Oh, Love That Will Not Let Me Go

The first thunderstorm of the season was rolling in on dark skies. I love summer storms. The grandeur of the lightening, the crash of thunder and the smell of spring rain feeds something in my soul. I listened to the wind picking up, and felt like there was something that I should be thinking about in this context, but couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. Maybe a sadness creeping in with the usual delight?

It will be two years tomorrow (May 9, 2020) since our beloved Lena, Daniel’s sister, my sister in law and favorite aunt of our children came home to Delaware. We knew something was wrong when she said she would be meeting us at the curb of the airport in a wheelchair. We just didn’t know how wrong things really were. 45 days later, Lena was gone. It was the middle of the pandemic, life was crazy. Sometimes I felt like all of my emotions were put on hold, lost in a sea of the demands of the moment. Our handicapped adult (whose care I could not ignore, and who, because of COVID, could not go to respite) was present 24/7. Lena’s sisters, Ruth and Rachel, came in with their husbands, and her sister in law, Ruby was here as well. Our adult children were here, with the grandchildren, and while everyone needed to be here, I barely had time to think, much less process anything.

Lena loved thunderstorms and in the few weeks before she went to the hospital, she would watch the rain, long for thunder and lightening and have a delighted peace whenever she could experience a storm. In the months and now years that followed her death, every now and then, a summer storm would come through, unleashing a wave of memories and emotions that would threaten to drown me with salt water. Most of the time, it was easy to think that she was just off on one of her jaunts, heading somewhere new with her motor home. But when a storm came through, it was easy to remember how desperately we were missing her.

Our middle daughter, Deborah, had built a special place in her house for Lena to live for the months of the year that she planned to be in Delaware. Lena, a little person, had a bare 6 weeks to enjoy her suite, with lowered light switches, and a handicapped accessible bathroom with built in, slide out risers at the sink. Deborah had also chosen her kitchen appliances to allow Lena to have full access to controls and shelving that she might need. Deborah and Lena often traveled together, and it’s safe to say that Deborah knew her auntie better than any of us, and the loss to her was inestimable. A few weeks ago, Deborah sent me the link to the following song, saying that the song (not necessarily the video) reminded her of Aunt Lena.


I couldn’t listen to this song without tears, as I thought about Lena, and missed her with all her delight in the simple things of life – garden tea, tomatoes, still warm from the garden, rhubarb in almost any form, family, friends, the baby foxes playing in Deborah’s yard in the middle of the nights in May, family card games (when she would unabashedly cheat and even lose to keep someone else from getting a card she knew they needed) Summer thunderstorms, the bigger and louder the better. Deborah shared that love of thunderstorms, and she also felt keenly the emotions of this song.

Little did we know that our Deborah-girl was about to face a tumultuous life storm of her own.

On Friday, May 6, 2022, Deborah was diagnosed with breast cancer.

There have been many reassuring words. “Early,” “non-invasive,” “lots of advances,” (and some that I am not sure about) “not something your die from,” even while they hasten to add, “But we don’t know if there are more, invasive cells that we need to check out . . .”

When she went for her biopsy, they had told her that only 10-20% of the type of calcifications she had were malignant. She decided that she could go alone for the results, and when she texted that it was, in fact, malignant, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Eventually she called me and gave me preliminary results and what it means, and over these last few days, we’ve looked over her reports and tried to get a handle on what is actually going on. It’s so easy at a time like this to overthink, over imagine, over react. And this old Mama has certainly done all the “overs” that are possible. On Friday, I finally decided that I could take the day for lament. That it wouldn’t hurt to cry, to grieve, to be really sad. And then, starting Saturday morning, I could go about the business at hand – that of figuring out the “what” and “How” of all the logistics. I also felt like it was a good time to remember that Deborah had been given to The Father before she was born, that she was a child of promise, and that I didn’t need to let this draw me into the vortex of despair. Deborah herself has given me courage and examples before me the path to peace even while acknowledging that this is hard.

Sometime in the first conversations after she received the diagnosis, she said to me, “You know, Mama, this year, I’ve been choosing a song a month for my theme song for the month, and this month I chose, ‘Oh, Love that will not let me go.’ The words are comforting to me as I think about them and my present situation.” (Listen here: https://youtu.be/TvA6PYa54sg)

I’m so grateful for her attitude, for the people who have prayed for her, for our church family that gathered around her to pray for her this morning, and for an overwhelming sense that Jesus is walking with us. This is hard. We don’t know what the future holds. It looks stormy ahead. I wish I could take it for her. Just so many unknowns.

But this I do know. Deborah is not alone. Each of her siblings have responded to the news with caring and hope and promises to help where needed. Our church family is the best, and they love her, and are already in the trenches with her. She knows the Master of the Wind in this summer storm, and He is in the boat with her, with us.

We covet your prayers. The prayers are still the best gifts! So please, PLEASE! Pray for wisdom, for discernment, for peace, for health and healing, for an eye for joy on the journey, and that our awesome God would be glorified in it all.

And Yes, my heart gives grateful praise!’

Deborah and I today. She captioned this,
“I was six weeks old the first time someone said I looked like my mama. I think it’s more pronounced the older I get. Happy Mother’s Day! @delaware_grammy”

I think she is an improved edition – but she is right about people saying that she looked like me. I was in the well baby clinic at Mt. Carmel Hospital back in early 1980. Deborah was a fussy baby unless she was held around her tummy, her back against me, looking out on her world. I was standing in the waiting area holding her just like that, when a perfect stranger looked at the two of us, did a double take, and then said, “if that baby looks that much like you now, what will she ever look like when she’s all grown up?!?!?!?” I laughed because I honestly did not see it. Even now, I don’t really think about it. She’s my girlie. I have loved her from the minute that I laid eyes on her. I’m so glad that she is ours!

2 Comments

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2 responses to “Oh, Love That Will Not Let Me Go

  1. Karen

    Oh MaryAnn, my heart breaks for you and Deborah.
    So blessed by both of your attitudes. Even in the tough places, our God is in control and He will see you through.
    Love and hugs and prayers from New Brunswick.

  2. Sharon Yoder Kline

    My heart is aching as I read this Mary Ann. The chill of that “C” word is all to loud in my ears. But, I know our God is faithful, and is with us in the tough times, in the valleys, and in the storms. He can do more than we can ever imagine or even ask for. Blessings to you and your Deborah today.

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