By Grace Phipps (‘22)
“Linda, can I call you my step mom?”
“Now, why would you do that?”
“Because I look at you as my second mom.”
“I would love that, sweetie, but I’m not married to your dad anymore.”
My brother’s mom was my best friend growing up. If she didn’t see me for at least a month, she’d call my father and ask if she could babysit me for an entire day coming up. We would make homemade iced tea and Italian wedding soup together, watch movies for eight hours straight, and go on many car rides to the local shopping mall to spend more money than we probably should’ve. She’d tell me I was the daughter she always dreamed of having, and that my mother was very lucky to have been blessed with one like me.
My brother’s mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012. It was a violent, harsh, slap-in-the-face that I didn’t see coming. No one saw it coming. I remember when my dad sat me down to tell me she was sick, and I remember when my dad sat me down to tell me she passed in July of 2013. There are some deaths that do or don’t make sense, there are some deaths that bring peace, there are some deaths that you knew meant more good than bad. This death was one that left me in shock, my heart unable to feel the pain because it was too deep to even bare. My body shut down for days, even crying felt almost impossible. Her death felt impossible.
When Linda was diagnosed, I automatically turned to praying. I was introduced to the Bible when my parents separated, my father and I read it to each other before bed every night. He told me that praying would help my mother overcome her alcoholism, and I believed him entirely. Being so desperate to save Linda in any possible way, I prayed for her too. “God, please heal her. Please save her. Please do anything to take this pain and sickness away from her.” It was often, two or three times a day, I would sit down with my hands pressed so tightly together, eyes squeezed shut, and I would just mumble anything that He could hear. Maybe He would answer me, maybe He would cure her, maybe He would give her more time. She was running out of time so quickly, it was terrifying.
There was a brief moment, around a month before her death, that everyone thought Linda was getting better. She was moving around more, she looked healthier, she was gaining weight. It was a miracle. I thanked God, over and over and over again, for answering me. He did what I asked Him, begged Him to, so I stopped praying.
Then, after that month was over, she passed away in the comfort of her home, surrounded by all the family who loved her. Linda’s funeral was in this beautiful church, with these huge gorgeous stained glass windows she talked about often. My dad told me she was in a better place, but what is that better place? My sobs were loud, but my screams were even louder. I blamed God for it all. I blamed Him for her diagnosis, I blamed Him for her death, I asked Him why He needed her when I needed her more. It didn’t make any sense. My faith was slipping away from me, everything I might’ve believed in once, I did not believe in anymore.
Maybe that is what took her life. If only I had kept praying, maybe she’d still be here. There are so many questions and thoughts I still have. My anger towards God didn’t go away for a while, not even until recently. I lost my faith as soon as I lost Linda, but as I grew older and I learned to understand death more, I realized that He is not responsible for diagnosing people with cancer, or any illness for that matter. He is not responsible for how much time one with cancer has left in this world. He is not in control of that, but He did need Linda more than I did. I realized that sometimes people are better angels than they are human beings. While I am still angry, and am still questioning my faith and struggling with it everyday since that July of 2013, I gained something else that I need more than faith when it comes to Linda, and everyday life.
Hope. I have hope that Linda is in a better place, that she looks down on me everyday with a huge smile on her face. I have hope that Linda judges me for eating Italian wedding soup out of a can, and not making it myself. I have hope that one day, when it’s my time, Linda and I will reunite and it will be one of the most beautiful things. I have hope that Linda was at my brother’s wedding when he married his husband, and that she was there for many things before and after that. I didn’t want to be angry anymore. I was tired of being angry.
And while faith can make me angry, hope can give me clarity