A few thoughts on my mother dying and why that event propelled me into St. Mary’s at 7:30 on a Sunday morning in December.
My mom died of breast cancer in 2010, 29 years after she was first diagnosed. I never quibbled with God about her dying. I knew she would die of cancer from the time I was 10 years old and she was first diagnosed, back in 1981. She didn’t die then. She didn’t die in 1984 when she became Stage 4, and the radiologist fell to his knees in the lab after looking at her films and said, “Oh, my God.” Her oncologist thought that with a complete hysterectomy (at the age of 38), he could buy her up to 18 months. The cancer did not reappear for the next 23 years.
My mom, Merry Nell Drummond, was a walking miracle. She was also a Bible teacher, the first teaching leader of the evening women’s class for Bible Study Fellowship International in Austin, Texas. I can’t tell you how many women have told me, “Your mom taught me to study the Bible.” One woman said, “I got saved in college. I was like, ‘Now what?’ Everyone told me, ‘Call Merry Nell.’ I did. She changed my life.”
That, friends, is a lot to live up to.
When my mom’s cancer reappeared in her liver in 2007, she expected that God would heal her, just as he always had. Her oncologist suspected that since this would be her first round of chemo, he could buy her some more time. The end, though, was not in doubt.
I stopped going to church in 2008, when she started chemo. I drove to Austin once a week, whenever she had a treatment. I’d be a wreck the next day. On Sundays, I’d go for a long bike ride. (Sundays are the best days for long bike rides.)
It wasn’t hard not to go to church because since moving to Fredericksburg, we hadn’t found one and not for lack of trying. Our kids were getting weary of the whole thing.
I started going to counseling — spiritual direction, actually. About nine months after Mom died, on the second Sunday of Advent, I was ready to try the unthinkable, something I’d been considering for months.
I knew my family would expect me to be on a bike ride, so I left a note saying, “Gone to church.” Left my bike at home. When I got home, my husband asked, “What church did you go to?” He was absolutely floored when I answered, “St. Mary’s.”