Do you have someone in the world that has loved you and given you so much that you know you could never repay that debt? I believe we all do. And for me, that person is my mother.
Just a little over a year ago now, my mother was diagnosed with melanoma cancer, a cancer which is potentially fatal. In the end it proved to be in Stage I, and after the cancerous mole was removed, she has been fine. But it will always be at the back of our minds because having gotten it once, the chances of reoccurence is much higher.
From when I was a child, my mother has been gently preparing me for her departure from this world in little ways. I used to burst into tears and forbid her to talk about the topic, for the mere thought of not having my mother at my side was more than I could bear. At seeing my suffering, she would tear too… but she persisted in this education. And till this day, we sometimes talk about life, and death.
She always told me that she prays for a good death. But that more than anything, she prayed that God could use her death for His glory and purpose. But you know what, life can be much harder to bear at times than death. To make our lives a living sacrifice, to die to ourselves every day… to find after having reached one level of detachment that we are still too attached to things, emotions, people… that is a challenge that never ends.
My mother is someone that never says no to God. She is blessed in many ways, but she also suffers very deeply. Only she and God know the true depth of her personal suffering, a suffering that she continues to live with even now in her daily life. Over many years I have watched her grow and change, become stronger, wiser, and ever more capable of forgiveness, detachment and love. And still, every time, she is given a new lesson that stretches her capacity, and I watch her struggle to meet that next challenge. She never shrinks from the challenge. From her life I can see the truth of how people who become increasingly close to God see more light as well as darkness, love more and suffer more, see more grace as well as sin, more of God and more of humanity (Nouwen).
For many years, I could not help but internalize my mother’s pain along with my own. I felt helpless, powerless, and angry at how senseless it all was. If God is just and loving, why would He allow my mother, someone so good and faithful, to suffer so much? That is no longer a question I ask, for I see things differently now. And I am touched, overjoyed and overwhelmed by just how much God loves my mother, and how faithfully she is loving Him in return.
For the Christian believer, everything in our lives belong not to us, but to God. We are called to be loving custodians of the gifts God gives us, whether they are people, things, or even our own talents. My mother’s life is not mine to possess, nor are her joy and sorrow although I share in them. Though I came to know her and love her first as a mother, and then came to trust her as a friend, more and more now I see her as a sister in this long and surprising journey of life.
I still get affected when my mother is troubled and hurting…how could I not? But there is less fear, anger and anxiety when I learn to be less myopic about life’s tribulations. And I know that God’s arm is always around her (as well as me and my family), no matter what happens in the present or future.
Mom, don’t ever forget too, that God’s arm is always around me and Johnny. Don’t worry about us. We may not know the answers, and we may not always know what to do, but we will be faithful. And no matter how much or little we have in life, or how much suffering we may go through, I believe that we will be rich where it really counts. You have always entrusted yourself and our family to God…may you live that trust increasingly each day!
I will never forget the day I found out about my mother’s cancer. Or those two weeks of waiting to find out what the prognosis is. I will not forget the realization of how much I’d been taking my mother for granted, or that I may not again have enough time to be a better daughter. But I thank God for that day, as well as for every day afterwards since then.
I wish to end this entry with a wish my mother gave me over email just yesterday. I want to “forward” the wish to everyone, for it is a beautiful wish. May all your lives be a glorious pilgrimage of love!
Keep exploring Ann… life is much more than what we are experiencing now… Look ahead and around… see far & beyond… explore high & low… there are so much more beautiful things in this world… explore… experience… & grow… May you, especially your soul, become more & more beautiful each day… Keeping you in my prayers & loving you always, Mom