23 December 2013

2 years ago today

Two years ago today I had just returned from an overwhelming visit home to my family in Canada. The lingering diarrhea my mother had sent her to the hospital for much of our visit, and the doctors were just starting to talk about it being cancer. I had decided to come help her and my dad out at the beginning of January with sickness and chemo. I hadn't talked to my mom since saying good-bye to her less than a week before - she'd been in the hospital the whole time and didn't feel herself so she wasn't really interested in talking on the phone. Even my father was hard to get a hold of - I caught him just before he had an appointment with the doctor.

It was the beginning of Christmas weekend. Matthijs and I were in charge of organizing the Christmas dinner, and I'd just started making shopping lists and dinner menus with several others - the same thing that I just did tonight. And like then, I'm tired. But then I went to bed at 10, not realizing that I never turned my phone back on after leading chapel earlier in the evening.

And so I missed hearing the results of the appointment my father had with my mom's doctor: the appointment where he was given the tragic news that my mom had less than 24 hours to live. They called everyone to come. Numerous messages were left on my phone - they even called the community - but no one heard.

I woke up at 5 the next morning, and I looked at my phone. Perhaps my soul knew. Perhaps I was worried as, every day since we'd left, my mom seemed to get disturbingly worse. When I looked at my phone, there were voice messages from Canadian numbers - at least one every half hour, starting at 10:15. And then abruptly they stopped. I knew. My mother had passed away. I called my family - every number I knew until I got a hold of somebody. We talked. We cried. Matthijs woke up, and we mourned together.

It is strange to be doing the same thing today that I was doing then two years ago - once again planning Christmas with the community. It brings back the memories of that night. I miss her still: it's a strange absence as if I should talk to someone or share my news and can never quite figure out who I've missed telling. Yet, there is something good in once again planning the dinner: it was an interrupted commitment and unfulfilled joy that I am thankful finally to be able to do.

And, to be honest, my mom's death around this time has not made it harder for me to celebrate Christmas. Instead, her sudden death made me realize again how much we all needed Christmas. After all, in the midst of cancer, suffering, pain and loss, we desperately need the promise and hope found in Christ's coming.

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