“All I remember is her suffering…”were the words my daughter (step daughter but that’s my baby) said to me one day as she sat at the kitchen table crying.
This statement caught me completely off guard as none of the events that lead to this moment seemed relevant to the moment. At least not right away. Let me explain.
One day, my daughter came to me concerned about a bump she felt. So we schedule her an appointment and quickly learned that it was something that could be treated with antibiotics. The doctor wrote the prescription, we ordered the medicine, and in my mind, we were good to go. When the course of treatment ended, I noticed she still seemed concerned as the bump had not completely disappeared. I explained to her that it could take some time for the medicine to complete the job in her body but it wasn’t clear to me how unsettled she was with that response until my husband came to me and said she was in her room crying.
Now, why in the world was she crying? I told her everything was fine. What I soon learned was that because she had encountered the loss of a mother and grandmother from cancer, my words, without immediate results, wouldn’t bring the resolve she needed to just keep moving on. So as I continued to work on dinner, I called her into the kitchen.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
That’s when it all came out, “I don’t want to die!” She said with tears falling down her face like the drops of hard rain on a stormy night.
“What?” I said, still trying to figure out where all this was all coming from.
“All I remember is them suffering.” She said.
My heart dropped, and my mind began to whirl around. I had no idea of what to say. By the age of 10 she had experienced more loss than I ever had and by 15 years old, death had become a common word in her vocabulary. When my daughter’s biological mother passed, she was about 5 and shortly after her paternal grandmother passed when she was about 7, both due to cancer. So that explained the first cause for alarm in her mind. She had determined in her mind that any bump in your body means cancer and cancer kills people.
Now, over the years, I noticed that she was very intrigued by cancer. She read fiction books about cancer, watched movies about cancer and had decided she was going to be an oncologist, specializing in helping cancer patients. She also was involved in sports and activities that she knew her mom participated in, and her mom did well in, even though she didn’t always enjoy the activity. It had seemed to me that cancer had become her identity and I was never really sure of how to talk with her about this sensitive topic.
But that day, as she sat at the table crying, the doors of opportunity swung open. I gave her a hug and began to talk to her about this sensitive yet dominating word, Cancer. It amazes me how God’s timing is so perfect.
“Do you believe your mom suffered her entire life? I asked.
“How long did she have cancer?”
“I don’t remember.” She said. “I just remember her being sick and being in pain.”
I decided to pull my husband into the conversation for a moment to discuss the timelines a bit.
“So, it sounds to me like maybe 2 or 3 years of her life was consumed by cancer, but before the cancer, she had a very fulfilling life. The cancer was just a small part of her 29 years of life.”
She looked at me as if she had never really thought about that.
“Right.” She said.
“So, I wonder if we would do better in celebrating her life rather than how she suffered? Since the cancer was only a small part of her 29-year journey, what was she doing the rest of the 27 or 28 years? 29 isn’t old at all, but it’s old enough to have done a lot of awesome things.” I reminded her.
“I know you want to be a cancer nurse, but is that what your heart is calling you to do with your gifts and talents? Or are you basing that career on that part of your mom’s life? Are you running track because your mom ran track or do you desire to run track? I am not trying to discourage you; I will always support you. But I just want you to think about it. No one can answer that question but you.”
She continued to listen.
“Let me free you. No matter what you do, you are half your mom and half your dad so the gifts and talents you have come from both. There are so many things that you are talented and gifted in, and some of that had to come from your mom. So no matter what you do, you’re representing her. You are her daughter.”
I went on to share qualities, and gifts I have seen in her that I know didn’t all come from her dad, so had to come from her mom. I shared with her how some of those things have an amazing monetary reward, and with her income, she may even be able to fund cancer research if she desired to, but she would be fulfilled because she is not only helping cancer patients but walking in purpose.
When the conversation ended, I could see a weight lifted from her. The next day, to my surprise, she was home early. She had quit track and was snapping photos around the house doing what she enjoyed, photography. I am glad to say that she is thriving beautifully now and she is becoming more clear about how her purpose and her passion for helping cancer patients can collide.
Friend, this is what it looks like to be intentional. At that moment, God allowed me to speak identity back into my daughter. An identity that had been suffocated and suppressed by the pains of her past. I could have responded to that moment in any way, but before I chose to respond, I quickly asked God to show me what to say. Because of that moment, I now get to see her walking in purpose knowing that she is gifted by God and that gifting was brought forth through her mother. She understands that by walking in her gifts, she is honoring her mother and making everyone proud.