Last year after my birthday, mom and Curtis took me and the kids with them up to Bear Lake for Esther's baby blessing. I was on the tail end of my morning sickness, but feeling good enough to enjoy myself. We had so much fun! I remember taking pictures of mom playing with her grandkids and just having a great time.
The rest of the month of June flew by with the usual activities for this time of year - girls camp, extreme heat driving us to splash pads, and the intensity of the fireworks season. I was starting to feel good enough to function somewhat normally, although I was still very tired. Mom had this weird swollen gland that was bothering her and that didn't seem to be going away no matter what she did. Bodies do weird things sometimes, so I didn't think much about it.
On July 1st, a Sunday, I was teaching a lesson for all of the young women. The lesson was on testimony. I had asked a couple of the girls to briefly share their testimony of a principle of the gospel they felt strongly about. I was searching my mind for another girl to ask, when the thought came into my mind to invite my mom. Mom is always willing to share her testimony, always happy to help her children, so of course she agreed to come. It was an unusually powerful lesson, and she added beautifully to it. I could have never imagined it would be the last lesson she would ever hear me teach! Lately I have thought a lot about that lesson, and how thankful I am that I followed the feeling to invite her. I loved hearing her share her strong testimony with the young women. I remember thanking her for making the effort to come across town even when her face was hurting. She told me that it hurt no matter what she did, so there was no point to staying at home to rest!
Mom had asked me to help clean out her closet as her birthday present. I ended up coming over the day after July 4th (you know, July 5th). We spent the day going through her clothes and shoes. I counted her shoes and even I was a little shocked at how many she had! The next time I talked to her, only a couple of days later, she was in terrible, excruciating pain. Suddenly, the swollen gland seemed to be taking over her life! Nothing helped. Paula (our brilliant, nutritionalist friend) put her on an intense regiment of nutritional supplements to support her body, because she could barely eat due to the pain. She was practically living on vegetable juice.
You know how there are specific moments in life that are frozen in time? Moments that you will never, ever forget? I had one of those moments sometime in late June, before the pain really became horrible. I was laying on Sophie's bed after everyone else had gone to sleep (except for Sophie, hence the reason I was in her room)! It was one of those peaceful, quiet moments when you let your thoughts meander, and I found myself pondering mom's situation. Why did she have that swollen gland, and why had nothing seemed to work in making it return to normal? I suddenly felt very, very worried. The thought struck me that it could be something serious, that something terrible could possibly be happening to my mom! It was a foreign thought, and yet it struck me with such intensity that I couldn't hold back the tears. Sophie asked why I was crying, and I told her that I was worried about grandma. It certainly was not the last time Sophie would ask me that question, nor the last time I would give her that same answer.
I had another one of those unforgettable moments on July 10th. It was a Tuesday, hotter than you-know-where, and I was at the Dinosaur park with my kiddos. I vividly recall a conversation that I had with my mom on the phone while walking between slides, trying to keep an eye on both Weston and Sophie. She was telling me that she felt like she was in a battle. She was testing strong for some natural anti-cancer tonic and a bunch of other natural anti-cancer treatments. Paula was trying to figure out how to help mom until she could get some medical answers, which were painfully slow in coming. My mom's extremely busy, whirlwind of a life had suddenly become very still. All she did from the moment she woke up until the moment she went to bed (where she couldn't sleep more than a few minutes at a time) was focus on the overwhelming regiment of treatments, juice, clay mud packs, etc. to help fight off the mysterious enemy in her body! It was all so surreal. It was like she got plucked out of one life and set back down in another. I have always been so close to my mom that a shift in her reality was a shift in mine too. It was the first time I began to wonder, could she actually have cancer? I imagined that she probably didn't, but forced myself to consider the possibility. Notwithstanding my disbelief, I felt an overwhelming, oppressive sense of spiritual opposition that seemed to accompany the physical battle my mom was suddenly fighting.
By the time mom got her biopsy results in the first week of August, we were both convinced that she probably had some weird kind of infection from having recently had a lot of dental work done. It was a shock to both of us, and to many others I imagine, that she actually had cancer. Cancer! How could it be!? How could someone who took such great care of their health get cancer? But in all that followed - almost two more months of mind-bending pain, endless tests, a terrifyingly invasive surgery, chemo, and radiation, there was never a worry of mom's life being in danger. I was so thankful to know that the cancer she had was not life threatening...so thankful that the worse thing she could lose would be her smile (although I did have a meltdown in the shower one Sunday morning over it). There was never any doubt she would overcome this obstacle.
I remember telling numerous friends how utterly grateful I was that she went through this before the implementation of Obamacare. I was sure that had this happened later, the medical process would have taken even longer, surely resulting in her demise. I also remember talking to a friend at the kids' school about all that had happened, and how my mom's cancer battle (all past-tense at this point) had completely changed me. I felt as though it had permanently altered me as a person. Cancer is one of those things you recon time by, like a wedding or the birth of a baby! Little did I know that the battle was far from over. Little did I know that I would lose my mom in a matter of months! Little did I know that my entire future was about to be permanently altered. Life is so weird sometimes. Reality is stranger than fiction, and the one thing I have learned is that life is unpredictable!
My mind is still reeling at moments as I try to absorb the events that have transpired so recently, but I have peace that all is well. I am compelled to write, and I know this is one of the best ways for me to process things. It sure would be great to give my mom a big hug right now and catch up on everything that has happened in the last month. At some point the amount of life that has happened since she left will be too much to explain, too much to summarize with her. But right now, we could have a good long chat and still catch up, I feel. Such ridiculous thoughts I have sometimes! It felt right to indulge in them today, somehow. It has been one month since I held her warm hand in mine and watched her peacefully fade away from this life. I am so glad to know that this life is small compared to the eternities that lie ahead in the next. I suppose there will come a time far, far in the future when I will talk with my mom about the small gap of time when we were separated...it could easily be 50 years, but in the eternities it will seems small. How is that for mind-blowing? Meanwhile, I have my husband, kids and many responsibilities to keep me grounded in reality, focused on the many important tasks yet to be done in this life, which for me is still near the beginning!
More than ever, my focus is simply to accomplish the mission for which I was sent to earth to accomplish. I know mom accomplished hers, and I still feel her confidence in me, her encouraging belief that I can do it too. And I will!