“For there are moments in all lives, great and small, that we must trudge alone out forlorn roads into infinite wilderness, to endure our midnight hours of pain and sorrow – Gethsemane moments, when we are on our knees or backs, crying out to a universe that seems to have abandoned us. These are the greatest of moments, where we show our souls. These are our ‘finest hours.’ That these moments are given to us is neither accidental nor cruel. Without great mountains we cannot reach great heights. And we were born to reach great heights.
Every one of us is faced with a task equal to Korczak’s[*], one as gorgeously absurd – to chip away at the stone of our own spirits, creating a monument to light the universe. And, like Korczak’s monument, our task will not be completed in our lifetime. And in the end we will find that we were never sculpting alone.
Korczak said, ‘I tell my children never to forget that man is not a complete being in himself. There’s something greater than he that moves him’.”
Quote from p. 328-9 of Miles to Go by Richard Paul Evans
*Korczak was the sculptor of the Crazy Horse memorial in South Dakota. He dedicated his life to working on the memorial for no salary. He began working on it in 1947 and continued on for nearly 36 years until his death at age 74. You can read more about his story here (http://www.crazyhorsememorial.org/about/storyteller.html).
I wanted to write more about how Evans’ book, Miles to Go, spoke to me, but didn’t want to include it in my book rec blog entry since what I wanted to write was more about my mom rather than about the book.
Many friends and family members have asked over the past few years about my mom and her battle with cancer. They asked about how she was doing and how our whole family was doing. I would often just give a fairly pat answer and kept things brief. I never gave many details and rarely shared about what these last couple of years were like and especially the last several months.
Even now, things are still so incredibly raw, and it is difficult to bring those memories to mind. To even try to put my memories into words, I feel like I am not doing my mom justice. I would never wish cancer on my worst enemy. It is such a terrible disease that robs your loved one slowly of their dignity and eats away at them. I felt incredibly helpless against my mom’s battle with cancer. It is like trying to keep the tide from washing in. Each time I saw her, I could feel a little more of her drifting away from us. And there wasn’t a single damn thing that I could do to stop it.
Evan’s words above really spoke to me about the life and character of my mom especially the last two years of her life. I have never seen someone try so hard and fight so hard to keep living not just for herself, but for her family. I have tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat right now just remembering how much pain she was in and how rarely she ever complained about it. I remember some of those Gethsemane moments that my mom journeyed through and how desperately I prayed that God would spare her this suffering and for Him to comfort her and relieve her. I found myself wanting to be incredibly selfish about keeping her with us as long as possible and wanting her to be released from the incredible pain that she was in so she could finally be at peace.
Many people have wondered out loud to me how my mom was able to stay so strong for so long and fight as hard as she did. I know that she drew incredible comfort and strength from her faith in the Lord. She became a Christian about two and half years into her battle with cancer. I am grateful every day for the comfort and peace that her new found faith gave her. I know that she didn’t have much knowledge about theology, Christianity, or the Bible which made some question whether or not she really understood. Those things are not important in the grand scheme of things. What mattered is that my mom knew Jesus died for her, forgave her of her sins and gave her eternal life with Him in Heaven. Faith is not as complicated as we think it is. Humans make it far more complicated than it has to be with traditions, rules, and rituals. Faith is a simple and beautiful thing. It really is as simple as John 3:16.
I often think about why my mom didn’t give up and why she tried so hard every day to stay with us. I believe that she felt that she still had her work (her family) to do, and that there were things she wanted to impart to each of us and instill in each of us. I will always treasure the time that I had with her, and the amazing impact she had on my son. The conversations that we had about the things that mattered. The lessons that she was still trying to communicate to us. I know that her work wasn’t really finished in her lifetime, but I am now tasked to carry on in her stead. It is quite a sobering responsibility to undertake, but I am not alone in my task as God is always with me.
As incredibly difficult walking this journey was for my mom, I can see the amazing work that God had all along been creating in her life and how she was never truly alone in her suffering. The last few years spoke more to me about who she was and how generous and loving she was to her friends and family. And how blessed I was to have her in my life and to be able to call her my sister in Christ. How I look forward to being reunited with her in Heaven one day.