This is a post I wrote about six years as a tribute to my first “best friend.” The words have been tucked away over at my inactive blog, the one I had when I first started blogging. This morning it popped into my brain and I decided to share it again since Mother’s Day is right around the corner.
I cherish every single memory…the painful ones, the happy ones…all of them. I don’t want to miss the lessons, the beauty and the healing I tend to find in each one that crosses my mind.
I was 13 when my mom broke the news to me and my two older brothers. I remember exactly where I was sitting, on the couch in our living room. My mom calmly explained to us that she had been to the doctor. She was going to need an operation. Cancer had been found in one of her breasts. I don’t recall being scared. My 13-year-old mind simply developed a plan…my mom would have an operation and then she would be fine again.
As a very shy child, my mom had always filled two important roles in my life, Mom and best friend. In school, I never fit in with the popular or the unpopular group. I always felt uncomfortably stuck in the middle—getting along well with both groups, but never developing very many friendships. I remember being so uncomfortable in high school, that during lunch time, I would often go to the library and study rather than have to go to the cafeteria and eat with the other students or by myself. Despite graduating with a 4.0 GPA (I guess one of the rewards for hiding in the library), I never liked school. I just always felt self-conscious and uncertain about who I was and where I belonged.
Because of this, my mom became my closest friend. I loved hanging out with her. My mom had been instrumental in leading me to Christ and she and I would often have bible studies together. She had a love for the Lord that I truly appreciated and respected. We did everything together and this didn’t change after my mom’s surgery or after the rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatments began. For her treatments, we always had to travel 80 miles up to Tucson. Oddly enough, I usually had a good time on these trips. After my mom’s treatments, rather than drive all the way home, we would always stay a few nights with my grandparents who lived in Tucson. My mom and I would share the double bed in Grandma and Grandpa’s spare room. We would stay awake talking and laughing, just like two girls at a slumber party.
I was 17 and in my last year of high school- when the simple plan I put together in my mind four years earlier suddenly began to unravel. Again, my mom sat me down. Her cancer had metastasized into her bones and she would need more radiation treatments. Even after this news, I still had a difficult time grasping the enormity of the situation. I still assumed that everything was going to be okay. It just had to be.
It wasn’t until a few months before she died that I woke up in the middle of the night in sheer panic. One thought was racing through my mind. What if she dies? It was as if the huge wall of protection that my mind had built around me years earlier was collapsing. This can’t happen. I’m only a teenager. This happens to other families, not mine.
Looking back, it’s amazing to me how much my adolescent mind protected me from the circumstances going on in my life. My life was changing drastically, but I never viewed it that way. It was just my life. I watched my mom go from walking independently to getting around with either a walker or a wheelchair depending on how bad her pain was that day. I went with my dad and brother down to the local Red Cross so that the three of us could donate blood for a blood transfusion my mom needed. I did the grocery shopping for the family because my mom could no longer do it. I prepared lunch for my mom and would bring it to her on the couch. The innocence of my adolescence had disappeared and I never fully comprehended it at that time. You know, I’m really thankful for this lack of comprehension. I think God knew exactly how much I could handle in my young life.
At 18, I was by my mom’s side when she died. Ironically, over the years, this has become one of my favorite memories from my teenage years. I will never forget those precious hours we spent together. It was one of those rare times in my young life when I knew, with total certainty; I was exactly where I belonged, holding the hand of my best friend.