly no good answer to that. I know we did what we had to do but looking back it seems so impossible. It really was too much. How did we do it?
There was a profound acceptance on my part that this was the end. Mind you, acceptance certainly did not mean gladness. I was tired and I was sad. But I was ready.
I remember one sleepless night very clearly. I had propped myself up on lots of pillows so that I could stay in bed with Eric, and as was so often the case when I could manage to stay in bed, I would listen to him rhythmically breathing as he slept and I would be soothed by the fact that he, at least for a few hours each day, had calmness and rest. On this particular night, just like I had on so many others, I would pray.
But tonight would be a little bit different.
I lay there with my eyes closed tight, silent tears falling faster each second, cascading down my cheeks only to puddle up onto the sheets. And in my desperation I reached my hand up to heaven. And I begged God with all I had in me, to give me until I was 34.
34 years old.
Please God! It would be about 3.5 years at that point and I felt like I was asking for the moon. I felt like I was asking God to turn me into a unicorn or something equally as impossible. I felt like I knew I was asking for too much, that it wasn’t possible, that it was absolutely ridiculous. But that for some reason in my head that was the perfect amount of time. That if He just allowed me that window of time that the kids would be old enough to have some good, solid memories of me. At that time, this was the number one tug on my heart. Selfishly, I wanted nothing more than for the kids to remember me. That’s just the way it was. Eric and I would have been married 10 years when I was 34, and that was just an astonishing feat to me. It sounded so glorious. Perfect. The perfect amount of time! I kept apologizing to God because I knew my request was so silly and so selfish. But as I continued to pray, my desperation simply grew as I begged and begged God to please just give me until I was 34!
I write this today. On my 34th birthday. I can honestly say I never thought this day would come. I know God isn’t a genie up in heaven granting wishes, but I believe He heard my heart on that night. I’m not sure I’ll ever know for sure how all of this has worked or why it has worked out this way, surviving this long isn’t something I believe I deserve or have earned. It just simply is. And as I sit here now with clean scans as of last week, I’ll accept it as the beautiful gift it is.
I didn’t want to tell this story. In fact, I could count on one hand the number of people I ever told this prayer to. Why? Because it felt like a childish prayer. Like a lack of faith on my part, and maybe it was.
But I wanted to tell it now because God is good and deserves all praise. Always. He has given me more than I could ever ask or imagine. Think about those words, more than I could ask or imagine. All glory to God! And I give Him glory for this urgency He has placed in my heart for spreading the gospel. It can feel like a burden sometimes because it was so much easier to live a lukewarm life, but I pray He never lets this passion for praising Him and spreading the Good News fade. Christ has reconciled this sinner with a Holy God through His righteousness alone. I’ll always be grateful and I want to only praise him forever. Thank you, Jesus!
“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.” ~Ephesians 3:20-21