April 18, 2012

Promises of Power

We would be celebrating my mom's 60th birthday if she were alive today. It's been almost eleven years since cancer took her from our family.

The last Christmas we had with our mom

On August 3, 2001, I walked into my house and immediately knew something was wrong. It was much too quiet for a summer day in a house of eight kids. I came into the living room and saw my mom and my sister, Stephanie, lying on the couch. They held each other and sobbed. My younger sisters and six-year-old brother were there, too. Everyone was in tears.

"What's wrong? What happened?" I knew something had changed. My mom had always been so optimistic throughout her illness. She'd never broken down like this before.
"Ten tumors," she whispered between sobs, "ten tumors in my brain. The doctor says I only have a few days left to live."
I was shocked. I thought if my mom did lose her battle with cancer, it would be several years down the road. She was still laughing and talking with friends. She hadn't lost her hair. She didn't have much energy, and I knew she had been in a lot of pain, but I don't know--it just seemed like she would always recover.

I ran to them and hugged my mom, adding my tears to the mix. 
After a few minutes, my mom said, "You know the part in Star Wars where Obi-Wan Kenobi tells Darth Vader, 'If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.' Well, that's how I feel."
I didn't really want her to talk like that, but it was somehow comforting.
"Just imagine what I could do." she smiled, "Don't even think of kissing a guy. I'll zap him."
We laughed and listened as she continued with multiple scenarios of hero-spirit-mom. She truly believed she would have some degree of influence when she was gone, that a mother's love must be powerful enough to transcend death.

Exactly one week later, she took her last breath. She was blessed to keep her mind and personality up until the day she died, even with all those tumors taking over her brain.

The next day was the strangest day of my life. My emotions were numb. I didn't know what to feel, or how to feel it, or how to react to my grief. So, I pushed it away and tried to ignore it. I'm sure I appeared cold and indifferent to people visiting to share their condolences. My fifteen-year-old heart and mind simply couldn't take in the reality that my mother was dead.

I wanted to retreat somewhere and get my mind on something else. How about a movie? So, I grabbed a Jurassic Park VHS and headed to the basement--with my six year-old brother, Matthew, in tow. My mom had very specifically ordered me not to let him watch that movie. I still feel awful that I disobeyed her wishes the very day after she died. Feel free to hate me for that. I deserve it.

So, I put the movie in the VCR player. The opening scene started. No more than 30 seconds went by--and then the screen went blank. Guilt hit me immediately. I thought of our conversation the week before. I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine. I was beginning to suspect she had been right.
For curiosity's sake, I tried turning on the TV again. No power. I tried the lights. No power. Then I went upstairs. I heard the dryer rumbling in the laundry room, so the electricity couldn't be out completely. I told my dad the power wasn't working in the basement. He came to investigate, found nothing, and then went to check the breakers.

Everyone was perplexed. Everyone except me, that is. I was too overwhelmed with guilt. My dad came back in the room, "Hmm, that's strange. One of the switches was off. Eight years in this house and never before have our breakers tripped. What were you doing to make it happen?"

What he meant was, "How much electricity were you using?" but what I heard was, "What did you do to make Mom angry?"
I had to come clean. "Okay, okay! It's my fault!" I started to sob, the pent up emotion releasing itself furiously. "I was watching Jurassic Park. With Matthew!"
My dad looked confused.
"Dad! I wasn't supposed to let him watch it. I made mom mad!" The tears flowed and there was no holding them back. I was a criminal against my own mother. It was the day after she died, and already, I had disrespected her memory. He laughed a little and hugged me. "Well, now you have a good story to tell at her funeral."

I don't know what influence my mother may actually have as a spirit. But I do believe she is living on, and that we'll be together again one day. Don't you think, though, that if anyone is granted extra powers, it would be a mother? She did promise us, after all, and my mom never broke her promises.


  1. I am so sorry to hear about your mother and how young you and your siblings were when she passed away! My father had brain cancer but he lasted a lot longer than Dr's thought. Now Nate's dad also has it and has has outlasted it longer than the normal. I hope that you have a peaceful day as you remember her. We like to celebrate his birthday each year by eating something he likes or participating in an activity he enjoys. Thanks for sharing your story. She is close by :)I am sure she keeps your beautiful girls company :)

    1. Thanks Shelly. I'm sorry to hear about your dad's cancer--and your father-in-law too. That's hard. My mom had colon cancer, but it spread to her whole body by the time she died. There has never been an April 18th that goes by without me thinking of my mom. Actually, probably no day has gone by without me thinking of her.

  2. Beautifully written powerful story. I'm sorry for the loss of your mother at such a young age for both of you. It's so hard to understand things like this but I guess there's a reason for everything.

    I am now following your blog.

    Places I Remember
    Wrote By Rote
    An A to Z Co-host blog

    1. Thanks Arlee! I really appreciate your comments.

  3. Powerful story, thank you for sharing!

  4. I remember you sharing this at the funeral, such a neat story! We all miss Marjorie!

  5. I remember this story. I still think of it. Especially when I watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-w-58hQ9dLk

  6. Lisa, your mom sounds amazing! And I don't just mean her power from beyond the grave. What a cool mom to be able to look past her grief for a few minutes to talk about how she'd be with your family even after her death. Just from this one story I wish I knew her, and I can only imagine how much you miss her. Thanks for putting updates on FB that lead to your blog--I've really been enjoying it :)

    1. Wow, thanks Bethany! I agree that my mom was cool. I wish she could have stayed around so I could know her better today. It's not easy to remember all the good times now. I appreciate your comment. You're very sweet.

  7. What a beautiful reflection. I hope she still does little things and you see signs of her around you and your family <3

    1. There have been times I suspect she's close by, but overall, I'm afraid I don't always take the time to stop the busy-ness of life and pay attention, you know? Your comment makes me want to try harder though. Thank you.

  8. Lisa, thanks for writing this. I have been wanting to ask someone for a memory of Mom today.

  9. I am so impressed with your writing Lisa! Thank you for sharing such a beautiful story, I don't doubt that your mother is very much aware of you. I also think she is very proud of you and your family.
    My sister, Pam said almost the same thing to her children and me, before she died.
    It was around the time the song, "I'll build you a rainbow" was popular.
    Keep writing, you are great at it!

  10. Thank you for sharing this very personal and touching story, Lisa. I hope that you and your siblings have been able to provide each other with comfort and support over the years.

  11. Telling and retelling this story from the depths of your heart must be difficult and yet hopefully, healing. It reminds me of a passage of 2 Corinthians 1:4 - "He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others..." May God bless you with His comfort and those who read your story.

  12. I miss your mom, and I remembered you telling this story at the funeral. Your mom was incredible and very brave.

  13. Lisa, what a powerful story. Thanks for sharing, and it must be a comfort knowing shes watching over you.

    ... Shauna ...


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