What My Friend’s Cancer Taught Me

No quite awake, just before that first cup of morning coffee, I hastily picked up my Bible and a folded piece of paper floated to the floor.  Curiously, I unfolded the paper to see an old prayer request sheet from my Bible study.  As I glanced down the list, I noticed my friend Susan’s name on the list.  Her name appeared on the prayer sheet because she had slipped into a coma.  All went down hill so quickly. Earlier this summer, my friend Susan lost her battle with cancer.  Finding this piece of paper, evoked thoughts about Susan’s illness that I believe she wanted all who knew her to take seriously.

As I typed out the title for this post, a surge of guilt ran through my head and came to a screeching halt at my heart.  How could I benefit from my friend’s suffering?  

 It was just what Susan wanted. (earlier post about Susan’s battle)

It all goes back to a year or so ago when the cancer crouched silently like a ravenous leopard waiting for it’s victim to weaken.  A fall trip to the zoo served as the opportunity for Susan to impart soothing words of wisdom that would forever alter my approach to motherhood.

Adjacent to the zoo pavilion where we lunched, an old fashioned carousel attracted the attention of our younger children.  Trying to be frugal, I instantly denied my kids request for a ride on the carousel. 

It was at that very moment that Susan gently shared her wisdom.

“Come on, we are going to ride this carousel,” she chided.

Susan looked me square in the eye and said, “I see this ride as an experience with my kids, a chance to build a memory.”

She went on to say, “And I don’t know how many more of these memory building opportunities I have left, so I am going to grab as many as I can right now.”


She was right; she had less than a year’s worth.

That day we did more than ride a carousel; we built a memory.  Susan is gone now, but her children have pocketfuls of memories to pull from when those unspeakable moments of missing her overwhelm their hearts.


   Memory makers can be made in the simple, mundane every day. Avoid the frenetic, exotic, or expensive. Baking cupcakes, cleaning a bathroom together, simple, take-it-for-granted tasks that with a twist in perspective can create something to look back on. 


          Keep it simple, there’s a difference between pacifying whims and wants and building a memory: the impulsive request for a toy or a walk in the woods.


          Susan was a photographer; she toted a camera everywhere.  She captured the moment by snapping the memory into a photo.  Record memories somehow.  Journal them, share the details of the memory with someone, but get it down.  Nestle the memory somewhere, so that when the nest is empty you can cradle the memory in your hand or your head and happily reminisce about the occasion that produced that broad, beaming smile reflected in the picture or described on the paper.

Today, I look back and realize that Susan’s words of wisdom weren’t necessarily a Susan-thing but a God-thing.  Susan had a message that she wanted to spread like wildfire.  I got the message. Thank you Susan.


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