No, it’s not my wedding day. It’s my father-in-law’s. We’ve come a very long way from where we were at three years ago.
This time, Memorial Day weekend 2006, we didn’t even know that Ben’s mom had cancer. We knew she was sick and we thought it had been her Crohn’s Disease flaring up. Then June 15th we got the call. We knew that Dottie had been to the doctor that day. We didn’t know what had happened and received a message from his sister, Emily, to call home.
Ben called home and went outside to the backyard to talk. I was scurrying around the house, trying to tidy things up (I am my mother’s daughter after all). I ran up the stairs and something caught my eye in my peripheral vision. I turned to look out our patio window. I saw Ben. He was hunched over, squatting in the grass with his head low and his hand covering his forehead. I knew. He walked inside and I can’t remember if he told me that she had been diagnosed with cancer or if he just looked at me while the tears ran down his face. Our lives, our marriage, changed from that day forward.
That summer was the most difficult time of my life. As a young newly wed, I had no clue how to support Ben in his grief. I also had no idea who to turn to with my own. Ben and I had been married for 11 months when Dottie was diagnosed. We were just beginning to really break away from our family of origins, bonding with each other as our familial support system. I relied heavily on my parents and sister for support that summer. Ben grasped at whatever little time he had left with his mother.
As the summer stretched on and we began to live day by day, I began to realize that while my family had been such a tremendous help to me, I needed something or someone more. I knew that God had been present in all of this. I also understood that He was capable of a miracle. In the beginning of her fight with cancer, I really struggled with the question of why hadn’t He saved her. I remember being home alone with my dog, Chula, while Ben was out at his parents’, kneeling on the floor of my bedroom crying out to God, “Why are You doing this?! I know You can heal her. Why won’t You heal her?” The gut-wrenching pain of knowing what He was capable of and watching His purpose shift further away from my own worldly desire wreaked havoc on my soul.
I don’t know when it happened but as the summer pressed on, I began to understand that God’s choice to not “save” Dottie really wasn’t as horrible as I had felt in the beginning. I began to see it as a compliment to her. See, while we have to stay behind, living life without her, she is in Eternity with the saints that have gone before us and our Savior. She had finished her race here and she got to go Home. Too young to die at 57? I see it as blessed to be called Home, “Good and faithful servant.” She was an amazing woman. I was blessed beyond belief to have her as my mother-in-law.
Tomorrow, Bruce joins hands with Ruth Luffy to begin the next chapter of his life. Ruth will become his companion; the one to help him the rest of the way. It’s bittersweet. I like Ruth and I’m so happy for Bruce to have found her. She is a great woman. Sometimes though when I look at Brennan I can’t help but to catch my breath. What Dottie wanted most after her son, Ben, and daughter, Janelle, got married was to have grandchildren. Not a week goes by that that doesn’t cross my mind. Even when we were driving to the hospital to give birth, it was on both of our minds.
It’s the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. No matter what we tell Brennan he will know Ruth as his grandma here on Earth. We will make certain that he knows who his Grandma Dottie was. One day she’ll meet him and they’ll never be separated again.
Dottie’s Life Verse: “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” Acts 20:24