Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Birthday of Lula Mae Willis/Mother-in-Love

Today is the day we remember Russ's mother on her birthday. She always joked about being born on Ground Hog's Day. Russ was due on this date, but was stubborn and waited until February 8th to arrive. This way, Lula got the day all to herself.

I want to brag on Mom Willis today. She was an immaculate housekeeper and frugal penny pincher. She listened to young girls (not just hearing them, but enjoying their company) and always had two or three adopted well after her own girls had left home. She collected salt and pepper shakers, as well as other nifty knick-knacks. She sang hymns with gusto and listened intently to sermons. Her wardrobe was mostly sewn by her own hands and faithful sewing machine. She loved to go to garage sales and watched craft shows on television. She was uncomfortable in the water, especially before moving to a home that had its own pool, and it was a real act of faith when she was baptized by immersion (she always said as long as her feet could touch the bottom and her hair didn't get wet, she could deal with being in the water-obviously baptism broke those two rules!). She had a giving heart and loved seeing a need and meeting that need.

In 1994, Mom Willis was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the same time we were moving to a new ministry and were grateful for the phone, e-mail, and postal service to keep us in touch during this very critical time. She survived the initial cancer and lived for three more years. In 1997 she was diagnosed with a metastasis to the liver and bones, meaning her cancer had returned with a vengeance. She had an uncanny instinct of knowing she would not survive this round. Soon after the metastasis was discovered, she arranged for everyone to meet to have family photos. She wanted to record the happy times before the treatment beat her down. Eventually there was nothing more that could be done for her, and she requested Hospice for her last two weeks. Hospice administered wonderful palliative care and the entire family benefited from their services.

My mother-in-love had a tremendous faith. Her relationship with God was very evident as she endured the effects of the cancer, the chemo, and the radiation. She knew she wasn't suffering alone; God was with her every step of the way. Even on days when she couldn't read her Bible, she would have someone else read it to her. I learned a lot from her about trusting God no matter what. I disagree with people who say someone "fights" cancer. Then if that person passes away it is said that they "lost the fight with cancer." This makes cancer patients feel like they have failed if they have to sign up for Hospice. They have not failed, they have just moved on to a new trial in their lives. We are all on journeys and we choose how we want to travel on that journey. But at the end of that journey, it doesn't end because we have lost. It ends because we have graduated! There is no defeat in death!

Next time you see a pink ribbon, don't just think breast cancer awareness, think choices. We all have choices. We can choose how proactive we are with our health. We can choose how our relationship with God will affect our attitudes and actions. We can choose going from this life to the next with anticipation rather than fear. I know that would make Russ's Mom proud. What will you choose?

No comments: