When the call came in — my mom was in the other room and her voice was temperate before the howling began and then I got up and rushed to her side. It was the news I had been expecting — but she had been too frightened to entertain.
Her childhood friend was gone. Forever.
We found out during the holidays that the illness she had been weathering was in fact — endometrial cancer and the update included the warning that immediate surgery would reveal how advanced it was. The following week — her son confirmed that she was indeed in the danger zone and would need to begin chemotherapy as soon as possible.
My mother was quite upset — but hopeful. She got on her knees right after speaking to the son of her ailing friend — and began to pray as my father silently watched. I went to the living room and sat on the couch and tried to recall the scenes from long ago that featured this woman — that was going to die.
When my father left my mother in prayer mode and entered the kitchen — I seized the opportunity to assure him that no matter how much God loved us — my mother’s prayers would remain unanswered because advanced cancer doesn’t qualify for miracles.
Actually — that’s what I wanted to say — but couldn’t.
I just quietly mentioned the fact that the cancer spreading — meant that treatment would be rigorous. He nodded in acknowledgment and went back to my mother. My father and I are realists and are capable of handling bad news with a sense of respectful acceptance.
My mother is different. Despite weathering the painful deaths of both her parents and a roster of tragedies — she’s still deeply religious and carries the same amount of faith that has sustained her throughout a lifetime. She never wavers in her hope that even when things seem bleak and desperate — Almighty God will swoop in at the last minute and save the day.
Unfortunately — God’s divine intervention was indefinitely delayed.
The last time we spoke to her was about two and a half weeks ago. Before then — my mom insisted on going to spend time with the woman who was a bit older — but acted like she was mom’s mother. They both went to the same boarding school — and even though her friend was a couple of years ahead — they gravitated to each other and kept that bond all through their existence.
She was a constant presence throughout my childhood — and her one and only child — a son — became excellent friends with my younger brother — and that friendship is still solid.
And now — we were facing a crisis — stemming from a disease that is as cunning as it is cruel. My knowledge of it and what it can do and what occurs when you’re trying to kill it — encouraged me to dissuade my mother from traveling to see her sick friend.
But — the last update — not too long ago seemed to indicate that there was a possibility for both women to be reunited in early spring. Even though when mom handed me the phone and I heard the voice on the other end — my senses alerted me to its tone.
She sounded like she was summoning all her strength to hide her weakness. We had heard that the chemo was more brutal than anticipated — but she was hanging in there. Perhaps — the evidence of her unwillingness to expose her intense discomfort— propelled me to exit myself and go into a spiritual rant.
I spoke her language by assuring her that God would save her.
I did the same thing the weekend before — when my mother had a mini-breakdown — as she tried to figure out how and why her best friend — with the heart of gold could suddenly contract cancer. I did my best to explain that she was going to be okay because God had already cure her.
Did I believe that? Hell no!
But — there was no way I could be honest — because that’s not how religion works. Your faith in God doesn’t have to surpass your level of comprehension. God isn’t a tool that you dust off and reactivate when the going gets tough. God is there to lean on when you’re fully aware of the magnitude of what you’re dealing with — but need the extra wattage to carry you through the next phase.
I truly believe my mother knew that the ending wasn’t going to be a good one — and it was my job to convince her otherwise. And when I spoke to her friend — the woman who had dutifully intervened when my mother and I hit major turbulence — years ago — I said all the right things and she graciously received my prayers.
Afterwards I asked my mom how she thought her friend sounded — and she happily noted that her friend seemed cheerful. I agreed.
Later than night — I asked the creator that I haven’t been messing with for quite some time now — to please give my mom the grace to bear what was coming. I also asked Him to give her friend the blessing of a peaceful demise.
We are now in mourning — and the early stages are in bloom as we shift from disbelief to other items that will haunt us until we’re able to talk about her with comfortable fondness.
For me — the experience these last three months has given me insight and authority over a relationship that I thought was null and void — until I was forced to authenticate it.
I guess miracles really do happen. My mom lost her best friend — and I found God.