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It was the a few hours after my mom’s death from lung cancer that I found myself standing in her bedroom, wanting the comfort of her surroundings. My sisters and I had been taking turns around the clock sitting with her during her last days. She was the third person in my family to die of cancer. The first, 20 years before, my sister, Cathy, died at 15 of leukemia. My maternal grandmother had died 7 months before my mom. While sitting on my mothers bed that afternoon, I spotted what I deemed "the metal box". As a child, I remember being told specifically that I was not to open that box, as it held her personal possessions inside. Without another thought, I picked up the box and carefully laid it on my mothers bed. When I saw the contents of the box, my heart broke a little more than it already was. Deep inside were all of the "treasures" a mother holds dear through the years. Pictures made from 5 year old hands that were once hung on the refrigerator. Report cards and small gifts given to her through the years by one of her children. After going through all of the contents in the box, stuffed on the very bottom, was a composition. I have no idea who my mother wrote it for, or why, but she felt it important to capture this moment. The composition reads as follows:

On April 4, 1973 I had an encounter with my daughter that I would like to tell about. She had been in a great deal of pain for two weeks and on this particular night she was really suffering. She was trying so hard to be brave and considerate of us that she wouldn’t cry out because of the pain. I heard her in the bedroom talking to herself saying "I will not cry, only babies cry and I am not a baby. No matter how much it hurts, I will not cry!" When I heard her say this, I felt I had to let her know that it was alright to cry; so I went into the room and said "Cathy, if it hurts honey, go ahead and cry – crying won’t stop the pain but it might relax your body so it won’t hurt as much." When I said this to her she started to cry and I laid on the bed and held her. Then she said "I might wake up daddy and the other kids if I keep crying." I reassured her that she could cry as long as she wanted too. After about ten minutes she said to me "Mom, what would happen if I killed myself? I’ve thought about killing myself when I’m in pain. When I don’t hurt I want to live but when I have this pain I want to die; you don’t know how bad it hurts!" I was very surprised that she had thought of suicide, however I answered her very calmly saying "Cathy, when we are born than someday we die but that day is in God’s hand, not ours. I know your in pain but God has a reason for you to feel pain and if you would try to kill yourself then you would be taking your life out of God’s hands!" then she said "Why did this have to happen to me? I wouldn’t want any of the other kids to have this – but why me?" I thought to myself this is the universal questions but I told her I didn’t know why it happened to her.

Cathy then told me that she had prayed God would let her see Him and that she had prayed to see Mary but she didn’t see either of them. My response to this was "Cathy, I guess it isn’t time for you to see them, that’s why your prayers weren’t answered." She said "you told me when I have to have a bone marrow or a spinal if I pray for Jesus to stand beside me that He would and He would give me strength, but sometimes He’s not there!" At this point, I felt that she was questioning why her prayers to get well weren’t being answered so I said "Cathy, Jesus is always beside you, but I think God answers our prayers in three ways – He either says yes – no – or wait. He knows what is best for us so we must let Him answer our prayers in His way, not ours." She said "I know I’m going to die, but when I do I’m going to stay right here with you and daddy and the kids because I know you’ll be unhappy. I want you to know this even if you can’t see me or hear me you’ll know I’m here." I said "I think when the times comes for me to die, I’d rather close my eyes and let God take my hand and lead me to where He wants me to go." She said "Well who will take care of me?" I tried to get her to visualize herself standing on a shore; then I told her to picture a big ship in the water in front of her; I told her to watch the ship sail away, and the further away from her it went, the smaller it became until eventually it went over the horizon and she couldn’t see it anymore. Then someone standing beside her says "There she goes", but there’s someone on the other side of the horizon that is saying "Here she comes!" My next words to her were "Cathy, I know when I die there will be a lot of people waiting to see me. There’s Uncle Bucky, Aunt Gertie and Uncle Frank and lots of others who will take care of me." I was trying to talk about my own death and not hers so she would continue to have hope and faith in trying to become well. I didn’t want to project a fatalistic attitude about her condition.

She express the wish that she wanted to be buried beside my brother because she didn’t want to be alone. She also wanted a picture of the family to be placed in her hands when she was buried and she asked me to promise to meet her in heaven which I did.

There were a few other interactions but these were the most meaningful to her because she needed these questions and fears to be expressed and answered. With God’s help, I think I accomplished the purpose.

With tears streaming down my face, I said a silent prayer to our Lord, looked up toward heaven and whispered "Here she comes…..

Summited by: Cori Schulthies

In memory of my mom...Donna Ly." 

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