I got a year older today. It happens. No, I didn’t age a year in a day but it is my birthday. So I began to think about the age 58 and what might happen.
At age 58, my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer. She knew she was having problems but she waited too long to tell the doctor. By the time she was diagnosed, her cancer had a good hold. She had surgery. After the surgery, the doctor told us he was not able to get it all.
It was 1990, the same year I was pregnant with my daughter. My mother prayed to be able to see her youngest grandchild and get to know her.
I remember Mom coming over every day for weeks after Jenny was born. She would come in the afternoon and allow me to nap while she watched Jenny. When Jen went down for a nap, Mom would do dishes, run the vacuum or do a load or two of laundry. Sometimes, she would even cook supper.
Looking back on that today, I realize she did all of that out of love for Jenny and me. And she did it all carrying cancer in her body, which had slowed her down and made her more tired than normal.
It was after Jenny was born that she had the surgery and then later that year that she went through chemotherapy. She had a time of being cancer-free. She felt God had healed her. I believe He did answer her prayer to be a grandma to Jenny, to hold her and love on her.
Then the cancer came back with a vengeance. Her prayer this time was to not be a burden to those she loved. She went home from the hospital where my father lovingly cared for her.
Two months later, several days before Christmas my mother was escorted by a choir of angels dancing the jitterbug into heaven. She was 60 years old. Despite many struggles and obstacles, she lived her life well.
At age 58, my grandmother had also been diagnosed with colon cancer. That was in 1962, before a lot of today’s treatments such as chemotherapy. She had surgery. Three years later, just when she thought she was in the clear it came back. Once again she went through surgery. It was removed and she lived to be 89 without any further complications.
Grandma was a woman who lived larger than life, doing things in a big way, big family dinners, big birthday celebrations, big holidays. When you came to her house you were hugged until you couldn’t breathe, loved unreservedly and cared for completely. She blessed those around her each and every day by her very presence.
Grandma was alive when Mom died. She was in a nursing home unable to travel. She always said the worst thing in the world would be to have one of her children die before her. So, we never told her that Mom died. However, I believe she knew it. The day after Mom stepped over into heaven, my sister and I went to see Grandma.
When we came in she asked how Mom was. We told her the truth. She was doing great. Grandma said, “I know she is. She came to see me today and said she was doing fine.” And I’m sure she did. She died a little over six months later on July 4. She, too, lived her life well.
The month after my grandma died, I turned 40. I have to say it was the worst birthday I have ever had. My mother made my birthday a fun, family celebration. But she wasn’t here and grandma wasn’t here to make it happen.
I felt very alone. I realized they neither one would be around to make anyone’s birthdays or any holiday celebrations happen. The future of my extended family felt like a weight tied around my neck pulling me under into some deep, dark abyss.
It was in the loneliness of that birthday, that I realized I wasn’t by myself. Surrounded by my husband, children, brother, sister and their families, there were those who needed me to be a godly example. For 40 years, my mother and grandmother had poured themselves into me. If they could they would tell me they were counting on me. After all, they had taught me well. All that they were, I still possessed.
At age 58, I’m pondering the things that happened to my main female role models in their 58th year. I could be maudlin about it. I could sit and worry. Instead, I’m doing things that I need to do to be healthy—getting exercise, eating healthy, taking good vitamins and supplements and getting regular check ups.
To be whole, healthy and happy takes more than just physical attention. I try to do some things to expand my mind by reading and writing. In the emotional area, I’m learning to be more connected and open with the people in my life.
With the physical, emotional and mental, I realize I must also do some spiritual things if I want to leave a godly heritage for future generations. So, I do things I feel God has called me to do and I pray, study His Word and listen to that still, small voice.
Some people have said there is a physical curse on the women in our family. I believe that if there was a curse it is broken in the name of Jesus. Instead, I choose to embrace the blessings that my mother and grandmother passed on to my family, that of loving, caring and walking hand in hand with an almighty God.
I do believe it is as simple as a choice. No matter when my time comes—whether I am 58 or 109, I believe if I live my life by surrendering to God and pouring myself out to others I have chosen well.
“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live” (Deuteronomy 30:19 NLT).
Today I choose life.