What I wouldn’t give today to be able to drive across town and say, “Happy Mother’s Day” to my mom or listen to her sing one of her favorite hymns. I haven’t been able to do that for 20 years.
My mother was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1989. She had waited way too long for good, positive intervention. There had been signs, but she had ignored them, always taking care of others first.
During the years, my mother had many emotional issues. When I was 19, God touched her and started her on the road to recovery. For 20 years she had been steadily growing in her emotional health.
Before her cancer diagnosis, her emotional instability returned. We know now it was another way her physical body was expressing her illness. This had been going on for about four years before she went to the doctor and discovered she had cancer.
After a long surgery, the doctor came and told us he removed as much of the tumor as he could, but he did not get it all. It had spread. Had he taken it all, it would have required a bag that she adamantly told him she did not want. He had honored her wishes.
She went through chemotherapy and radiation. It was a difficult time for her and for my father. Even though she had emotional ups and downs, she believed God could heal her.
My father was a man of prayer and believed completely in a God who could heal people any way He chose. Dad prayed fervently for Mom’s healing, as we all did.
During one specific prayer service in the spring of 1990, Mom and Dad’s pastor, Gary Denbow, prayed for my mother’s healing while his wife laid her hands on Mom’s back right at the point of her pain. She said she felt heat and knew God was doing a work in her body.
After that, her cancer markers were down to the point of remission. My mother knew God had touched her and healed her. She claimed her healing.
She was cancer-free, in remission, for almost two years. Things had almost gone back to normal before the cancer returned with a vengeance.
My sister remembers going to her house one day and finding Mom in bed. She was burning up with fever and didn’t feel good. Renee took her to the doctor. Her cancer count had gone sky high.
Her condition continued to go downhill. Her kidneys were failing. She agreed to have a shunt put in to drain the fluid because she wanted to see her grandchildren, the light of her life, become adults and have their own children.
She looked at me with sad eyes. “I want to see my babies grow up.”
“Of course, you do and you will.” Those were the words I said but inside I saw her watching them from the grandstands of heaven with the great cloud of witnesses Hebrews 12:1 talks about. I shook away the visual picture.
I remember the day the doctors told her the shunt wasn’t working. They told her there was another procedure that could be to buy her some more time, at the most a few years. However, it would most likely leave her bedfast. The doctor told her, “You have a great family and I know they will be a big help with anything you need.”
I shook my head yes. I patted her hand. The decision was a no-brainer. Of course she would have it. We were all waiting for her to give the go-ahead for the procedure.
I’ll never forget what she said. “Take the shunt out. I want to go home. I don’t want to have the procedure. I won’t be a burden on my family.”
Her decision was difficult for me to hear. Even more difficult to hear was the doctor saying, “This is all we have to offer you. You may have years to live or it may be a matter of weeks.”
I went home and wrote the following in my journal. “They tell me my mother is dying. I’ve known it for some time, but to hear it spoken out loud is almost more than I can take. I cry a lot. That’s good, I suppose.
“Just a few weeks ago I couldn’t cry for her. The tears wouldn’t come. The feelings were buried too deep. Now, I almost wish I could bury them again. It’s difficult to love and hurt this much.
“This seems so unfair. All her life she’s given to others and all she ever really asked from the Lord is an opportunity to serve Him. Now cancer is winning and I’m mad at that disease.”
“In some miraculous way, I know God could touch Mom and raise her to live and declare His glory. I won’t be a dreamer or deny reality, though. I know she is very sick and without His divine, miraculous intervention, she will be seeing Jesus face-to-face very soon. For that I admit I am just a little envious.
“What glory to be able to live in perfect peace and harmony without the cares and worries of this world. What we see and touch here on earth is reality to us, but I know there is a whole new meaning to the word reality, when we cross to the other shore.”
“I’m sad my babies won’t know their Grammy like I’d like them to. I’m sad my dad will be alone. I’m sad because there was so much my mom wanted to do that she didn’t get done.
“Jesus, will you take good care of her up there and see that she gets a robe and a crown? She did give her life for ours in so many ways.”
My mother loved Christmas. She got many gifts at Christmas, but she really only wanted one—a picture of all of her grandchildren. We started the tradition Christmas 1984, the first Christmas she had grandchildren. We hadn’t missed a one.
She always got the girls dresses to match or at least color-coordinated. This Christmas she needed a picture, but first we had to find the dresses. It was difficult to get dresses alike for four little girls ranging from age 2 to 7. The boys were easy to dress in white pullovers and slacks.
I actually recorded in my journal where I prayed for what I called, “the miracle of the dresses.”
We found them and got the picture made prior to Christmas and gave it to her as soon as we got it. It made her happy to be able to look at her grandchildren’s faces.
When I get to heaven, I am going to ask Jesus why He answered my prayer for the miracle of four little dresses and didn’t answer what I felt was the more important one.
It’s just as well I don’t know the answer. If He told me now, I’d probably not understand. After all what human can really know the mind of God? We give Him human attributes because it’s all we know, but He is God. I trust His decisions, even when they bring pain.
Seeing her in the last few days she was alive made me know heaven is real. I know she was a little scared of the unknown, but I know she sensed God’s presence with her drawing her home.
For most cancer patients who have to go through chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, there may not be much hope. Mom knew, though, that no matter what happened, cancer does not win. The devil does not win. Jesus has the victory.
At her funeral the day after Christmas, 1992, Jenny, the youngest grandchild, said, “I want to see my little Grammy.” When she saw her body in the casket, she said simply, “Grammy, I love you.” And my heart broke in a thousand pieces because she would not get to know her, really know her.
“I held her hands the day the doctors told her there was nothing else they could do and we talked of heaven,” Denbow said. “I believe what happened on the day she died is two strong angels came to her and said, ‘Donna, we’ve come to take you home. Are you ready?’ She looked up toward the ceiling and said, ‘Yes, I’m ready.’”
When I heard those words, I remembered coming to the house shortly after she had died. Dad was alone and called me to come. She was laying in her bed with her face turned upwards as if she had just gotten her first glimpse of those angels.
One favorite memory of my mother is her singing, “I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop.” She would sing the song while washing dishes at the sink of her 800 square-foot house crammed full of the stuff of this life.
I know there are feasts in heaven so that must mean there are dishes. When I get up there I want to find that big sink and hear her sing her songs again. I’ll have eternity to listen to her sing.
Sing, Momma, sing with the angels tonight.
Sleep, Momma sleep in perfect peace and light.
You showed us a life lived for Jesus is a life fulfilled,
A life lived for Jesus is a life that is sealed.
Sealed for eternity in His loving arms,
Where struggles all end as we bask in His charms.
Sing, Momma, sing with the angels tonight.
Sleep, Momma, sleep in perfect peace and light.