A Letter to Mom
In fall of 2015, my mother was diagnosed with stage IV rectal cancer. She was 47 years old.
Although she fought like hell for nearly 6 years, she succumbed to her illness in the spring of 2021, just after her 53rd birthday.
While her story ended tragically, not every colorectal cancer story needs to.
Be vigilant in monitoring your health and don’t be afraid to voice concerns or changes to your doctor. Schedule regular colonoscopies beginning around age 45 (my mother didn’t think she needed to start until 50), and even earlier if you have a family history or unusual signs or symptoms.
If her story could help even one person seek treatment earlier, my mother would be proud. And it would continue her legacy of love and giving.
(Below is what I read for her Celebration of Life)
My mom loved tending to a garden. Being outside, in the sunshine, plucking deadheads and pulling weeds and pruning. Watering and repotting and spreading wildflower seeds and watching them grow all summer. It brought her great joy to watch her garden flourish.
And this comes as no surprise, because my mother’s greatest quality has always been her capacity to love and nurture those around her. Even as a small child, she wanted more than anything to have children and a home to care for. She always thought of others, and what might make them happy, before herself. She was no stranger to sacrifice if it meant brining happiness to another.
I am grateful for my mother, her kind heart and giving spirit, each day because she taught me to empathize, to nurture, and to love. Now, I admit that at times, when I think of my mom’s life, and the way she left us, I find myself growing bitter at its brevity. Her illness, and its impact on her, were unfair, and we lost her far too soon. There was more she wanted to do and see and experience.
But, as I was walking through my neighborhood recently to pick up the kids from school, I saw something that reminded me of her. The warm sun on my face and a clear spring sky stretching overhead, I passed a beautiful garden. The type of garden my mother would have commented on during one of our regular walks back in Billings, MT. A garden not unlike one of her own, carefully manicured and lovingly tended. And in this garden, there were rows of my favorite flower: irises. Rich splashes of purple atop smooth green stems, ruffled petals spilling out from the center of each flashy head. Irises have always brought a smile to my face.
Yet, irises do not bloom year-round. For many, the bloom period is spectacular but fleeting, lasting only 2-3 weeks. Does this brevity diminish their beauty? No. On the contrary, I believe it only enhances their allure.
My mom’s life was cut short. I would give anything to grant her more time here, with all of us. But the time she had was spectacular and beautiful and rich. She lived each day with joy, and always had a smile on her face, no matter what she was going through.
She lived in a burst of color, like a springtime bloom, bringing light and love to those who knew her.
Article by Stephanie Hower