(this post may contain affiliate links)
Although I hadn't known her for as long as some of the others in the room had, we made a deep connection in homegroup three years ago, and I considered her a dear friend.
She was mom to 5, and I am always so impressed and secretly intimidated by those who have done a fabulous job raising lots of kids. We bonded over motherhood, our love of reading, and addressing something in our lives as God's goodness that others might deem a hardship.
At her funeral, her eloquent and wise words were read by Pastor.
"Cancer is a gift," she said.
Because cancer became her vehicle to stronger faith in God...to a better understanding of him...to walking more closely beside him every step of the life's way...to an intimate understanding of this world not being our home....to a deeper awareness of the fragile nature of tomorrow...cancer became her gift.
Cancer is a gift. The simplicity yet profundity of these words took my breath away.
I felt like this funeral gave me, just for one tiny moment, a bird's eye view of life.
Because what to me is day after day of never ending tiny kids all around me...to her was a beloved journey that had an expiration date.
I'm focusing on details that don't matter. I'm giving myself grief for things that don't last.
The last couple of weeks, my prevailing thought has been, "I am failing at everything. This motherhood thing...this life thing...I can't get anything right." This mom to 4 tiny people...this special needs mom gig...this working mom thing...these things are no joke.
And yet, as I sat there celebrating the life of my friend and grieving her death...I realized that all the things that I'm "failing" at....these things don't matter when you're sitting in a funeral.
She left behind five beautiful souls with her loving imprint. Her days full of kids and endless cycles of laundry and meals and sticky mess and hours and hours of conversation about everything and nothing...none of these were in vain. Because every single second of these mundane activities translated into the greatest of success...standing in front of the church singing in memory of their mom.
My kids. They matter. And I get such a short time to be their mom.
Getting to know them. Loving them. Investing in them. Pushing them not only to be their best selves but to love Jesus fiercely. Not ever feeling like I am wasting my life by changing dirty diapers or by being tied to their needs. Rather, knowing that each of these small actions is a way that I show them love...kindness...the ability to give them myself.
As I sang, "It is well with my soul" with a congregation full of people there to celebrate my friend's life, all the tiny day-to-day failures disappeared from my mind. In fact, one of her quotes that really hit home was, "I know that God can use my moments of confusion just as he can use my moments of clarity."
She raised the most amazing five children. She did a fantastic job with an incredible sense of humor that she passed along to them. (life goal: to raise kids with a great sense of humor)
All her doubts...turned into victories. Because she knew that we are weak in and of ourselves. But it's not about us at all. It's about the one so full of goodness and love that can lead someone dying of cancer to say the words,
"Cancer is a gift."
This strong statement of faith in the midst of a life-altering, excruciating trial was so humbling for me to hear. I label far more insignificant things in my life as being "SO HORRIBLE". She stared death in the face and proclaimed God's goodness.
Yes sitting there, in the moment, my struggles melted away as I considered a someday end point on my #momlife. But I knew these struggles would resume as soon as I stepped back into my day. And I knew that this was so small in comparison to what she had gone through but in my window of current perspective it sometimes feels so heavy and hard and impossible. Yet...have I been addressing this all wrong? Could it be a gift?
As tears welled up in my eyes, I wondered, "Could my failures...could this be my gift right now? Could this be my vehicle to push me to Christ on a daily, moment-by-moment basis?"
Could my failures lead me to recognize much more freely that I cannot....do this on my own? And in doing so...push me to the cross far more often than I might be inclined to otherwise?
I saw this so clearly as I glimpsed this bird's eye view of life. For some reason the ambiguous "middle" of life doesn't seem so long when it's bookended by a "beginning" and "end". And when it is bookended like this and we all step back to view the entirety and celebrate that life, priorities seem to shift. The important truths stand out while the rest shrinks back.
My friend is no longer suffering. She is whole and complete and cancer-free in heaven.
I hope she knows what an impact she made. What a huge success her life was.
One of the first big conversations I had with her, I was very discouraged about my book, Motherhood Unexpected for reasons I won't go into here. (side bar: writing is not as glamorous as it might appear from the outside. Especially to a perfectionist who is extremely hard on herself in all the things!)
My friend Debbie knew the exact right things to say. She took her words and used them to lift me up and give me much needed perspective. She reminded me that the book was about a perfectionist and here I was doing the same things as the main character. (seriously LOL and so true) and how the overriding point of the book (God's goodness through hard times) was what mattered and how God was still going to use it because he didn't need my perfectionism to get his work done.
She showed me love that day with her words, and I will never forget.
I am so grateful for her. I am grateful for her example.
And for her reminder about what is important in this journey called life. The gift of the days, even the ones packed full of struggle...of living fully...not for me and by me...but experiencing, leaning into, and sharing the gracious love and strength of the one who sometimes sends strange and mysterious gifts.