To think that you’d lose the one you love on the day she loved the most —
It was Mother’s Day.
The 13th of May 2018.
The day where Mamas all over the globe get their showers of love, and hugs and kisses — my friend and soul sister went home to be with the Lord that very day.
We cried our buckets of tears.
Her nine children and very fine husband — they showed the kind of inner strength unseen by a seeing world.
It can seem like a cruel joke, like the opposite of this literary term ‘poetic justice’ — where things don’t always happen the way you want them, and plots don’t always play themselves the way you expect them.
Not in the story or on the stage of our lifespan here on earth anyway.
Because who’s to say that in this present world, virtue will always be rewarded, and vice, always punished? Who’s to decide that a good wholesome Mama who loved large and sacrificed most would definitely heal the way we wanted it, in the time we desired it?
My friend embodied the gentleness of faith that took down any giants of fear, any goliaths of death.
From the first moment of her diagnosis to the end of her living — she showed up, stood fast, laughed hard.
Never a word about hopelessness, never a complaint about her pain, never a reason for giving up, perhaps because she knew that in Christ she’d already won.
Yeah, we didn’t lose her to cancer.
We lost her to Christ.
And we can’t say either that we’d always get the plot right.
We are scenes and He is Writer, and He knows exactly the way our story should end; that we are to win, every single time.
That when we view life and suffering through the lens of the here and now only, we lose the blessings that eternity through death would only bring.
That when none of us can say on how it is going to play out in our lives, or that we’d know the why behind every pain, or the purpose behind every suffering, this Mama extraordinaire loved large and gave of herself to her very end.
She showed the rest of our watching world that there is a God dependable to carry you through the valley of loss and every mountain of suffering.
And that knowing the ‘Who’ answers every depth of the ‘why’.
We saw it in her.
The kind of woman she was, and the kind of God she trusted.
That in His agenda, and in His plan – death isn’t our enemy anymore.
Death has lost its grip on every heart and soul that believes.
So we know why it was to be that day.
She left the hearth and home she made, so she could be in the Home she was made for.
That eternity was waiting to break its hold over her mortality.
She’d passed the test and transitioned into forever glory.
And though we don’t often see or understand — the whys of suffering and the reason behind every heartbreak, we’d get to see the whole picture only when we stay on till the very end,
That the full plan for our story will be revealed at the culmination of His glorious story.
That screenwriters often save their best for the last.
That for my friend who endured the mind-messing, body-battering, hope-busting drill of her weekly chemo and daily radiation, she knew that in Christ it is always a win. That there is always a reason for hope, a reason for joy.
In the memorial service that day, I pressed my face against the overflow window and strained hard to hear what the preacher said, strived to contain the tears that flowed.
I remember what she told me once — “the doctors aren’t curing me, just prolonging me...”.
— and she sat with that, gentle, gracious, generous.
She showed me the scar on her breast, exactly where the doctors had cut it out and stitched it bad, the one that I’d stood aghast seeing, how she soldiered brave right on.
We all saw it on her face: this courage of Christ that even cancer could not crush.
It might have stolen her hair, her weight, her voice, her strength, but never her hope.
He was her rock and her inner strength and she was His – precious, beloved, held.
She, who never was consumed with her own pain, but who’d always asked us about our pain, she lived not for herself, but for all those around her.
Maybe this is really is the essence of living.
That it’s not how long you live, but how well you live?
Maybe it’s not about how you feel that determines your faith, but it’s your faith that ultimately determines your fate.
She made the rest of us feel like we can overcome anything and get through everything, that we were always welcomed to her open home, and her open heart.
She taught us that there was never a reason to fear dying, as much as to risk not fully living.
My friend wasn’t praying for healing as much as she was praying for His will. She wasn’t afraid of leaving as much as she was afraid of not really living.
She who lived simply and parented pragmatically taught the rest of us a thousand little ways we can keep on burning brightly.
Her quiet loving was truly her loud living.
I didn’t know that it was going to be our last Friday together that day, that I’d be graced to share at her last parenting meeting, that it was going to be the last time we spoke and hugged, and emailed — but one thing I know:
The best legacy a mother leaves is the example she lived, not the inheritance she gives.
And she keeps on giving.
She who never lived with a bucket list, but lived her life emptying all her buckets so others could live — she impacted us so profoundly.
Maybe it really isn’t about a lack of faith that sometimes cancers persist.
Maybe it’s not about sin that suffering sometimes surfaces.
Maybe it’s precisely in the suffering and the seeming lack of healing that a thousand answers are found.
Because when we face our own suffering bravely we show the whole world every answer to every suffering.
To the brave woman who taught my heart to trace my living with thanksgiving — your voice lives on.
To my friend who opened up our hearts to see pain as something we ought not to fear, but His process to perfect, your example shines on.
That to the One who’s conquered every cancer by the death He Himself bore on the Cross; He wanted her back that Mother’s Day to place a wreath of glory to one now forever healed.
Thank you my friend for your life, for your courage in Christ that cures all our cares in this world.
Till we see you again — and that very soon.
Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?
But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(I Corinthians 15:55,57)