One of the things I’ve learned over the last few weeks is that Coldplay has a song for every emotion known to man. I feel they should change their name to Psalms or some other creative name that involves the roller coaster ride of emotion displayed in the book of Psalms.
3 years ago I told my mentor and now very good friend that for whatever reason by the time I turned 25 I’d be a “bad” man. Bad in the sense of being the type of person that the world is going to have to pay a lot of attention to. As I think about the past 6 months I see this huge progression in my life toward becoming the man that I so rashly spoke about. My understanding of money and finance has grown, I have excelled at sharpening the gifts that I’ve been given (both tangible and intangible), my love for my family has grown especially for my brother, I’ve had the chance to become a more well-rounded individual through opportunities provided from new friends, and I most recently have become what is termed an orphan.
For those of you who don’t know I lost my father to a heart-attack when I was 13 and recently lost my mother to breast cancer. Some ask do I ever wish I had a father growing up and I reply that I didn’t really know what it was like to have one therefore it didn’t bother me either way. No matter the situation between my mother and father in regards to me having a dad the point I’m making is that I grew up without one. I don’t blame him or her for that, I just look at it as “that was the situation” and move on. I reference that because for me to had lost my father at 13 wasn’t something that carried much weight with me. He unfortunately was someone I didn’t know. I went to his funeral devoid of emotion, crying only because I saw my siblings (my fathers children) doing so. Picked up my stuff and went on. You might think that to be cold, but as far as I knew my father was Nina Williams and my mother was Nina Williams. No disrespect at all to my father, but I loosely liken the situation to the question, “how can you lose something you never had”?
Being 24 and having both of your parents gone isn’t easy as most of you could imagine, but I’ve been able to bear the weight very well because of reasons which I will address.
My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer about two years ago. I remember the meeting we had at her house with the whole family. Lots of tears were shed but I was already looking toward the next step, treatment and most importantly prayer for healing. I found myself not so heavily concerned with the cancer itself but rather how to make sure that my mom came out on the other side of this alive and well.
The last two years for my mom were very rough. She had a double mastectomy, lost all of her hair on 2 separate occasions, went through hell with chemotherapy and radiation, and to top it all off She had an 8 year old son at home who saw her go through every single day of it all.
It wasn’t all bad days though. There were plenty of moments filled with family at different outings, trips with close friends, meals with her children, opportunities to see her eldest son preach the Good News, and many, many other events that made her last years so very special. I want to give the deepest thanks for those of you who made those events possible for my mother.
Her last three weeks were very rough. She was taken to the hospital by my grandmother and sister complaining of headaches one evening. They kept her overnight to run some tests on her. Come to find out the cancer that was in my moms body had spread not only to her chest, but also to her liver and certain parts of her brain. It was recommended that she have surgery that would involve cutting a portion of her head open and dropping in a catheter of sorts so chemotherapy could be properly delivered to the affected areas. For me the two days after this surgery while she was in the hospital were the toughest. My mom was in ICU with 1/5 of her head shaved and stitches mending the incision. She wasn’t really able to speak very well or even stay awake much because of the pain medication and the surgery itself. I think sitting there watching her sleep in that quiet room was the moment which was most capable of drawing me to tears. It seemed as though every song that I listened to, in some sort of way, brought tears my my eyes and I begin to weep as I sang the words and thought about what was awaiting my mom.
The two weeks following showed great bursts of joy while she was in the hospital. She had to ask that only immediate family visit her room because so many people were coming to see her that hadn’t seen her for quite some time. I absolutely loved it. I thought it such a beautiful sight to that in the face of death, family and friends were literally lined up outside her door to visit with a woman who had unbeknownst to herself, touched so many lives in 41 short years.
After being released from the hospital my mother was at home with more family than I ever believed could fit into a 1800 sq. foot area. After her first day at home she became very weak, hardly able to eat or speak. Much assistance was needed for her to even get to the restroom. This continued up until her last two days in which she in a sense “slipped under”. To my knowledge my mom wasn’t in a coma, as she was fully aware of her surroundings and could hear everything you spoke to her, rather she just lost control of her body. She hadn’t gone to the restroom in a few days and had to have a foley catheter placed on her which pulled out mostly blood-mixed urine from her body and her stomach was also completely bloated from not having bowel movements. And while all of this was going on her hands were limp and her breathing became extremely labored. Her body slowed down to about 4 breathes a minute or one every 17 seconds. No food or water was given to her as it could have killed her as she wasn’t able to control the manner in which her body functioned.
In the midst of this, hope was brought to us all. She had opened her eyes! Although she still wasn’t able to move her hands or feet, she was able to answer questions via blinking. What a great relief this was. Where there had seemingly been no hope, we all were suddenly blessed with this gift! But, even though we were all excited about that event, she finally passed on October 27, 2012 at 4:44pm.
Coldplay famously say in their song “No, I don’t wanna battle from beginning to end…I don’t wanna follow death and all of his friends”. Regardless of the actual meaning of the song I have taken it to mean that he didn’t want to follow death to where it would lead him, to the end of life. Crazy huh? I mean its not like he actually said that in the song. Ha. I’m way too good at this. Chris Martin, get at ya boy, I can take Coldplay worldwide.
The thing that we all know but sometimes forget is that we will all follow death (unless your name is Enoch or Elijah). It comes for us all in one way or the other no matter our feelings about “him” or “all his friends”.
I believe that was where I started with my handling of the situation, that death would come. It was crazy to me and I still don’t know what it means if anything at all really, but weeks before all of this happened to my mom I found myself reading in the Bible and discovered that God’s last enemy to destroy before He takes the world back, is death itself. That’s odd to me because I never knew death to be an enemy of anyone, especially God. Regardless, I was reminded that all people die.
After that I sat down while my mom was still alive and thought about this whole process. I knew that beyond the hand of God moving to heal her, she was going to see Him very soon. So I asked myself what was I to do with that information? I figured I could continue to cry, which I had done at length, or I could find something else to invest myself in. I decided that my best shot at gaining anything positive out of this situation was to invest myself in what I knew I had with me all along, my faith in Christ.
My mother, long before this situation occurred, professed her belief in Christ as the son of God and what He had done for her, and to this, day that is one of the most comforting things that has ever crossed my mind.
I cannot tell you how many times I have heard from people how strong I am over the last month. To be honest, one of the major things I’ve learned through this is that there was a need in my life to be more vulnerable, but not with the traditional means in mind. We are all vulnerable in some way and whether we like it or not some of those vulnerabilities are going to stay with us until we die. My need for it though, was so that I could allow those who so desired to come close to me and I could tell them a story. A story about my strength. A story about the smile that Nina blessed me with which I was able to wear as I spoke at her viewing. A story about the great investment that Someone made in me and was hoping to gain even much more yield from, in such a seemingly unfruitful situation. A story about Jesus and the joy that He so desires to see all of us have.
Being a C-h-r-i-s-t-i-a-n (see what I did there, home-schoolers?) isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. I’m a Christian and my mom just died. Unfortunate things happen to Christians every day all around the world. I am completely aware of this fact especially aware on a personal level. I just couldn’t help but to be reminded that after my mom died she would be in the presence of the Lord. I thought about it as I sat in her ICU room and everyday following, including at her funeral. But I realized that’s not where my main investment is. My main investment is in Christ. And in terms of death, I thought to myself, how could I be so heavily invested in something that is an enemy of the one I am already heavily invested in? I speak not against mourning in saying this. Jesus was deeply moved at the news of Lazarus’s death. The apostle Paul speaks about his thanks that one of his companions was not taken from him in death because he knew that it would greatly affect the work he set out to do in his ministry. What I point out is that in Christ we’ll have rainbows and unicorns and we’ll also have some very dark days. He never promises to take the bad days away, rather He promises to give you something to hold on to no matter the situation. (See Philippians 4:11-13)
As I stated before I’ve been told multiple times about the strength and poise that I possess in the midst of my mother passing. I’ve only been able to tell people that it’s Jesus in me and be it not for Him then I’d be just as “messed up” over it as you say you would be.
Nehemiah 8:10 says …”the joy of the Lord is your strength”. There you go. I have reminded myself of this daily. My secret in all of this wasn’t some idiotic sense of pride making myself not cry or seem vulnerable in front of others, because quite frankly I’ve been the opposite of that. If my investment was in death I feel I personally would have an exponentially harder time dealing with this. I think that’s because there isn’t anything for me to yield from death. I found/find myself rejoicing in the Lord and somehow waking up everyday ready to make incredible change in this world and give my mom and I something to talk about when I get to Heaven.
The wonderful thing about Jesus and His sacrifice is that it wasn’t just for me, it was also for you. So, there you are. The cookies are on the bottom shelf and any child could recognize when someone takes the best thing in life and sets it in his reach that he should probably take it. Who knows, maybe you’ll see that in the secret of having plenty and the secret of having nothing Christ was all my mom needed.
As for me, I rejoice in the world because I have joy, but when I invest in the Kingdom I realize that I have joy because I rejoice in Him. I hope you can read the smile on my face and the joy in my heart.
Thank you and may God truly bless you. I love you all.
I chose this picture to show that even in her darkest hour my mother stood up to hug her “#1 son” I love her dearly…