Going Catholic, part 4

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.”


  1. I have been sharing my own perspectives as the coincide with Megan’s pieces about “Going Catholic,” but I don’t have anything to add today. Her explanation here pretty much sums up my perspective as well.

  2. I’m captivated by this serialization.

  3. Me too. Captivated.

  4. I’d like to go to church with you. Or on a bike ride.

  5. captivated….yep, i can go along with that.

  6. Megan, you have said more than you know with this one. Oh, my. 23 years between bouts. Somehow, I had thought she was sick and in treatment the entire time, not a miracle-woman. Yes, that is a lot to live up to. And any kind of cancer treatment is devastating not only to the patient, but to all those closely surrounding the one being treated – it is so brutal, even primitive. That is how my 16 year old daughter moved to the next level in her relationship with the young man who would become her first husband – by being with him for each and every chemo treatment with his 2nd go-round. Long story – another time.

    And that was quite a bike ride that morning, the one that took you to church, instead of away from it. Thank you for these details, Megan – I am sure this was a hard one to write. And I pray you will find moments of true gratitude, maybe even fleeting glimpses of joy, during this Thanksgiving weekend. Love to you.

  7. Thanks for stopping by. Let me know how your experiment works! He is good. He has something for you in it.

  8. Many of my favorite authors are Catholic, and I have great admiration for them. Reading this gives me the sense that you are finding some peace.