Oh, the things we take for granted.
How often do we succumb to grumbling about the little annoyances of life (like lines at the Post Office or traffic nightmares) and overlook our myriad blessings?
As parents, how often do we focus on our children’s shortcomings? And ignore the countless things they do right? Has it become easier to list their faults than to recount how uniquely and wonderfully they are made?
If you’ve gotten into the toxic habit of focusing on “what’s wrong” instead of “what’s right,” I hope you’ll join me for a recent walk I was privileged to make on Holy Ground. It’s guaranteed to change your perspective.
Caroline Amundson, 22, was the single mom of a precious four-year old son, Jimmy. Despite her young age, Caroline embraced motherhood. She enjoyed both the memorable adventures and the everyday moments with her little guy.
In 2014, Caroline was in a car accident, and had lasting shoulder pain as a result of injuries sustained. She went from doctor to doctor seeking relief for her pain. Finally, she arrived at a doctor who specialized in pain management. He suggested an MRI before treating the symptoms. That’s when the real reason for the pain was discovered: cancer which had overtaken her body.
Diagnosed at 21, treated unsuccessfully with rounds and rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, Caroline was placed under hospice care at 22 and passed away six short weeks later.
When Caroline initially became a hospice patient, her pain was unmanageable. And making patients comfortable is a speciality of hospice organizations. A wise hospice nurse quickly realized that Caroline’s pain was as much emotional in cause as it was physical; that the prospect of leaving her four- year old son was causing excruciating pain for Caroline. Any mother can relate.
Caroline was very receptive to the idea of writing letters to those she loved. But no letter was more important that the letter for her son, Jimmy.
Her deep love and affection for Jimmy was obvious from the very beginning of our meeting.
The many qualities she loved about her boy flowed easily from her lips. And how beautiful that Caroline had the opportunity to unlock her heart and put words on paper that Jimmy will be able to read and re-read over the coming years. To know that he was the “absolute joy” of her life. To understand that getting cancer as such a young mom was the worst thing she could have ever imagined happening. To treasure the specific aspects about his character that his mother found so delightful.
When I read the letter to Caroline – the letter that was composed entirely of her words – the look in her eyes was one of peace and relief. She signed the letter to her precious son and it was a sacred moment. What a beautiful glimpse into the heart of a devoted mother’s love for her son, and what an understanding of the pain of the rapidly approaching goodbye.
“Please always remember how much I have loved you and how close we were. I have enjoyed our relationship so much and will be praying for you from Heaven. One day, when your turn comes to come to Heaven, I will be the first person behind Jesus to welcome you with open arms and a big hug.”
An amazing byproduct for Caroline of writing the letter to Jimmy was relief for her pain. For the first time in months, she was able to sleep. There was nothing she wanted more than to live to raise her wonderful son. And she and her family continued to pray for a miracle of healing. Sadly, that prayer wasn’t answered the way they had hoped.
But one adorable little boy has a beautiful letter from a loving mother that will be a lifelong remembrance of her love and devotion to him.
And completing that letter gave Caroline peace.
Caroline knew that her days on earth were likely far shorter than she hoped. But she was intentional about writing words that will matter forever to her son and to other loved ones.
What about each of us? Do we put off writing letters, believing that we can always do it “tomorrow?” Do we dismiss the urgency because of our age or the young age of a child?
Caroline and I met twice, and I asked for her permission to share her story. She gladly agreed, because she understood the vital importance of leaving nothing unsaid.
None of us is promised tomorrow.
Please be intentional. Take the time NOW to write words that will matter forever.
For the sake of those you love…leave nothing unsaid.
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