Updated: Jan 1, 2020
For several years I came close to allowing myself the identity of “the mom whose son has brain cancer”. Then it was “the mom whose son died of brain cancer”. Joe’s cancer journey and his passing have become part of who I am, but they are not the whole story. I am more than my sorrow.
My sadness and weariness have colored my choices in life these past few years. The choice to not be involved in group Bible studies or mentoring relationships. The choice to retire from teaching. And eventually, the choice to go away quietly with my family during the holidays while others celebrate in more festive ways.
Soon after Joe died, I wrote in my journal, “Is it okay that I just want to rest for a couple of years?” I was asking permission (from God or from myself, I’m not sure) to avoid new commitments. It was an appropriate request, given my mental fatigue.
Recently I wrote about moving forward with grief. I think moving forward for me means recognizing that Joe’s death does not define me. It has changed me, certainly. I understand pain in ways I wasn’t aware of before. I have experienced a deeper sorrow than ever before, and there is a lingering sadness that I’m pretty sure will be with me the rest of my life.
But there is also a deeper, fuller peace. There is an ironclad assurance that Jesus will walk with me through both the mountains and the valleys of life. There is a confidence that with Him I can learn to be content in any situation. That is an amazing gift, and suffering was the vehicle God used to give me that gift.
So as I move forward with my grief, although I cannot thank God for Joe’s cancer, I can thank Him for my suffering.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior... (Isaiah 43:2-3)