Graduation was over. I had decided to attend the Bible school where my dad had worked and so didn't even have to move, except up the stairs to the girls' dorm. I enjoyed settling in and working at the job I had started in high school - McDonalds. (My kids are soooo jealous.) I remember long afternoons with my Bible open and a journal and just soaking it all in.
My parents moved to a different school because there was an opening at a missions school in Pennsylvania. I remember that my relationship with my mom changed that year. I longed to talk with her and to hear her voice. I may not have shown it much but in my heart I'd always been a Daddy's girl. I kept every letter he wrote me. I had been the typical teenager and couldn't wait to leave home, but when I did I found out that I still needed my parents.
The Bible school that I went to had a prayer program for missionaries who were working overseas. I was assigned to a couple who worked in Indonesia. The wife wrote back faithfully and I loved getting to know this couple.
At the end of my first year, my parents headed back to the Philippines. Mom wasn't completely better, but seemed to be improving. As I look back now, I was pretty selfish. I don't really remember helping all that much or even knowing what was going on. My brother and sister would be attending Faith Academy and I knew they would love it. I was enjoying where I was and all my friends weren't at Faith anymore anyway, so I wasn't too jealous.
The month I particularly remember was October. It was my second and final year at Bible School. My boyfriend broke up with me, seemingly for spiritual reasons. Turns out it was for another girl. I tripped in an indoor soccer match and fell headlong into a wall. I ended up in the hospital with a mild concussion. The rooms were full of ladies in delivery so I was in the hall on a gurney with bright lights shining in my eyes. Let me tell you, bright lights + concussion = major, major headache. I remember Heather staying with me through at least part of my time in the ER. God gave me wonderful friends.
Right on the heels of this all, (I think it was within the same week as the concussion because I remember still being on pain medication and intensifying headaches) came the news from Mr Sullivan. I remember he called me into his apartment. His wife was there sitting on the couch. I thought I was in trouble, but couldn't think what I'd done. He told me the awesome news that my parents were coming home. All I could think was, "Why? They just got there. It had only been three months." While these thoughts were spinning around in my head, he told me, "Your mom has cancer." My headaches were back with a vengeance.
They were coming right away and it was October. They would be living in the same building as me again at least for the time being. But they needed coats and clothes and all of that was at my grandma's house. I couldn't drive because of the medication I was still on for those headaches.
Caleb was a good friend in my class. His brother, Joe, and my sister were dating. He and I had both grown up in the Philippines. We were acquaintances at the most there, but while we were in Bible School we became good friends. He drove me to my grandma's house. I remember teasing him for driving over the lines, which he immediately did even more of just to get me laughing. He didn't say a lot, but I knew he was hurting with me.
I don't remember picking my parents up. I'm sure I was there. I don't even really remember my final year. There are pictures of my mom sewing my sister's wedding dress. She married Joe the summer she graduated from high school. Everything is a blur. My mom's cancer was Hodgkins Lymphoma - the most treatable kind. I believe it was at the end of that year that she went into remission.
My dad was packing them up to move back to the missions institute in Pennsylvania. He asked if I would consider coming and helping, or maybe I asked him, not sure which. But I jumped at the chance. It was a wonderful time for me. I sat at my mother's knee and watched as she grew more and more like Christ with each passing day. She taught me so much and so did my dad and my little brother those two years.
Mom was sick again, not so much with cancer, but with whatever it was that had been the problem right before my senior year. In fact, as soon as the chemo was over, it had started up again. Things bothered her, but she didn't break out in hives or rashes. She called it getting "fuzzy". She couldn't think straight if perfume was worn near her and progressively it got worse.
After two years helping out at home, I decided I would continue my studies toward my passion - being a missionary. I didn't know how long it would be before Mom would be better and I felt torn. But that summer I packed up my car and headed to Wisconsin. My parents were so supportive. Later I was told by one of my mom's best friends that she was so happy I had decided to become a missionary.
I continued to keep in touch with the couple I had been assigned to during Bible school. They had moved back to the States. They were a source of great encouragement as I started my own journey toward missions.
That year, while I was gone, things got much worse. I don't think Mom wanted Dad telling me how much worse. She wanted me to continue studying. I went home for spring break and saw how much worse things were. She was 100% dependent on my dad and it was round the clock care. He tried everything. He had even tried taking her to the hospital, but that made her way worse and so she wasn't going to do it again. She knew the cancer was back, but wasn't going to do chemo again ever.
Not long after spring break, she died. God was preparing my heart. I remember begging Him to take her. "She's suffered enough," I said. "If she's suffering to help others, many people have been encouraged by her story, isn't that enough. Maybe the miracle I've been praying for for 4 years is not what You want, maybe you want to do a complete miracle and perfect her body by taking her to be with You. Please take her to be with You." Glimpses of guilt would pop up later on when I remember this prayer. But God gently reminded me, "It was you saying the words, but I was planting the thought there, so that you would be ready."
I am so thankful that I chose to spend two years of my life, helping my dad care for her and for the house. It was the time when my mom became my best friend. I know my dad was her best friend, but she was mine. I could tell her anything without fear of rebuke. I knew where she stood, but I also knew I had her ear whenever I needed someone to listen without judging. My parents watched me go through some things that I'm sure they bit their tongue on. But I know that they were on their knees praying and that it was because of that that circumstances changed or my heart did. What a legacy they have left me! I'm so blessed.`
I would say that this is one of the hardest chapters in my life. There are another one or two left to come and harder still, but as I look back I can see, as the song says, "Never once did (I) ever walk alone."