I can’t think of anything worse than cancer. I’ve got a lot of years left to live and I am pretty young in the context of 80 years, so maybe someday I will change my mind about that statement. Its just that cancer doesn’t discriminate; it doesn’t care. It doesn’t care how old you are, how young you are, how much money you have or don’t, what color, shape, size you are, who your family is, what your purpose is, whether you can afford the treatments or not, whether you have kids, if you’re a man or a woman… cancer doesn’t care.
I’ve seen more cancer than I ever wanted to in the last eight years – peripherally, indirectly, and worst of all directly.
I’ve sat in the hospital with a family I love, as their teenage daughter took her last breaths. I’ve watched a close mentor battle breast cancer fervently and win. I’ve helped clean our church for a memorial service to celebrate a woman who poured her life out for people until her final moments of life. I’ve hugged, cried with, and prayed for friends, family members, church family who are trusting God, wearing wigs, fighting for their lives, and learning how to navigate a devastating season.
None of these has impacted me as much as the life and the death of my step-mom Kathy. I remember when I first met her, she was a literal “chatty kathy”, which was so not me, so I found myself judging her. Over time, I understood I had completely misjudged her. She was able to connect on a seemingly surface level, but had a depth to her that could only be realized with time.
And wow, what a story. Failed marriages, the tragic death of her sister, alcohol and drug addiction, four battles with cancer, the fourth ultimately claiming her life. What an overcomer. I came to admire her over the seven years she was married to my Dad. She brought reconciliation to our family; having come from a broken family herself, she was wise enough to let me not like her for a while as my brother and I adjusted to her role in our lives. She loved my mom and never tried to be my mom – the two of them were actually friends. She remembered our birthdays, sent us Valentines, knitted us scarves, laid out in the sun with us at the beach, lived, laughed and loved with a ferocious tenacity.
The end of her life was devastating. We prayed for healing, believed God for a miracle, even as we watched her teeth rot, her hair fall out, her organs work by a bag and a tube that hung out of the side of her stomach. We cried, we read Psalm 139 over her night after night in the hospital. We celebrated her, held each other during the surgeries, and pleaded with heaven not to take her life.
She passed away.
Even in death, her life brought us hope and healing. It invigorated our fight, our passion to overcome, our tenacity to live, really live. Personally, her life brought me to my knees as I was forced to learn to trust in God’s character and not circumstances. A few years later, I know that God is good – in death, in life, on Skid Row, in gang territory, in impoverished neighborhoods, pathetic government programs, ineffective education systems, and cancer ridden bodies – God is good.
This Saturday, we’re hosting a Night of Pink to celebrate women, to pray for healing, to remember those with breast cancer. It’s breast cancer awareness month. As we praise God, our Healer together, I will remember Kathy and the legacy she left me. I will lift my hands and thank God, believing she’s in heaven doing the same thing.