With snow on Christmas Eve and the entire family all around, you can pretty much wrap it up to the best Christmas of all times.
We are in beautiful Tahoe. We just had family pictures taken, and I got chilled to the bone. So the the four of us jumped into the hot tub to warm up. While we were in the hottub we sat and watched the sunset over the lake.
As I sit snuggled down in blankets, I look out over the vistas and watch as the tiny sliver of golden light silhouettes the amphitheater of mountains. With the beauty all around us, my mind turns to you. My three shining lights. The girls whose love keeps me warm. The girls who are my sunshine. The girls who bring me comfort, simply by being near. Without you, no view and no Christmas would ever be complete.
I think you are just getting old enough that I can sit and watch you. I observe how beautiful each of you are on the outside and how confident you are in your abilities. I sit without thinking and take in all that you are.
I am reminded of when you were born. After I delivered each of you everyone would want to hold you right away. They would take you away from me and marvel at your perfect little face. While you were put on display, my body would tense up and shake as if I was in the Arctic. Then as soon as you were handed back to me, I would relax, mind, body, and soul. My body stopped shaking and I could just stare into your little face.
As you grow, you pull away and spend time with others. Though this is normal, I think my body tenses again, like it recognizes the sensation of being separated from you.
Here, in Tahoe, on Christmas I have not needed to cook and clean. Others have carried the responsibility of running the house and I have had the opportunity to sit, watch and learn. I can look into your beautifulness and take you in. Take you in. It seems to be the right phrase for what it feels like.
So, as I take you in, I want to reflect for a moment. I have only good expectations for next year. My meds are working, my articles written and the Foundation founded. There seems to be nothing but promising endings on the horizon. But in case this year isn’t filled with good things, I want to pause and write you a Christmas letter, to say things that need to be said.
First, I want you to know that I have tried to be very honest with you about my cancer. I have given you the chance to ask questions and I have always answered honestly. Also, the parts you don’t understand, I have done my best to explain in such a way that you can at least have an idea. The one thing I have not done is look you in the eyes and tell you that stage 4 cancer leads to death. There is no cure.
Let me tell you why I haven’t done this. First you are little girls! You were 2,4, and 6 when I was diagnosed. I want you to walk in confidence rather than finding yourself burdened by something that is too difficult for most adults to carry. Secondly, I am full of hope. If you read through my writings, I declared to the world my unquestionable belief that I will not die from cancer. But, if I have misunderstood God’s purposes in my life, I want to write this down. That I may be understood. That as you grow, into true adults, you may see who I am on the inside and not struggle with questions about who I was.
I want you to know, I am not angry. I know I get frustrated with you when Daddy is gone for long periods of time, but I am not angry with you or God or Daddy or anyone. I am tired, exhausted actually. Emotionally and often physically as well, I am tired. I am often sad. I think I am mostly sad because I am tired. Feeling happy and fun for you, is very hard for me. It requires that I let go of all the hurt and feel the freedom of joy for a moment. This part is good. Joy, silliness, pleasure, of course all of that is good. The problem is that when that fleeting moment passes by the sadness is so much stronger. So I don’t often leave my numb –not happy, not sad space.
This hurts me because before cancer, before you can remember, I was the fun mom, the fun aunt, I didn’t care if I was silly in public or at home. I was even driven to silliness because of my love for you. Right now, at least, all of that is gone. I just can’t. I want more than anything, that you will forgive me. I don’t want you to lose sight of your childhood too soon, and I know that almost everyday I steal a piece of it away.
I am thankful that Daddy is plenty silly. When he comes home, your hyper joy is not something that hurts but instead is an outlet that Daddy can facilitate with stories and wrestling matches and anything else you ask of him. He is a good Daddy and he recognizes my brokenness and is willing to be made a fool because of his love for you.
I want you to know that I push you to be strong independent girls. Everyone is baffled at the risks you are willing to take and adventures you face. Even when you don’t feel strong, you are out there, traveling, hiking, climbing, skiing, singing and so much more. This was all intentional. I wanted to thrust you into the lives of other, and not feel dependent on me. This probably sounds like a terrible idea so let me explain my logic, for good or bad. Girls are typically pretty attached to their mom. Rightfully so, but it isn’t really until the teenage years that youth find a new source of stability and affirmation, in other kids. Other kids are not going to know how to support you when your mom is sick or even dies. So I have been very intentional to surround you with communities. You have the Huffmaster clan, Lili and Mimi and Duke, you know what it feels like for mom and dad to go away, even on extended stays. You have Camp Kesem and the support groups that come from them. You have your little school, where everyone knows us and our story, and church and more. I don’t know who you will want to turn to if I get sick again, but I have given you options. You are strong enough to stand on your own. You are. You stand on stage and climb mountains, I know you can do this too! I believe in you and I am proud of you already.
I do want to give you a word of caution. If I get sick, it does not mean you have to grow up in that moment. It will feel like you do, but fight the impulse! Daddy will find people who make you laugh and take care of everything you need. It won’t be the same (of course not!) but it also does not make you the adult who must care for the family. It doesn’t. Daddy will need some time. He has to adjust to being the only parent. It is going to be hard and he is totally going to mess up (Sorry, hon, but you will). So be patient. Forgive him. Love him even if nothing is going right. He needs you just like you need him. Don’t let your anger or frustration over little things create more hurt for him or one another. Remember, Love is strong, it is the strongest, in fact. So if nothing is going right, just settle your heart and choose love. Make a good choices.
Today I watched you, all dressed up for pictures. Your are all so different. Audrey is a ray of love to all she meets, Hope is wild and free and Sissa is soft and comforting. God made you each like this on purpose. Don’t let any hurt, change you. Hurt can change us, if we choose to start down a dark path and sometimes it takes half a lifetime to come back out of it. Please don’t let your disappointment in me, my words, my sickness, whatever, don’t let it steal who you are. You are my legacy. I want you to live lives that honor me and Daddy. Sadness can come for the night but please LET joy come in the morning (Psalm 30:5). I don’t want you to fake being happy but I don’t want you to choose isolation or sadness. If you can find a choice, turn to the Light, and let God lead you toward His light. He understands what it feels like to lose your one and only mom, He lost His only son. He knows.
In my sickness, no one has been able to hear my hurt and my burden and not feel overwhelmed by my brokenness. For the past three years, God was my only outlet. I could not talk to friends really and couldn’t dump my thoughts on Daddy because he had his own burdens and didn’t need mine too. Daddy knows this. He trusts me and God and our relationship. Daddy knows that I will hear what I need to hear when I need to hear it. I had truly dark weeks and there are times I cried where no one could see me, but God always pulled me out. Even if my heart was breaking, I kept my heart turned toward God. I did not have the strength to reach out to Him, but I never turned my face from Him. I waited, watched and hoped that He, who is my salvation, may save me. He never failed me. There may have been weeks when I had nothing but silence, but then God spoke, in the quiet stillness.
Girls, I have tried to teach you all I know about God. I lecture you on the way to school almost every morning. I am sure it feels like lectures but in reality I am revealing my truest heart. My greatest treasure, and I hope that you will receive it. Knowing God is not a hard thing to do. It is only a position of the heart. You cannot work hard enough to hear Him. You cannot be kind enough to receive Him. You must sit, quietly, waiting just longer than you think is possible. Then when you hear, even the simplest word, it changes everything. Relationship doesn’t stop at hearing. Everyone thinks hearing is the difficult part. The hardest thing comes later, it is believing. What God speaks to you, you must trust it more than any other thing in your life. Yes pray about! Yes wait and make sure your heart feels like it is continuing to open your heart, rather than the opposite. But after you have tested it, TRUST IT. No one on this earth knows what God has in store for you. BUT I BELIEVE it is something big. My cancer story can push you into greatness or it can pull you into darkness. Please, listen to your heart. Figure out what it sounds like when you hear a lie (that you want to believe!) and then what it sounds like when something completely new emerges inside of you, even if it is hard to believe. Lies are easy to believe. They say, “no one understands me,” “no one loves me,” “God has forgotten me.” If you hear such lies, don’t worry! The deceiver told Jesus the same thing. Jesus, just knew the sound of the Father’s voice and turned away from these lies, and you can too.
I encourage you to journal. Journal your prayers, He will answer them, and you can look back and see His presence in your life. You can write your questions and He will enlighten your mind to answers you never considered. Write, read, talk, learn so that you may know what it feels like to walk through life with God. It is not something I can give you. I can point you in the right direction but I cannot open your heart in the right way, you must choose to do so.
Girls, forgive yourself for every time you talked back to me. Forgive yourself for not cleaning your room or fussing when asked to pick up dog poop. I have forgiven you. My love is bigger than these little hurts. Please receive this and know it to be true. Your mind will race, possibly for years to come, of all the things you could have done different. Don’t live in the past. It is done, it is finished. I release you from those disappointments. You were learning and growing and it was my job to teach you. That is all.
Find your purpose in this hurt. We are all going to be broken one way or another. For you, I am your first big pain. But I trust that you were given this as an opportunity. NO ONE expects you to rise above this easily. Just rise above it, so that your story, your testimony won’t be lost. I have invested everyday in YOU. You are my treasure, you hold more of me than anyone else on earth. I have loved you with all of my heart, all of my mind, all of my soul and all of my strength (Mark 12:30). It was my duty and my joy. Please love one another as I have loved you. I did not serve you that you may have an easy life. I served you that you may see what it looks like to be a servant. I am not perfect but please learn from me, serve one another, serve with a joyful heart. The act of serving is not a burden, it is a privilege. This is a great mystery, that I don’t expect you to understand but hold it in your heart until the day comes when you understand.