Today’s the day, Mom.

My stomach is in a nervous storm as I sit on my parent’s porch reflecting on the past 3 ½ months with my mom. I’ve written her eulogy and will be delivering it at her memorial service today. It’s been 10 days since she died and her vacancy has become more pronounced. Her life and presence has been replaced with her death and absence, and it’s become the elephant in the room everywhere we go. It was with us at one of our family’s favorite restaurant last night. It was with us on the walk to Pinkberry, one of her all-time joyous walks with her grandchildren. This unwelcomed elephant has become part of our family, and we don’t like it.

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I can no longer trick myself into thinking my mom’s out shopping or watching a football game. Too many family gatherings have happened without her for such trickery. The truth is she’s gone and the bubble wrap that’s buffered our reality is slowing being replaced with a cold permanence. It’s an awful, sick, desperate feeling that demands to be dealt with. The loss of appetite, increased concern for my dad, sadness that my brother and his family will be leaving soon, and the knowledge that life must go on without my mom is all converging at once. It feels too soon and too big to handle all of it, and yet I need to face it.

 
I keep picturing my mom during her last days in the hospital. When I’m alone and thinking about her I can almost feel her hand in mine and picture the sweet, vulnerable look in her eyes as we worshipped the Lord to her favorite praise music. She couldn’t speak but I could tell in her eyes we were in another spiritual realm together. I’ve never completely emptied myself into another person like that. I’ve never felt such oneness. As hard as it is to accept that this entire brain cancer thing happened, I will hold on to the experience with my mom with everything I have.

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As with every hard stage of life, I’ve written to keep sane. It calms me and keeps me grounded even when I feel like I’m going to lose it.
Today officially marks the ending of our family’s Golden Era. But for now, I’ll trust the Lord to give me the words to honor my mom…

I’ve included some of the photos I took of her bouquet and I’ll end with the poem I wrote for her. My mom always loved my flower photographs and poems. Who knew one day I’d use them for her funeral.

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While my heart was at peace

And my spirit felt no fear,

I heard every word you spoke

And felt the pain in your tears

 

Your healing prayers were answered

I’ve been washed and made new,

I stand with Jesus in perfect love

And watch my legacy live on through you

 

Though our time seemed cut short

Thirty more years wouldn’t seem enough,

In the midst of it all I was blessed to know

How very much I’m loved

 

Don’t be angry with God

Or think your prayers didn’t work,

God’s ways are not our ways

Let Him bring good from your hurt

 

If Jesus had asked me

If I’d suffer for one lost soul,

I would have volunteered for all of this

So one more could be made whole

 

As you sang at my bedside

There was something you could not see,

A choir of angels was joining in praise

As they lovingly ministered to me

 

You know how I longed for Jesus

To finally be with Him,

Know that every word you spoke and smile you shared

Played a part of ushering me in

 

 

In the midst of your suffering

I ask what you will do,

With the love and truth

I shared so boldly with you

 

Look around you

There’s so much more to do,

Others need the love of Jesus

They long for what I knew

 

Allow the sadness to strengthen your heart

Become a vessel for God’s love to flow,

Someday you’ll see what I see

And know the beauty I know

 

Learn what I learned

And tell the stories I told,

I’ve passed the torch to you

Please don’t let it grow cold

So, water the seeds I planted

And plant some of your own,

Remain faithful to God every day

Until, like me, He brings you home.

 

You must dust off

And continue the fight,

Until the day He comes back

And makes all things right

 

I’ve completed my work

I’m finally home where I belong,

To my family and dear loved ones

I joyfully say, “Finish strong!”

I love you, Mom….

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

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.

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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