It’s been a year since you were diagnosed with cancer and almost a year since you died. Today I was talking to my mom about how time is so elastic. It feels like you’ve been gone such a long time, but in the next breath it feels like we talked yesterday.
Do you remember when I called you just after you found out it was cancer? I asked you how you were feeling and you told me you were scared. It was the only time you said that to me, maybe the only time you said it at all. I told you I was scared, too, that cancer was an okay thing to be frightened by.
This week in Bible study, we’ve been talking about facing our fears, about how there are things in this world that are worthy of a shake in our shoes. And I couldn’t help but remember the time in my own life when I was most afraid. I visited you and you reminded me of the faithfulness of God, reminded me that He did not give me a spirit of fear. And when I worked up the courage to tell you my most deep seeded fear, the one that was breaking me into pieces of myself, you hugged me and told me that you prayed for me every morning.
I still remember your short arms wrapped around me. I remember the way your head rested in the crook of my shoulder, the pendant of your necklace pressing into my stomach. I stood there, all six feet of me pressed into all five feet of you. I kissed your head. You told me I’d be okay and you said it with such conviction that I believed you.
A year has passed since you told me you were afraid and all this time later I have the luxury of hindsight. So I’m telling you now what I wish I had known then.
It’s okay to be afraid. But God is bigger than the cancer in your body. You don’t have to be afraid of chemo or radiation or losing your hair or being in pain. You will leave before any of that is even a possibility. You will leave your body and you will go home to be with your Lord. And until that day, you’ll be taken care of by the best doctors and nurses. You won’t be in pain. You won’t be alone. You’ll be surrounded by family and friends who will love you every second of the rest of your life here on Earth. Gramma, I will love you every second of the rest of my life, both here and beyond.
I learned this week that the word courage comes from the latin word cor, or heart. If I had it to do all over again, I would tell you it’s okay to be afraid, but that you can also take heart in knowing that God has his arms wrapped around all five feet of you. I’d tell you to rest your head in the crook of His shoulder.
Even though you’re gone, I feel you every day. When I eat ice cream I think of that time on our trip when I caught you eating ice cream without me and you tried to tell me it was someone else’s dish. The ice cream on your mouth gave you away and I promised not to show anyone the picture I took as proof. When I watch The Amazing Race, my hand reaches for the phone to call you so we can watch it together. When I read a good book, I write it down and think of your book list. And when my mom laughs, it’s you who I hear.
I don’t think I’ll ever stop missing you. You were the most courageous person I know. Sometimes that dark fear of mine creeps up and threatens to drown me. I’m learning to face it, to recognize that God is bigger than my most ferocious of fears. And I’m taking heart in knowing that someday I will see you again. You’ll wrap your short arms around me and I’ll kiss your head. And we’ll be better than okay.