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When We Can't Be Brave Enough on Our Own: Walking a Loved One Through Terminal Illness

By Jen Babakhan

Brave Women Series - Jen's Story


I was a sensitive child growing up. The world felt too loud, too uncertain, too unsafe. Comfort was found only at home, and usually wrapped within my mother’s arms. Like most children, I feared losing my mother. The idea that she would ever not be in my life felt overwhelming. As I grew older, into a teenager and young woman, I dismissed the fear that plagued me as a little girl. I took our intact family, and her presence for granted as my own life began to blossom and broaden with college, marriage, and children.

 

It was Mother’s Day weekend when we learned she had a rare terminal cancer. I spent three days walking hospital halls, my eyes bleary with tears and exhaustion, wondering how I would survive the months ahead. Suddenly, my childhood fears resurfaced. I was thirty-six, but felt like a five year old. What would we do without her? I still needed a mother, even as a mother myself. None of it made sense or felt fair, and yet here we were, in the middle of a nightmare we could not wake from. I could not be brave enough to face this.

 

The following months brought treatment options, and one of them worked well. For nearly three years, we watched her live as though she wasn’t dying. We were grateful for every holiday, and every moment we got to spend together as a whole family—ever mindful that it was one of our last as such. It turns out, I wasn’t brave enough to face my mother’s terminal illness on my own. I would need God desperately in new ways. He would have to be my strength more than ever.


 

"I wasn’t brave enough to face my mother’s terminal illness on my own. I would need God desperately in new ways. He would have to be my strength more than ever."

 

 

Knowing that your parent won’t live forever is one thing. It’s an entirely different thing to be given a time-frame for the remainder of their lives. It’s a loud clock whose ticking is impossible to drown out.


We said the things we may have been too proud to say before. We drew close as a family and made hard decisions together. And through it all, God showed Himself mightily present. He was Emmanuel—God with us. There were times I sensed His presence next to me, during moments of my deepest despair. He sat next to me, mourning as I did, for the pain our family was enduring.


 

"Through it all, God showed Himself mightily present. He was Emmanuel—God with us. There were times I sensed His presence next to me, during moments of my deepest despair. He sat next to me, mourning as I did, for the pain our family was enduring."


 

Jesus knew this pain when He lost Lazarus, and He witnessed it on the faces of Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ sisters. Jesus is no stranger to deep, aching grief. 


 

"Jesus is no stranger to deep, aching grief."

 

My mother has been with Jesus for nearly four years now. The grief is just as deep as it was when we first said goodbye, but it is more gentle in its arrival. A couple of years ago, I felt a whisper in my soul to write another book—this one to help other women traveling the arduous path of having and losing a terminally ill parent. I didn’t feel brave enough to bleed onto the page in this intimate way, yet I knew it was what I was being called to.


And so, once again, Jesus sat next to me, becoming my strength for the task, as I typed through tears. My pain, my mother’s illness and the way she lived while she was dying—would have meaning. 

 

There are moments in life when we don’t have the bravery we need to rise to the occasion. Our spirits grow weak, our minds overwhelmed, we whimper a prayer to God that simply asks, Help. And even if we lack the faith to believe He will—He does. His love for us extends beyond our lack, our doubts, our weakness. He is with us—an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). 


 

"Even if we lack the faith to believe He will—He does. His love for us extends beyond our lack, our doubts, our weakness. He is with us—an ever-present help in trouble."

 


 

Brave Woman Manifesto




Make sure to check back next week as another courageous Sister shares her story. And by the way...


You are Brave!


No matter what you are facing, God has made you in His image, which means He equips you with His courage, strength, and power. I would love to connect more and give you a FREE gift - the BRAVE WOMAN MANIFESTO: Five Things to Tell Yourself When Life Gets Hard. Click HERE to sign up for my monthly newsletter and you’ll receive the FREE Manifesto, as well as recent blog posts, updated resources and personal details delivered only to my empowered email tribe.


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About Jen



Jen Babakhan is an author living in California with her husband and two young sons.

Her second book, Disrupted: Finding Peace With A Parent’s Terminal Illness recently released. She loves sharing hilarious memes on social media, anything coffee-flavored,

spending days at the beach, and has a slight obsession with dogs. Her writing has appeared in Reader’s Digest, Guideposts, and various national news outlets.

 

Visit Jen online at www.JenBabakhan.com where you can sign up for Jenerally Speaking, her monthly newsletter with the best laughs, the funniest memes/ tweets, and the things she finds most inspiring. Jen can be found on Instagram @jenbabakhan.

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