When my mom was diagnosed with incurable Stage IV cancer 21 months ago, I was burdened more for my children than for myself. After all, my mom, who lost her own mom to cancer when she was a little younger than me, not only survived, but taught me by example how to cope with grief. I knew, should God choose not to heal Mom, that I would be okay. Eventually.
But my kids…. Drew, who will turn 8 this week, was only 3 when he lost his grandpa (Matt’s dad) to cancer. He was very close to Mike, and although he was so young, the memories of Mike and of his own grief are etched in his mind more than you would think.
My mom has been a virtual daily presence with Drew his entire life, having kept him while I worked and continuing to be part of his daily life even after I became a stay-at-home mom. How could such a young child go through this kind of grief twice? My heart shudders to think of it.
Alyssa, my smiling, bubbly baby girl who was conceived a few weeks after Mike’s death, was only 2 when Mom was diagnosed. As Mom has fought this cancer and has endured longer than ever predicted, I’m joyful at the memories Alyssa, almost 4, has been able to make. Every month, every week, every day, is precious. But along with those memories comes the larger propensity for grief. Can the joyful spirit God gave her endure?
Though I have a degree in psychology, it’s no secret that the child psyche isn’t my thing. I’ve felt completely inadequate in handling Mom’s illness with the kids. A few months ago I finally told Drew. He got very sad and then moved on as kids do I suppose. He has brought it up occasionally but for the most part just enjoys every moment with his Meme.
Today I was driving the kids to my parents’ house to spend some time with them. Mom had a treatment a week ago and it has hit her hard. She has been unable to spend time with the kids and has missed them. I wanted to let the kids know that Meme still isn’t feeling well so be gentle and be good. I wasn’t expecting the conversation that followed.
Drew said, “How long will Meme have to have this medicine until the cancer is gone?”
I replied, “The cancer won’t be gone, so she will take the chemo for as long as she can to keep it from growing. Meme has been so strong and God has been so good to sustain her.”
“This all reminds me of Papaw. It makes me sad.”
“Yes, Papaw was strong, too. He lived much longer than expected. But God was so good. Just a month after Papaw went to heaven, we found out that Alyssa was in my tummy. Not only is Papaw in heaven, completely healed, but God gave us Alyssa to help us in our grief.” Really wanting to point to God’s hand and God’s goodness even in the saddest of times, I continued. “He did the same thing when Meme’s mom died. Just a month after that she found out I was in her tummy.”
Now, if Matt had been in the car he would have seen ahead of time what direction I had just pointed the kids’ minds in and would have stopped me. But remember my strength is not thinking like a kid thinks.
Drew replied, “So if Meme dies then Alyssa will have a baby in her tummy.”
As I began backtracking very quickly, explaining that God is good and gives us comfort and blessings in many different ways, Alyssa saved me with her comic relief.
“I have a baby in my tummy!”
Thankfully we pulled up to Mom and Dad’s driveway at that moment and I happily escorted them out of the car.
Not only does God give good gifts but he also gives humor out of the mouth of babes. It also reminded me that the same God whom I trust with my mom’s future and mine, I can trust with my children’s. Not only will they be okay, but I serve a good God who brings beauty from ashes. He will use my mom – in sickness or in health – to point my children to Jesus and to the hope of life that never ends. And that is something to rejoice about.