Last of 2 parts (Read part 1)
I have spent my fair share of time searching for the answers to why cancer chose my mom but having the answers (which I don’t) won’t change the present. I have also spent time being both angry and sad that things are different now. Spending time searching for the whys and resisting reality is a vicious cycle that leads me to hopelessness and even more sadness.
But my mother is not dead. Her circumstances are just different. Once I got over what I wished things could have been I started getting creative in designing how things could be. Because I live in a different country than my mother and her Parkinson’s Disease makes it difficult to pick up the phone, I installed a video calling device by her bedside so I can just show up on the screen without her having to lift a finger. I have called her and shown her what I’ve been up to from as far as California and the Komodo Islands. I have learned to listen more carefully (certainly not enough) and pick up on her non-verbal responses during our conversations. We have a crude system of multiple-choice when we talk. All of these are imperfect but it sure beats not even engaging because circumstances are different these days.
Presence is the present. When I was a kid my mom would prepare me for my school exams even if she wasn’t the academically superior parent. And early on I could tell that teaching wasn’t her forte and her morning-before-the-exam pep talks did absolutely nothing for me. But I vividly remember these moments because she was there for me and that meant everything. Even if she wasn’t equipped to teach someone as difficult as me she went out to bat for me every quarter of every school year. Often, I don’t have the answers for my mom nor do I know if I’m saying the right thing (especially when I get little back) but I do it anyway hoping that presence trumps prose. Her amazingly thoughtful and kind girlfriends make it a point to regularly ask her out and they rise above the silence in their conversations when my mother can’t respond with words. Their presence and connection keep the conversation going.
His grace is sufficient. Yes,bad things happen to good people but the bad is not beyond the Lord’s reach. It is natural for us to pity her and to wish things were different for her but we cannot imagine the strength she has gained in the quiet moments when she can’t speak to anyone but her God. To wish things were different and to convince her to wish the same diminishes the grace given to her to live a meaningful, deeply-spiritual life despite what appears on the surface. And for us to be saddened and disheartened by this state makes us put a burden on our shoulders we cannot bear. We want things to be different but it is out of our control. We pine for the good times but we can’t re-create them. This has been my journey.
“I wish this happened to me instead, Mom.” or “I wish I could make everything better, Mom.” But I can’t and the more I try the more I fail. It is a pointless exercise in dramatizing the Hero’s Tale. When I finally let this go, I felt a sense of peace that allowed me to see each moment as a gift to make something special rather than being constantly afraid of running out of time.
To work as though everything depended on us and to pray as though everything depended on God brings a genuine kind humility and peace that is rooted in the love and faithfulness of the Father, putting everything and everyone in their proper place.
What am I willing to live with when this is all over? This question simplifies things for me as l look at this from the inevitable future, backward into the present. It makes me think about what I will eventually regret. Did I spend meaningful time making memories I can look back at and cherish? Did I say everything that needed to be said? Was I truly present? Did do everything I possibly could to make her life better? Personally, to live with regret in the aspect of being a good son to his mother is unacceptable. Surely there are consequences to this choice but they are ones I will be able to live with.
The process of writing down lessons also reminds me that this is a process. It is a process of valuing and allocating time to what is important, a process of listening and responding, a process of getting over fear and anger, and a process of trusting the Lord.
We celebrated a big milestone two weeks ago but in between this and the next medical milestone are priceless memories that can be created right now.
My mother is a cancer survivor. That means cancer has not won. It has definitely changed things but it has not won. Knowing and believing that life and all that can be beautiful about it goes on.*