Grace multiplied

Thank you to everyone who’s prayed for me and my family, and for all your sweet and loving comments.

There have been some key times in this journey with my mom, especially during her last 5 days, when I was hurting so badly I could barely breathe. And then I’d see a comment on my blog and you lifted me out of the pit.

I never knew I’d come to love and appreciate people I’ve never met in person. But I do. I hold you in my heart so tightly that when I remember my mom is really gone, which seems so unbearable and impossible, I remember you and the hope you shared with me. You help make my reality brighter.

One day I’ll write and share what happened in those 5 days in the hospital. It was the most holy experience of my life.

I’m not sure what the grieving process holds for me. But I do know that I’m committed to working through it. Thank you for being part of my healing.

May God strengthen you in your life and bless you with his awesome presence.

In all the horror, God’s grace is still enough.

I’m truly blessed by all of you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

These are the balloons that all the grandchildren released at my mom’s burial yesterday. They wrote notes of sweet messages to their grandma and tied them to the balloons. I’ll never forget how excited they were to watch them fly higher and higher.

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Posted in blog, brain cancer, Glioblastoma Multiforme, grace, grief work, healing, hope, love, mother daughter relationships, recovery, spiritual healing, trauma | 8 Comments

a blessed tragedy

In a few hours my family and I will bury my mom. It’s surreal to write those words. How can that be? I find I’m still quite numb and shocked. As I sit holding my mom’s blanket and remembering when I made it for her and my dad, I’m overwhelmed with the feeling of being orphaned. It’s an emptiness I’ve never felt before. It’s like someone blew up my heart and I can’t find the center.

Watching my mom die has made one thing very clear: relationships are all that matter in this world. Running around making money, landgrabbing for power, building our egos, and collecting stuff are wastes of time. Achieving financial goals, worrying about the future, and holding on to grudges will be our greatest regrets in this life. When I held my mom’s hand and stared into her dying eyes I wasn’t thinking about anything except how precious she was. Even though she could no longer swallow or speak, her eyes told me everything I needed to know. I love you. And I know you love me. And because of that my heart is broken but in perfect peace.

When my mom was first diagnosed with brain cancer I clearly saw the choice I had to make: move closer to her or start backing away in self-protection. I can’t tell you how grateful I am that I made the conscious decision to open myself to this pain. I knew the risk. I was aware of the odds. And just as I thought, I’m completely leveled by her death. There are moments when I only feel the loss, and the pain is so thick it almost takes my breath away. But I will never regret pouring out all my love to her. Thanks to God’s grace I’ll never look back and wish I’d extended myself a little more. I was all in. And she knew it.

If you would have told me that the chief blessings of my life would be found in the 3 ½ months leading up to my mom’s death, I would have thought you were morbid and crazy. It would have sounded like a spooky and strange cliché. But I can tell you with all my heart that aside from having my children, loving and serving my mom since her diagnosis was the greatest privilege of my life. It was a holy experience, a blessed tragedy. And it’s changed my view of terminal illness and death.

I’ve come back from this battle with a 2-part message: God’s grace and goodness can’t be contained and pre-measured, and you will never regret loving someone. God has blown away any box I tried to put him in, and even in the midst of these terrible choices of caskets and memorial services, he continues to bless my family every day.

In our worst moments and our greatest fears, God wants to show up. Whatever battle you face in your life right now, I pray you reach out to God and let Him into the struggle.

mom_me_walking_no Em

Love deeply. And you’ll have no regrets.

This is far from over…

Posted in blog, brain cancer, christianity, Glioblastoma Multiforme, grace, healing, hope, inspiration, love, mother daughter relationships, motherhood, spiritual healing, trauma | 9 Comments

Thank you, my friends…

Thank you for your kind messages of support. I’m sorry if I don’t respond right away to your blog comments, texts, voicemails, and emails. Please know that every word you write to me or say in a voicemail means the world to me. There’s nothing like the comfort of friends. I’m so very blessed by you. Thanks to some angel friends of mine for the dinner last night and for coordinating meals for the next few days. I’m humbled by your generosity.

Many of you have asked how I’m doing. I’m straddling two worlds right now. One world is filled with everything good and my mom is still alive. But then I remember she’s gone and I’m instantly in the other world where nothing is good. There’s very little space between. One moment I’m laughing with my dad and family as we tell our funny stories and eat the wonderful food my friends brought over. And then I remember my mom isn’t here with us and she’s never going to be with us again, and all of a sudden I’m grieving every moment I’ll never have with her. I watch my kids playing around with their uncle knowing they’ll be crying in my arms at any moment.The sadness rushes in so fast we can’t brace for it.

How does it feel to lose my mom? It’s like being held under water longer than I could possibly survive, but somehow I’m still living.

Please pray for more space in between worlds. God’s grace is sufficient. Although at times, it seems barely. Even though I can’t hear her voice or see her body, I do feel strangely closer to her.

Thank you for sharing your stories with me. Many of you have walked where I am right now, and your encouragement is just what I need. I know the suffering won’t kill me, but it feels like it will. To know that you’ve come through it helps me tremendously.

I’ll keep you posted about my mom’s memorial services. Thank you for asking. We’ll be helping my dad make all those decisions tomorrow.

I have so many blessings to tell you about. At some point I’ll share them with you.

Thank you again for all your support.

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“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning
or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4

Posted in blog, brain cancer, Glioblastoma Multiforme, grace, gratitude, healing | 9 Comments

She’s home

My mom was ushered into the arms of Jesus early this morning. Both of my sisters were with her.

Our hearts are wrapped in grace as we thank God for her peaceful transition, and we trust him completely for his timing.

It will never feel like we’ve had enough time with my mom. Not another 30 years would be sufficient for our hearts. But we know that God has been with us step by step, and we will cherish these past few months with everything we have. She fought hard to be with us, but it was her time to go home.

Now it’s time for us to celebrate her beautiful life together. Please keep us in your prayers, especially my dad.

This is a photo of my mom worshipping The Lord to the song 10,000 reasons (Bless The Lord). She had tears in her eyes and pure joy in her heart.
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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 15:13

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Posted in brain cancer, christianity, grief work, healing, hope, love | 19 Comments

nearing the end…

The decision was made to discontinue my mom’s IV fluids. What an awful choice to have to make. Because of her weakened state she’s unable to swallow or speak. All docs confirm what’s been in the back of our haunted minds…my mom will not recover from the complications of her brain cancer. They’ve started a morphine drip, and I have no defense against the grief. It’s overtaken me and I’m completely undone by it. There’s no more denial. And besides a Lazarus raising miracle, which will remain in my prayers until her very last breath, we have no more hope she will live. My mom’s life is almost over yet she’s still able to stare into our eyes as we pour out our love to her. We know she’s there. But not for long. It’s an impossible knowing.

The pain is so excruciating that I begged God to take her quickly. But as I watched a steady stream of family and friends make their way to my mom’s bedside with stories of gratitude and blessing, I realize how very small minded I am. I never considered this time to be a blessing. I didn’t see this coming. I only saw suffering and a way to end it. But if God had ceded to my desire and would have taken her quickly, it would have robbed my mom of the most loving experience of her life. She wouldn’t have listened to her sister and nephew sing her favorite worship songs to her while she raised her weakened arm in praise. She wouldn’t have seen the harvest from all the seeds of love she planted in so many people. She would have missed the blessing. And I would have stopped everyone else from their process of reflective grief and the opportunity to express heartfelt appreciation. I would have stopped the healing that took place in the hours I held her hand, and the strength my dad felt by the support of his children. I would have blocked God’s blessing and put an end to everything good he planned.

I’m humbled by my lack of view. Who am I to direct God’s plan for my mom’s life?

Today I realized that some of the hidden work God’s accomplishing right now is simply none of my business. He’s working things out for people, including me, in ways I will never know and could never imagine. I know that pain, not faith, lead my prayer, and I humbly surrender my ignorance to the One who sees everything, to the One who loves us beyond comprehension.

As I try to brace myself to lose my mom, I’m aware of the incredible blessing it is to have this time with her. It’s an awful blessing, to be sure. But I suppose that’s the deal while we’re here on earth: times of enormous pain, but with the hope of heaven.

My mom’s life is between her and God. And, thankfully, I am definitely not God. Even though this realization is crystal clear to me now, I know this awareness of my small-mindedness won’t end with today, or even with the death of my mom. I still don’t see it, and I never will. I still don’t know the goodness that God has planned for my mom and all of us. His goodness is immeasurable.

I’m thankful that God doesn’t take the advice of humans. Because this mortal has no idea what she’s asking.

“For God causes all things to work together for good to those who love him and are called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

Posted in blog, brain cancer, Glioblastoma Multiforme, grief work, hope, love, trauma | 16 Comments

4 words that change everything

Last night
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It’s 12:20am and I just finished my black belt candidate exercises on the floor of my parent’s spare bedroom. We have to do them every day, no matter what. It’s technically tomorrow but since I just got home from the hospital being with my mom, I’m counting them for Friday.

Spiritually I feel wrapped in unspeakable grace. I feel peace and energy flowing through me even though my mom’s deterioration progresses. It makes no human sense why I’m not crumbled on the floor. It’s grace through and through, the answered prayers of countless people.

I rushed to San Jose after my dad told me he was taking my mom to the ER again. I made record time in the should-be-stopped-on-the-freeway-for-hours-why-would-you-leave-at-4:20pm-during-Friday-rush-hour traffic. Miraculously, I had only a couple of minutes of a slowed pace; it seemed as though a wall of angels pushed everyone along so I could get to my mom. I listened to Chip Ingram’s Living on the Edge podcasts about pressing on in the face of adversity. It felt like God was putting an invisible and impenetrable armor on me as I drove. God bless Chip Ingram.

My dad and I sat in the ER with my mom as she drifted in and out of consciousness. When my eldest son called and asked to talk with Grandma I nervously put the phone to her mouth. I didn’t want him to be scared that she couldn’t speak, but I told him to hang on.

“Ok, say hi to Grandma, honey. I have you on speaker phone so she can hear you.”

“Hi, Grandma! I love you.”

“Hi, Honey. I love you, too.” she mustered.

That was the most conscious and alert I saw her. From that moment on her condition worsened.

Eventually it got so bad my mom couldn’t swallow and she couldn’t speak to us. The nurse had put a pill in her mouth, but it sat dissolving on her tongue. She sat frozen and just stared in our eyes. I knew she was in there, but was trapped by some unknown force. I moved in closer and said, “I see you, Mom. I know you’re trying.”

I saw her effort. She was really trying to drink it down, but her brain couldn’t make the connection.

I stood with my face about 8 inches from hers and said, “You’re working so hard, Mom. C’mon, just swallow. You can do It. I’m so proud of you.” She nodded and was telling me with her eyes that she just couldn’t swallow it. Finally, I figured out a trick to get her to spit it out.

No more pills for mom.

“That’s ok, Mom. You’re going to be better tomorrow. You’re just tired and dehydrated.”

It was past 11pm and we knew we needed our rest. I can’t describe the feeling of leaving my helpless mom in the hospital. As we were leaving, my dad tried to get her to talk, but she just couldn’t. He said goodbye to her, kissed her, and told her that he loved her and he knew she loved him, too, even though she couldn’t tell him.

These are the moments that rock my daughter’s heart. My dad’s losing the love of his life…and I’m witnessing it.

After he left the room I went to her side and looked into her eyes. “Mom. I love you.” I could tell she was trying to say something but couldn’t. ” Mom. I need to hear you tell me you love me. Please say it before I go.” I pleaded.

” I love you.” She blurted out.

I’ve never heard such a beautiful sound in all my life. I could tell it took enormous effort for her to say those words to me.

” Thank you, Mom. Thank you for telling me. I’ll see you in the morning. You’re going to feel better tomorrow. Just rest, ok?” She nodded and started to gaze passed me, and I knew I’d lost her again.

I floated out of the room with my heart full of joy. This woman blows me away. And God’s peace in what should be the most awful experience blows me away.

It’s a painful tether between wanting her here and wanting her to be with The Lord so she can be whole and well.

We’re praying for a miracle. But I’m learning to add, “Thy will be done.” 4 words of surrender; 4 words that allow me to remain in the moment and fully love, regardless of tomorrow.

All of this reminds me that nothing is more important than love: Our love for God and our love for others. Everything else is futile and meaningless.

May we live today like tomorrow is Heaven.

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Posted in blog, brain cancer, christianity, fear, Glioblastoma Multiforme, grief work, healing, hope, inspiration, love, mother daughter relationships, spiritual healing, trauma | 18 Comments

Renegotiating a deal with my mom…

I sighed as I entered the kitchen. It must have been a deep one because our eldest son, who was doing the dishes, immediately turned to me and said, “You ok, Mom?” Our boys have seen me cry only three times in their young lives. Once when my best friend was killed 6 years ago. And twice since October when we heard the news of my mom’s brain cancer. I usually shield our boys from my personal pain, but my mom’s rapid decline has me by the throat and I can’t pretend I’m not choking any longer. I do my best to stay strong and focused during their schooling (we homeschool), but it’s hard to focus on fractions knowing my mom is slipping away from us and there’s nothing I can do about it. Her voice is very weak now and besides a sweet “Hello”, she never wants to talk on the phone anymore.

When my mom was first diagnosed we knew she was going to have brain surgery and a long recovery. Docs told us for her to have a fighting chance at beating brain cancer she was going to have to work hard to withstand the chemo, radiation, and a demanding rehabilitation. And even then the tumor was most likely going to come back and take her life.

My family knew the odds were stacked against her, so everyone organized around her to do what we could to support her and encourage her to fight. Being a black belt candidate, I dedicated my black belt training to my mom, and I told her I’d train hard if she trained hard. We gave each other high-tens and agreed to keep each other accountable, and I told her I wanted to see her at my black belt test this May. Because her steroids induced a semi-diabetic condition and she had to give up sugar, I gave up sugar. We were going to do this thing together. My mom, my dad, me, and my entire family, we all linked arms and as a team we were going to take on this brain cancer Goliath. It didn’t stand a chance.

And everything was going better than planned until she had that darn seizure on December 15th. Since I wrote about it at length, I won’t expand on it here (entitled 15 minutes of hell), but my blood hasn’t stopped boiling since. What if, what if, what if, keeps running through my mind. It seems so senseless to get a woman that far into recovery and then have it wiped away because of a nurse’s neglect. I wonder if it will ever be settled in my mind.

And now she’s too weak to do her exercises and she’s not keeping her end of our bargain. Each day brings a worse report from my dad. “Is she doing her exercises?” I ask. Usually he tells me she’s too tired and won’t cooperate. He can sense my frustration. He knows she has to do them to get stronger.

“Honey, she’s just too tired. She’s very weak.” I hate hearing that.

When I hear she’s not doing her exercises I want to drive over there and get in her face and yell, “fight, damnit! Get up!” I want to scream at everyone, “It’s not over yet! Don’t give up! She’s a fighter. She can still recover. God can still heal her. Maybe it’s the effects of radiation and it’ll wear off. Maybe it’s the seizure and she’ll recover from it. Those things take time, you know. Maybe it’s just the side effects from her medicine.  Just tell me anything except she’s dying. Don’t tell me that. Not now. Not yet. She was doing so well, remember? She could rally again. She made it through her radiation.  My black belt test isn’t until May….She told me she’d be there.”

It feels as if I’ve entered hell for the second time. And all I want to do is be with my mom. I don’t want to train for my black belt anymore. I want to give up.

I know my mom isn’t being lazy. She doesn’t need a pep talk about exercise and its benefits. She doesn’t need me to remind her how much her grandchildren need her. She doesn’t need me to remind her of our deal. My mom’s body is shutting down on her and there’s nothing she can do about it. I think she needs me to wrap my arms around her and tell her how incredibly proud of her I am, and how I’ll be with her no matter where this takes her. She needs to hear how much I love her and how thankful I am that she’s been my mom. She needs to know that I know she’s done her very best to stay with us. She needs to know she’ll never be alone and we’ll love her to the end.

So, tonight as I looked at my son in the kitchen, I allowed him to see my tears. I didn’t hide away in the closet. I just said, “Honey, I’ll be ok. I’m just sad about my mom and I don’t want to lose her.”

Somehow he turned into a 40 year-old, walked over and put his arms around me and said, “I understand, Mom. But, remember. Either way Grandma wins. If she stays or if she goes.  And if she goes, just think of it like she’s going on the best vacation ever and we’re going to join her a little later.”

Such wise, spiritual words from such a young man. My precious son helped me realize that I need to continue my black belt training not just for Grandma, but for myself. I have to keep living even if my mom doesn’t. It’s a gut shot to accept, and the pain is so awful part of me wants to lie down and die with her. But that won’t help anyone. My kids need to see me fully living in the face of tragedy. They need a roadmap in case they are ever in my shoes.

I see the choice I have to make. I have to renegotiate the deal I made with my mom. I have to commit to my part regardless if she’s able to keep hers.

So, that’s what I did tonight. Come recovery or death, I’m committing to my end of the deal. I’m going to continue training. And if she’s not up in the stands when I test for my black belt, God will give me the strength I need to do it and I know she’ll be looking down cheering me on.

Hooya, Mom. Here’s to both of us doing our best.

Posted in blog, brain cancer, fear, Glioblastoma Multiforme, grief work, healing, hope, inspiration, mother daughter relationships, motherhood, recovery, trauma, Uncategorized | 18 Comments