This picture was taken the first or second weekend in October, 2007. Tim and Helina had come down for a visit, and we had the rare opportunity to get the whole family together for a few days! Leah and Helina had both recently announced that they were expecting, so we had a lot to celebrate.

(As you can see, this was also pre-Steve and pre-Eddie!)

I love this picture because we all look so happy. Just a few days later, four years ago today, we got the call that my mom’s cancer had returned with a vengeance.

(Tangent: how her cancer was discovered is a really interesting story: her brother-in-law gave her a literally bone-crushing hug! She cracked a rib and went to get it checked out – where she discovered that the breast cancer she’d had treated seven years before had returned and spread. So thanks to that hug, my mom lived four years longer than she would have. By the time they discovered the cancer, it was very, very advanced – not quite to terminal status, but almost there.)

There are a lot of other pictures of that weekend:

(I just think this is a funny picture of me and Leah.)

I’m glad there are so many pictures from that weekend because I think of it now as the last weekend of our former lives. Up until four years ago, my worries were selfish issues: insecurity, career uncertainty, singleness. Everything changed just a few days later and our worries were instantly so much deeper and so much more real. In the years since my mom’s diagnosis, a lot in our lives have changed. There are more babies (and more husbands). My career has become exactly what I want it to be, and I’m not insecure anymore. Some of that, obviously, has to do with the fact that I’m 31 now and not 27, so more time has passed, but I also know that because I suddenly had to stop moping about when am I going to meet a nice guy? and when am I going to get the job I really want?, it changed me in a lot of ways that I’m still learning about today. I was wrenched away from my selfishness (which I continue to rail against, of course) and thrust into a very different life. And while at the time I thought it was the worst thing that could have happened to me – because let’s not pretend here; your mother being diagnosed with incurable advanced breast cancer really, really sucks – I can see now that God really does bring good things out of the most unbearably awful circumstances, and I see how he has changed me through this ordeal. In good ways, even if at the time I couldn’t see how it was possible. It doesn’t mean that her cancer was good, in any sense of the word that I can see right now, but it does mean that God redeems.

So I like to look through these pictures from time to time, especially this time of year. These were the last few days before cancer came back into our lives, when the illusion of safety in life was shattered. I look back on that weekend and wish we could have stayed there forever.