I was in Germany, on my way to a speaking engagement in Belgium when I got the news. I knew mom had not been communicating clearly at times lately, sometimes forgetting basic details or getting people’s names confused. Some of it was understandable since she was in her 70’s. We passed it off as old age, maybe the beginning stages of dementia, or perhaps she had gotten her medications mixed up. No one considered the possibility of brain cancer!
After talking with mom on the phone one night, an almost daily routine when I’m traveling, I knew her communication struggles had worsened; and I asked my daughters and nieces to take her to the emergency room. The doctors found numerous lesions on her brain caused by two brain tumors. It was inoperable and there was no cure! Without treatment she was given 2 to 3 months to live. With treatment, maybe 10 to 12 months! It was an event that changed everything! It was the end of the way things used to be. It was the beginning of a new journey, for mom, and us. Various emotions have invaded our daily lives, but over the last few days they have evolved. Shock. Disbelief. Anger. Sadness. Grief. Gratitude. Love. Joy. Peace.
Mom has approached this event with amazing courage, faith, and humor. She has decided to not take treatment. She said, “I want to look good in my casket, and if I loose my hair, well…I just don’t want that!” “I’d rather live shorter with more quality of life.” On her 74th birthday two weeks ago, I took her shopping to choose her casket and make funeral arrangements. She said, “Well this is one thing I’ve never done on my birthday!”
I’ve always been proud of mom! She’s the most selfless, encouraging, caring, and accepting person I have ever known. She is predictably sweet, kind, simple, and easy to love and talk to. In addition to being faithfully married to dad for 54 years, and being devoted to her four sons and their families, she is known for cooking meals for a bereaved family or the homeless man living under the bridge. Taking in the pregnant girl who has no family and nowhere else to go. Inviting some lonely man or woman to the family Thanksgiving meal. The list of such actions from her is long! Many non-related people call her “Momma” or “Maw Maw Dean”. Our best pets were usually the ones she rescued and made a part of the family!
Now, in her latest and final journey, she says, “I just want to leave a good legacy for others to follow”. She doesn’t realize that she already has!
She’s done it many times before, but once again, she is inspiring me, and many others to live exceptional lives! Through her own words and actions in recent days, here’s how!
- Her Faith is Real.“I don’t want to leave my family, but I’m sort of getting excited about going to heaven in a few weeks!” “If God wants to heal me, and HE can, that’s great. If HE don’t, that’s great too. I just want to honor HIM through this!” “Your daddy is probably pacing the streets of heaven saying, ‘when is she gonna get here’?”
- Her Perspective is Eternal.“I just want to sing and be a good witness to others for Jesus until I die!” She is scheduled to sing and give her testimony in a church somewhere for the next few weeks. When people come to visit with her at home, she wants to sing to them, “Amazing Grace” or “HE’s More than Wonderful”. Her hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. It’s obvious!
- Her Attitude is Love.She loves everybody! “I just don’t understand how people can hold grudges or hatred in their hearts! God has forgiven me of too much for me not to forgive others!”
- Her Life is Blessed.“I feel so blessed to have this time, knowing I’m dying! And others knowing I’m dying. The Lord knows how much I love attention, and He’s giving me lots of it! It’s such a blessing to know I’m loved so much!”
In conclusion, life is short, but I too feel greatly blessed. I have seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears a “peace that is beyond understanding” and a “joy that is unspeakable and full of glory”! For me, God wrapped it in a beautiful package and called it, “Momma”! She isn’t dead yet, but Heaven and Earth will know when she is; and she will continue to be a blessing in both places!
Count your many blessings today. They come in all shapes and sizes, but you’ll get angry and bitter, and miss them, if you’re not careful!