My day started with thoughts of the past that at one time haunted me. As I was driving my daughter to school, I thought about my mom. It has been a little more than five years since my mother went home to be with the Lord, and it was also a time in my life that I never want to have to relive again. However, out of that period of darkness, there came a new found light, one that would never go away.
My mom was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer on July 11th, 2006. She and I had not had a very good relationship in the past, in fact, most of the time she and I were either not talking or we were arguing. (We were more alike than we cared to admit!) My youthful days were traumatic on my mother, and I realize now, that what I put her through was hard and no mother should have to go through that. It was when I gave my life to Jesus Christ that our relationship started to change. It was not a walk in the park yet, but we were getting somewhere, finally.
I was raised Catholic, so when I gave my life to Jesus Christ, my mother flipped out. She thought for sure that I had joined a cult that I had finally sealed my fate and was truly going to hell now. It took years of prayer (on my part) and years of living a life as a Christian to get my mom to see and understand that there was a better way, a more excellent way. It was through Jesus Christ living in me that she began to open her heart to Him and allowed Him to heal her and our relationship. I had been walking with the Lord for about 4 years when she called me one day out of the blue and said, “Stephane, I have decided to stop fighting God.” My heart was so full of joy that day, I cried, I praised, I cried, I praised, and then I cried and praised Him some more. My cup was running over that day.
She had been reading her Bible, she and I had been talking about scriptures that she was stumbling over, and of course, constant prayer on my part for her to accept Jesus into her life. In November of 2005 she gave her life officially to Jesus Christ and was baptized into the family of God. Not only was the Lord restoring my relationship with my mother, but He was giving me a new sister in Christ. I was so excited; I could not wait to see her again. (She was in Iowa, me in North Carolina) We talked on the phone almost every day. She would call me with questions, and asking for prayer. But, she was not feeling well; she hadn’t been for sometime but wouldn’t tell anyone because she didn’t want me and my sister or my dad to worry. But we were. We could see a physical change in her. We could hear it in her voice, in her breathing; in every aspect of her life we knew something was wrong.
June 28th, 2006 she and my dad flew down to North Carolina for their annual summer vacation. When I saw her walking off the airplane, I almost didn’t recognize her. You could tell just by looking at her that something was definitely wrong, she was very sick. But she was a strong woman, she would not let her “weakness” show through if it was the last thing she ever did. The week went on and she was really sick, to the point where she was writhing in pain. My dad was a frantic mess; his stress level was way above what he could handle. I knew I had to do something. I rushed her to the emergency room and that is when they discovered the lung cancer, it was at stage four, there was a little hope, but the doctors didn’t want us to get our hopes too high, the cancer was dominating. My world came crashing in on me.
But I rallied; I started to pull on the strength I knew I could only get from my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I started praying for her healing, her total healing. She and my dad moved in with our family so that I could care for her as she went through chemo and radiation treatments. Day in and day out my mom and I continued our prayer time, reading our bibles, and just getting to know one another as sisters in Christ. We went to women’s bible study together, she started to make amends with people who had hurt her and she had hurt in her life. She was changing, I could see it. She was beginning to grow and I could see the fruit from her life blossoming. But the cancer was ripping her apart. I was confident that the Lord was going to do a miracle, that He was going to heal her from this cancer and that she and I would continue to grow together in Him.
“Eye has not seen nor ear heard nor entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for them who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9. The next couple of months were not what I had anticipated, not what I had hoped for. In fact, my mom’s flesh was dying daily before me, but I could not see it, actually, I didn’t want to see it. I wanted God to do a miracle. He had already done one in her heart, why could He not heal her too? I kept praying, I kept seeking, and I kept knocking on the door of His throne room and pleading with Him to heal her. I could see her slipping away; I could see her giving up. I tried to rally her spirits, I tried to encourage her to keep fighting, but all she wanted to do was go home to be with Him. She desired to be in His presence more than in mine. That hurt, I can admit it now.
I wanted my mom to stay with me on this earth. I wanted her to see my kids grow up; graduate from High School, get married and for her to see her great-grandchildren. But God had other plans. The night before He came to take my mom home, I was struggling, struggling with letting go. I knew that I had to let go and let His will be done, but the desire to keep my mom was strong. I found myself reading 1 Thessalonians 5, “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night.” (vs. 1-2) I didn’t understand what the Lord was telling me as I was reading this, so I kept reading and praying and crying out to Him to heal my mom from this horrible disease that was tearing her apart, from the inside out. Verses 4-6 spoke, “But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness, but let us watch and be sober.” I cried very hard that night, the hardest I had cried since she was diagnosed, I knew deep in my spirit that the Lord was coming for her. That morning, at 4 a.m. I let go. I prayed, “Not my will Father, but Your will be done in her.” At 5a.m. on January 7th, 2007, the Lord Jesus Christ came and took my mama home.
The next few months became the hardest my walk with Jesus has ever been. When my dad woke me up that morning, he was scared, upset, grieving and screaming that “Mom is dead!” My children woke to the sound of my dad and I crying and wailing. My children were in middle school at the time, and grandma was the light of their lives. I started to go through the motions at this point. I called my sister, family and began the “grieving” process. But it was all a lie. It was a façade I put on so that everyone could grieve and so that I could be strong enough to help them through it. But what about me? I was lost, I was hurt, and I had fallen under condemnation. I am about to tell you something that not a lot of folks know- a few that I love and trust know about this time in my life, and only because the Lord is leading me to share it with you, am I sharing it with you.
When I walked into my mother’s bedroom that morning, the first words I heard were, “You killed your mother.” Immediately I fell into condemnation, guilt, shame, all these emotions began sweeping over me. I was the main care provider for my mom. I was the one that fed her, clothed her, carried her to doctor appointments and administered her meds to her. I believed the lie that was spoken to me that morning. I believed it for six months. Oh, you wouldn’t have known it to look at me, or talk to me, but inside my heart was broken, my soul was shaken to its core, and no matter how hard I tried, the days I spent with my mom haunted me. Instead of grieving, I swung all the way to the other side and pretended to be strong. I put up a pretty good face until one day, one day at church I just couldn’t take it any longer.
I was going about my usual Sunday routine, until it hit me- I was mad, mad as all get out at God for not healing my mother! How could He do this to me, and then accuse me of being the one to cause her death. I was furious, I was hurting, I was slowly withering away on the inside. I arrived at church, found my usual seat on the end so I could escape as soon as service was over, and put my “strong smile” on for all my church family. That day service was packed and I had to scoot over one seat, losing my quick exit. My mom had a song that touched her heart every time she heard it. I wish I could remember the name of the song, but I only remember a few of the words- it was a song about heaven. That morning, our worship team started with my mom’s song. The tears, the fear, the hurt, the anger, the guilt, and the shame all came rushing out of me the instant I heard the first note being played. I said in my heart, “I’m done God. I can’t do this anymore. I don’t want to walk this walk with you anymore. I am not that strong.” I picked up my bible and my purse and turned to leave.
God, in His merciful, gracious, everlasting love for me, didn’t let me leave. The lady who took my seat grabbed me and said, “The Lord says ‘Stay’.” I fell onto the chair and let the grief wash over me, as she held me in the embrace only my Father in Heaven could have embraced me with. All the fear and condemnation and guilt started to flow out of me. I realized at that moment that God was not accusing me of anything. But what I hadn’t done was grieve. I had tried to be strong when He was trying to comfort me. Instead of turning to Him, I drew within myself and hid in fear. Which is exactly what the enemy wanted me to do- but Jesus Christ was and is stronger than any power or principality that can come against us.
Our pastor taught on grief that morning, and that it is okay to “not be so strong” all the time. The lessons that I learned as my mom and I walked the road of cancer together are too numerous, too precious to be able to put into words. But one thing I desire for all of us women to see and to learn from this is that it is okay to not be so strong all the time. When we are at our weakest, He is mightiest. When we are broken, then can we be filled with His fullness. When we grieve, He grieves with us. When we hurt, He hurts with us. Do not look to your own strength, but fall into the One who is able to keep you and to protect you and to love you with an everlasting love, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I pray that as you suffered through my many words today, you have drawn one conclusion and that is this, “He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you,’” so that we can confidently say, “The Lord is my Helper, I will not be afraid..” Hebrews 13:5-6. Sisters, brothers, draw on the power and the presence of Jesus Christ in your life. In Him only shall you find the strength you desire and need most. I pray that you will be strengthened with His might, and that the words that I have put out there today will give you a hope, and show you Jesus. Amen.