My mother-in-law has been with Jesus for almost 9 years. Cancer took her all too soon. In August of 2007 we welcomed our first son into this world, within a week she and my father-in-law told us that the doctors had discovered she had cancer. It was in her colon and pancreas.
What? I thought we were celebrating new life? How could it be that her life was being threatened at such a joyous time in ours? I couldn’t process it and slipped into a phase of depression. On the outside most people probably thought I was fine, but I most certainly wasn’t and it took me a little too long to realize it.
Never once did anyone say she wasn’t going to pull through it. We thought it was caught early enough, we thought a little chemo would do the trick. We were wrong. Lots of treatments and a surgery later, she was laying in ICU for 3 weeks, taking her last breaths.
Today would’ve been her 76th birthday. I don’t know how we would’ve celebrated, but I do know we would’ve done it together. All the siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins, kids, grand kids, everyone. We would’ve been together, and that’s all that would’ve mattered.
Each year when January 20th rolls around we still choose to celebrate her birthday. We don’t have to, we could sit in puddles instead, still pissed that life isn’t fair, but we just can’t do that to each other, or to ourselves.
We miss her like crazy. We miss reading the sales flyers with her while swiveling in the chairs on the porch, we miss her frying bacon for BLTs, we miss her voice, her laugh, her mannerisms.
Sometimes I even miss the dumb arguments we’d get in over things that didn’t matter at all. She could get so fired up over the little details, and so could I.
This afternoon one of my big brothers dropped off a package of double stuffed chocolate chip sandwich cookies, from the local bakery. We celebrate big, so we added them on the side of our already enormous banana splits.
We sang, we shared memories, and that was that. We can’t stay in the sad places. We can visit them briefly, and I believe we should, but we cannot stay there.
Friends, I know life is hard at times. I haven’t even ever shared my greatest struggles here, because they’re still just too hard to relive. But believe me when I say I GET IT.
You guys, sometimes it’s so hard that all you want to do is cry and honestly give up. But don’t! Oh please, don’t. Because somewhere, sometimes years down the road, sometimes only a day away, you can make the choice to celebrate.
I am celebrating that I believe my beloved mother-in-law is resting safely, completely healed, in the arms of Jesus. I cannot even begin to imagine what a feeling it is to be safe with Him.
Life is hard sometimes, but there are moments when it’s out-of-this-world beautiful too. Like when you’re sitting around the table with your great big family scarfing down deluxe banana splits and feeling so blessed that your heart could just burst right open.
Whatever tough season you’re in, hang in there. It will get easier. I don’t know when, there’s no magic time frame, but I know that it will.
Might I suggest that you find something to celebrate? Honestly, my greatest secret to happiness is always keeping something on the calendar that I have to look forward to.