Holy Saturday. The day between Good Friday, the darkest day of the year, and Easter, the celebration of Ultimate Hope. It seems a good time to share my latest newsletter.
Easter blessings, friends.
In June, I will celebrate 19 years of working with the CCO. That’s almost half my life. In close to two decades of writing newsletters to friends, family and supporters, I have never gone a full calendar year between newsletters — until now.
When I last wrote, in April 2006, the news of my mother’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer was relatively fresh. In spite of an exciting beginning of 2006 in Pittsburgh — the Steelers won their fifth Super Bowl in early February — my world turned upside down within weeks.
On February 17, I traveled to Washington, DC, to interview staff and students at Howard University for a magazine article I was writing. That same day, my mother was scheduled for a biopsy, after weeks of pain in her back and the detection of a “shadow” on her pancreas. By February 23, just days before the annual Jubilee conference, a typical highlight of my year, the news was confirmed: there was a tumor on her pancreas, and it was malignant. Surgery was suggested as an option, with the first available consult with a surgeon scheduled for March 15.
We came to find out that surgery was not an option after all, and in spite of radiation and chemotherapy treatments, the cancer continued to spread. By the end of September, the day after my 40th birthday, we made the decision to cease treatments and go to full home hospice care. On October 17, my mom passed away. It was a week to the day before she would have turned 65.
As it turns out, 2006 was a very difficult year.
In the midst of the grief and helplessness I felt while watching Mom suffer through her pain and fear, God showed up in some big ways. He continues to show up.
I took intermittent family leave in order to spend more time with Mom and Dad, and by the last month or so, I was pretty much living with them. Thanks to high-speed internet access at their house, I was able to continue my work on the updated CCO website from their house. I was there when Mom drew her last breath — in the kitchen, unloading the dishwasher, while Dad was in the bedroom by her side.
I am grateful for advice I was given early on to spend as much time with Mom as I could. I am grateful that I took that advice, and that my colleagues at the CCO supported that decision and held me and my family up in prayer throughout those months. I am grateful for my church family, who did the same, providing prayer support and meals. I am grateful for my extended family and friends, who visited and sent letters, cards and emails, and who traveled to western Pennsylvania from as far away as Ohio, Florida and Montana for her funeral.
It is true that 2006 was a difficult year. It is also true that God continues to show up, giving us the strength to carry on after losing someone so very central to our family. My dad, brothers, niece and I continue to navigate a new family dynamic, and we continue to grieve. We’ve made it through several difficult firsts — Mom’s birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas. There are certainly more to come; we approach the six-month mark of her death in April.
As Easter draws near, I pray that you will join me in clinging to the hope of the Resurrection. I have been amazed by the gifts of grace I received throughout Mom’s illness, including a renewed closeness and appreciation for my family. I miss her so much, but I am grateful for the 40 years we shared on this side of heaven.
Thank you all for the gift of your friendship, love and support throughout my life and this past year. Happy Easter.