Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I'm taking a deep breath as I hit PUBLISH---->

Eeeeek! I wrote this post about a month ago, when I was experiencing some very painful issues with relationships. I haven't had the nerve to post it, because it is so deeply personal and I've been afraid to. But I showed it to a couple of close friends who have encouraged me to share this{biting nails, have a slight stomach ache!} I wiped the tears from my keyboard and worked up my nerve. I checked it and rechecked it about 85 times, but have changed nothing, so it is time.


This coming Monday also marks 14 years since I said goodbye to my Mom. (where IN THE WORLD did the time go!)   I decided that the timing for this is good for those who knew her and would appreciate seeing her face again. Thank you all for being a part of my life. Here we go...........
{feels kinda like I'm going climbing up the high diving board!}

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I very rarely ever bare my heart and soul in public. My close friends may know these things, but for whatever reason I find myself fighting to reveal how I really feel at times. But I have learned so much in this life from those who have trusted me enough to share with me their deepest and sometimes darkest times. Don't get me wrong my life is wonderful. I have an abundance of blessings. But I carry around a scar. A once deep, gaping flesh wound that has since healed, which has now left behind an ugly scar that still gives me unexpected twinges of pain.
 (quote,survival)
Found on Pinterest
When I was 18 years old, I had just graduated high school. I was going to school to get licensed in electrology, so I could work in my Mom's hair salon. She and I were as close as a mother and daughter could be. Of course we had those tumultuous teen years, but I had since out grown that awful attitude and had grown into a wonderful best friend kind of relationship with my mom. I remember her taking me out of school, a sort of excused hooky, so I could attend a hair show with her. She wanted me to see what the business was like. She was just as excited as I was about our future working together. She saw my potential and enjoyed being with me.
Me (left) John Paul and Elouise DeJoria and Mom at the hair show.
 In high school, I would go home on my lunch breaks, and she would be there to hear about my day so far. I would call her countless times every day that she was at work. Her employees would be understandably annoyed, but she would never ever turn down a call from my sister or myself. She never held back her love for Sarah and I, and she gave of herself freely. I have happy memories of my childhood. I grew up taking for granted a stable loving home. Just recently I was looking through old pictures, and I saw a picture of a 7 year old me, smiling through over sized, crooked teeth, just being happy. When I looked at that face, I saw the love my parents had for me. A love strong enough to sacrifice their own wants and needs to put my sister and myself through a Christian education on a hairdresser and truck driver budget. That little girl had no idea at the time the depth of love that her parents had for her. And now I see it clear as day. The tables have turned and I am now the mother to two little girls. Now I look at my little girls with crooked over sized teeth, and the depth of the love I feel for those children isn't something I can put into words. Yet it hurts. That scar is sensitive, as I look in those beautiful little faces. Because it reminds me of what I've lost, it hurts because I want nothing more than to protect them from the kind of pain I've felt, yet I know that I can't.
THIS is why I had braces :)

In June of 1996, just weeks after my high school graduation, my Mom and I were painting and wallpapering in the room that was to be my electrolysis office in her salon. We were talking, listening to music, and working. It was fun! But later in the afternoon, she reached up to stretch and said "Angie, come feel this...what the heck is THIS?" I looked and could then see a huge lump on her shoulder. I didn't want to touch it, but I think I mumbled something about a pulled muscle or something. She didn't mention it anymore that night. As an adult now, I realize that she probably didn't sleep much that night. Thinking about what it could possibly be, I'm sure cancer crept into her mind more than once as we all laid in our beds, sound asleep. I'm sure she laid there thinking about what would happen to her girls if something happened to her. Then she probably told herself that she is getting ahead of herself, that it is probably nothing. And I'm sure this cycle continued all night long. The next day, after I got done with my job at the video store, I went over to my friend Laura's house to hang out. My Mom called me at Laura's and asked me to come home. I asked her why, and she wouldn't say. I repeated, 'but I just got here', so she blurted out, "Angie, I have leukemia, you need to come home." Those words and the shaky tone of her voice trying to remain calm yet firm are forever etched into my brain. I don't remember much else about that day, but I remember the roller coaster of emotions that overcame me as I came to terms with the diagnosis. Anger, disbelief, fear, more fear! Obviously I felt for her, but I couldn't wrap my mind around the idea that she might not be there some day. That she wasn't going to live forever. At 18 years old the possibility hadn't yet crossed my self-centered mind.
She obviously didn't know her picture was being taken because she was smiling.
She hated getting her picture taken, so it is hard to find pictures that show who she really was...
My dad will KILL me for posting this pic, but Dad if you are reading this, the chops are AWESOME!!!
 Mom just looked too pretty here to not show it.


The next year and a half was a time of ups and downs. Diagnosis, remission, Re diagnosis, MISDIAGNOSIS, remission, recurrence, remission, recurrence, bone marrow transplant, no bone marrow transplant, hospitals far away from home, and finally, the realization that a cure was not meant to be. Anybody who has lived in a house with someone with cancer knows that it takes over every inch of your life. No I didn't have chemo, but I experienced it. I didn't have the painful spinal taps, but I felt them. I didn't have to stare my own mortality in its face, but I watched her struggle with it. The diagnosis meant nothing in our family would ever be the same again. That we were entering into a new normal. I saw for the first time in my life that my Mom and Dad were not invincible. I realized that they were human and the diagnosis of my parents being human beings was just as much of a shock to me: a child who lived such a previously happy life.

I walked in on a conversation between my Dad and my Grandma in our garage that I wasn't supposed to walk in on. They were wondering how they were going to tell the girls. The girls...that was US! I put 2 and 2 together and demanded that they just tell me. With pain in their faces as we stood in that garage, they told me that this was the last time that Mom was coming home. That the treatment she needs is in experimental stages and her cancer is too aggressive, so she likely won't be able to travel to Nova Scotia where the treatment is administered. I remember nothing else after that.
Our family, before Sarah and I knew how "normal" we were!
This is the picture Sarah and I refer to the
"Mom's wearing a bib, and Angie's bangs look like a Crescent roll"
picture!
You've gotta love the 80's!

My Mom was home for 10 days after that conversation. Friends and family came and went. We had a good time, some people cried. As the days dragged on, she became less and less responsive, and I slowly watched my beautiful, vibrant Mom fade away. I remember seeing her lips getting so dry as she slept and she was so thirsty but couldn't drink. So I ran to the pharmacy to get foam swabs to moisten her mouth. And I would sit there with a glass of water and swab it into her mouth to offer her my care, and what little relief I could. I simply wanted her to know how much I loved her, and to show her I knew how much she loved me. As I sat with her, I struggled to understand why it was coming to this. God had worked great miracles for other people, why couldn't he give one to us?


My Mom died peacefully in her bed as we all slept. Well sort of. For reasons I can't explain, my sister, my Dad, and myself all woke up and knew she was gone before anybody told us. I believe my Dad walked in the room to hear her last breath. So God does give us little miracles, even if they are not what we expect. He let her nudge us all in our sleep to tell us she was going home. Unexplainable in human terms, but totally normal in God terms. About 15 minutes after she was gone, the phone rang. It was about 3 am. It was my uncle, who was at some camp with his son. On the phone, he said, "Angie, what is going on?" with an undeniable sense of reluctance on his end. He too had been woken up, 3 hours away. God is amazing.

Mom ca. sometime in the 80's judging by the bangs :)


Then next morning, after the floods and floods of people finally left, we sat alone in our living room with our Grandma and Pastor. We were alone, facing the reality of what had happened for the very first time. So we went ahead robotically planning a funeral. "She'd like this, she'd want that". We basically put one foot in front of the other. As I heard the talking, but chose not to listen, I looked out the windows at what was a beautiful, mild, brightly sunny late September morning. And this is what God showed me. And I said it out loud. "She WAS healed. God DID work a miracle". I realized then that she was experiencing the joy that we as Christians wait anxiously for. She was face to face with Jesus. "Her cancer is dead. It can't hurt her anymore" The cancer that defeated her body couldn't take her soul. Because her soul was still ALIVE!


I never knew this picture existed until my uncle Joe handed it to me a year ago.
I have hardly ANY pics of Mom and me so I treasure it :)

And even after I made my relationship with Christ real, I began to have doubts. You see I had never talked with my Mom about her faith. How did I know if she was saved? It killed me for quite a while. Until God intervened and sent a good friend of my Mom to let me know out of the blue that she was in small group bible studies with my Mom and she KNEW in a way that only those who experience God can know that my Mom had made the same decision, to have a personal relationship with our gracious God, and that she was indeed with Him in heaven.

I live in the assurance every day that I will see my Mom again. And PRAISE GOD I live with the assurance that my husband will see her also. You see, he only got to meet her when she was sick. He was my companion on hospital visits or to her salon when she was working, but he never REALLY got to experience who my Mom really was. I now know he will get to know her, someday. I pray that my daughters will see their need for a Savior far earlier than I did, because I want nothing more than the assurance of knowing that they will be greeted by their Grandma in heaven.

It is another miracle that God continues to bless me and my family in incomprehensible ways every day. Yes the pain comes back with a vengeance at times. When I see a Mother who decides she no longer loves her child. I wonder where the justice is in that?   Or when I witness my best friend and the amazing relationship she has with her mother. It makes me ache a little for my own.  I get great joy out of seeing relationships between Mothers and their children. I'm sure most of them take it for granted, like I did, but I look at them and see yet another miracle. That God gave me the ability to see how wonderful the parents He put me with are and the fact that I was able to freely call my Dad and tell him this the other day. That is how awesome our God is!


The proof that God still loves me is in that He put before me.
My  husband and daughters....my own family!   :)


The best miracles so far...my girls!




25 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing such a beautiful story. My grandmother passed away from lung cancer long before I was ever born but my dad still loves to tell stories about what an amazing women she was. It's because of these stories that I feel like I know her and that I would have loved her if she was still alive. Thanks for sharing-it was beautiful.

    Kari

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  2. Angie...I don't even know where to begin. Thank you for sharing this. You were so young, I do remember when your mom passed away, we had only been living in Sheboygan a little while, so I never knew her, but this has given me a little glimpse into who she was and how much she has passed onto you. As you know I went through a parent being very sick and passing as well and it isnt easy and the pain is still so real at times. But like you said- they are healed- they are singing and dancing in our Father's presence. THAT fact alone brings joy. You are an amazing person and I know you will touch many people through this post...just another one of the plans God has laid out before you- thank you for saying "yes".

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  3. April, thanks so much. Now you made me cry..again! This has been very difficult to put into words, so I appreciate you letting me know that you understand :)

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  4. I came home for lunch and read this... now I'm crying. Thanks for sharing this with us. Although I never knew your mom, when I see the pictures I remember knowing her as the lady who had really cool hair :) Having someone leave this earth is so difficult for us to understand at times. It is so amazing how God allows us to look back and see some of the things in His plan that are so meaningful now. Knowing that we can rejoice with them again some day is worth the wait! Thanks again for sharing. Christa

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  5. I can't keep the tears from flowing.... I'm so proud of you. For taking the courage to share the beautiful life of your mother, your pain and the wonderful peace that you have knowing you will see her again. Our God is amazing and your mom would be so proud of the woman that you are. I love you so much.

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  6. I can't wait to see you and give you a hug..
    Shirley

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  7. Angie,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story it was beautifully written. Thank you also for reminding me of my blessings and putting things in perspective. You will be in my prayers.
    Tammy

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  8. Why did I choose to read this right before I have to pick the kids up from school?! I have 5 minutes to pull myself together & re-apply mascara. Angie, thank you & we'll talk later.

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  9. This is a beautiful story and hits a little to close to home for me...I lost my dad to cancer and found out he had a brain tumor my senior year of high school.What a great victory we have in JESUS!? We can rejoice that goodbye is not forever! Again beautiful post and kudos for being so very very brave!!

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  10. Can't even type.......Love you! Did you ever think of writing a book? We should really get on this. We could bring it to Dr Phil, he will LOVE IT!Beautifully written. You are truly gifted in many ways.
    LOVE,
    Your sister, Sarah

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  11. Angie, I also have tears for the loss you have gone through. I wish I was there with you, so I could give you a big HUG. Thanks for sharing the intimate details. You are one precious woman of God! Your mom would be so proud of you and your family.

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  12. Oh Angie, this post is so sweet and just such a loving tribute to your mom. You should of warned me that I would need tissues! I seriously want to just hug you. Our God is so awesome and I cant wait for you to see your momma in heaven someday. My most recent post on my blog, I mentioned that I hated taking pics of myself, but know how important it is for my kiddos and now this just reaffirmed that even more. I love your beautiful heart, thanks for sharing. Sending virtual hugs your way!

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  13. Angie, You give me so much hope for the future of my granddaughters lives with your faithful obedience to God's leading. I love you and am so blessed to be a part of your life. God bless you for stepping out and showing others how God's grace restores as we suffer our deepest sorrows in this earthly life.
    You are beautiful,caring and loving daughter, granddaughter, wife, mom, sister and friend thank you for "being you" and sharing your thoughts, prayers and memories of your mom. Angie, you are a sunshine woman and I love you.jan

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  14. My eyes are leaking, Angie. Thank you for posting this; I know it wasn't easy.

    I wish I could have met your mother - she sounded like an incredible woman. I know her goodness lives on in her girls, and in her beautiful granddaughters and grandson. I am sure she is so proud of what a terrific mother you are. Clearly, the apple does not fall far from the tree. <3

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  15. I love you so much and I LOVE that we're friends, just like our moms :) You're the best mom and the greatest girl I know. You're mom is super proud of you. Thanks for sharing. You're so brave.

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  16. Thank you for sharing- I printed this out to share with my parents. Your mom would be very proud of you, your beautiful family, amd all of your accomplishments!

    Love ya!
    Jody

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  17. I am at work....not a good time to read this! Thanks for having the courage to share. Sharing is sometimes the best therapy. My whole family is from WI. My family and I moved from Eau Claire when I was 5 to North Carolina. Big change! But on a lighter note GO PACKERS!

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  18. Angie, you are a beautiful writer! What an heart wrenching story, thank you so much for sharing it with us. I am very close to my mother and I really don't know what I would do if I couldn't call her 30 times a day, your strength is such an inspiration!

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  19. Angie I'm amazed at how you got through such tragedy with grace and elegance the way you have. You are a witness to the kind of mom you had... in your love for the lord, your desire to share Him with others, the deep love you have for your family and the example you are to your girls... Thank you for sharing your story and for being a part of my life. Love you, and i'm giving you a big hug in about 20 min :)

    - Cara

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  20. Angie this was such a loving tribute to the path you have walked with the grace of our Lord! Your Mom was such a ray of sunshine and I enjoyed my times together with her at North. I also had the privilege of watching you and Sarah at North and how your Mom loved and cared for you during your school years! I can't believe 14 years have passed since she went home! This tribute will be a treasure for your own girls in their life walk and understanding who their grandmother was and how her life impacted the graceful woman you have become! Sending you hugs, Laurie

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  21. Laurie, your words touched me so much today! Thank you so much for your friendship not only with my Mom way back when, but also for being my friend now :)

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  22. Ok...I'm crying big tears!!! You touched my heart today!! I lost my dad 6 years ago and still feel the pain! Your outlook is AMAZING and I THANK YOU for sharing your story!!
    xoxo

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  23. Oh, wow, tears are streaming down my face. Thank you for this post. It encouraged me to not take my mom so much for granted. I'm calling her right now. Thank you. xo

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  24. what a beautiful tribute to your mother and all glory to God for your trust in His hand through it all. love this, thanks for your transparency to share your heart
    <3

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  25. Aww, posts like this is what it's all about! I'm sure it was scary for you to publish, but you know what? This is the kind of stuff I like reading about every once in awhile because it reminds me that there is beauty in everything :)

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