Stage III colon cancer.
The words suddenly hit Sarah on the stomach as though she had caught the forceful swinging of a boom on a sailboat. It took her a while to process the doctor’s words. She was already suspicious as soon as she heard that an oncologist was being sent to review her mother’s MRI, but this clinched it.
“The biopsy of the tumor in her colon confirms that the sarcoma is cancerous, malignant and it has already metastasized to the surrounding organs,” gravely and with his hands in his lab coat, the oncologist continued, “chemotherapy and radiation treatments are still an option. But I’m not going to lie to you; it is only a matter of a few months.”
“Thank you, doctor,” she managed to weakly utter. Sarah then slipped back into her mother’s hospital room.
Sarah’s mother looked up from the book she was reading and her face lit up like a child’s on Christmas morning.
“Hi, sweetie!” she jovially said, as she put the book down on her lap. She waved her daughter over as she opened her arms wide to receive her with an embrace, “I didn’t know you were already here!”
Sarah fell into her mother’s arms and broke down weeping.
“Honey, what’s the matter?” her mother asked, as she pulled her away and looked questioningly into Sarah’s face.
“Mom, how can you ask me that? Didn’t the doctor tell you?”
“Tell me what?”
“You have cancer, Mom!” Sarah cried out, her voice mixed with anger, frustration and despair.
Bringing her daughter’s head to her shoulders, she reassuringly said, “Oh, I know, honey, I know.” Letting out a sigh, she motioned for Sarah to sit on the chair next to her bed.
Taking her daughter’s hands in hers, she said, “As much as I’m tempted to be angry and question God why this is happening to me, I am very much at peace.”
“Peace?” this time, Sarah was really angry. She stood up and paced the room, “Mom, don’t you understand? You’re dying! How can you be at peace? How can you not be angry at God? He could have stopped this!”
“Sarah Elizabeth Jamison!” her mother’s voice was stern and firm, “Sit yourself down and don’t let me hear you speak about God that way again. I raised you to be more respectful of God than that.”
Sarah knew better than to argue with her mother, especially when God was involved. She sat back down and began to weep uncontrollably with her face on her mother’s lap. Comfortingly patting her daughter’s head, she said in a softer voice, “Who am I to question God, Sarah? Who am I to question what He allows to happen? Am I any better than Job, who suffered more than the physical pain that he did?”
“Sarah,” she lifted up her daughter’s chin to look her in the face. Sarah was surprised to see tears down her mother’s face as she continued, “At least I still have you, even for a little while. I don’t want to be held back by this disease; I want to live the rest of the time God has given me to the fullest. I want to make sure that my life continues to be a blessing to you and to others. I want to run this race well and finish it strong, Sarah. Will you help me?”
“Of course I will, mom,” Sarah said through her sobs, “I love you, mom. It’s just that I’m going to miss you so much!” Sarah’s heart ached with every word.
“Even now you still cannot understand how much I love you,” she countered holding her daughter in the tightest embrace, “but the good news is, we will see each other again.”
* * *
There were hundreds of people at the memorial service. Many of them, Sarah didn’t even know. Despite the pain and weakness from the chemotherapy and radiation treatments, her mother continued to live her life serving others; all three months of it. Sarah took her to homeless shelters, food pantries, visited sick church members and prayed for people in hospitals.
A lady testified, “She was definitely a ‘good and faithful servant.’” There were resounding ‘amens’ from the crowd while others nodded and smiled through their tears.
Sarah looked in the casket at the empty, barely recognizable shell from which her mother had checked out.
“I love you, mom,” Sarah whispered, “I miss you terribly, but I’ll see you soon.”
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