Snapshots of a Mother’s Cancer Experience — A Tattered Black Feather Pt 1

When I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer in 2000, I came face-to-face with my own mortality—and learned some profound lessons that transformed my view of reality. I would never sign up for my cancer experience, but neither would I trade away the treasures mined from it.

Above all, I learned to live with the awareness that we all really do have an impending, inescapable appointment awaiting us. We all have an appointment with God. No matter how busy or distracted we are or how distant that appointment may seem, one telephone call can change everything.

My call came when I was a 40-year-old mother of two preschool children and a happily married wife. The following post is Part 14 in “Snapshots of a Mother’s Cancer Experience,” a series that chronicles my journey through diagnosis, surgery, and beyond. (You can find a chronological list of the previous Snapshots here.)

cancer experience 2000
Friday, August 4

It’s lunchtime and my doorbell rings. I open the door and see a Rosati’s Pizza delivery guy. He’s got a large thin crust pizza loaded with spinach, mushrooms, and the best kind of grease. He says I just need to sign. The bill has already been paid.

It’s a gift  from my sister, Tobey, who read somewhere that a high fat diet is good for cancer patients. Her friend Graeme—who specializes in therapeutic finger-painting with condiments and visualizing whirled peas—argued that what I really need is a year’s supply of Krispy Kreme donuts and a bag of plastic farm animals.

Who am I to argue?

I share the pizza with my friend Natalie, who arrived on my doorstep earlier today with a pan of homemade (high fat) lasagna. Re-calibrated by this cancer, when Natalie offers to run errands for me, I wipe greasy fingers on a paper napkin and rifle through my music collection to select a few songs to share with my long-time, long-distance friend, Autumn. Through music, I want to give her a glimpse into my relationship with Jesus. I also want to send her my Study Bible.

The first song I select is “Naive” by Chris Rice. The next two songs were written by Ginny Owens, but it feels like I could have written the lyrics myself (if I had be blessed with the talent to do so).  “Free” describes the liberation I experienced when I first trusted Jesus. “If You Want Me To” describes my reluctant willingness to walk a path I would not choose for myself.  As I listen to the last song, I notice tears in Natalie’s eyes.

Later, at my front door, I hug Natalie good-bye. She leaves for the post office with a package for Autumn.

♥ ♥ ♥

Friends and family have rallied around us this week.  Tobey has stepped in to coordinate communications. My friend Christine came by one afternoon to watch my boys and deliver a salad, bread sticks, and pasta made for us by Joelle. Christine just learned that both her husband’s parents have cancer. This disease definitely decimated our playgroup plans.

Despite all the loving support I’ve received, I’m learning that sometimes cancer experience transports me to a place no one else can go.

Tonight I feel isolated.

As I prepare a decidedly low-fat dinner salad, I find a tiny black feather sticking to a leaf of romaine lettuce. The feather’s a bit tattered, like me. But it assures me that, despite how I feel, I am not alone.

This peculiarly placed feather transports me from isolation to the summer of 1990: the courtship days. No prior summer compared to the excitement and passion that filled those days. Roger and I had just started dating. Yet some of the intensity I experienced flowed from another blossoming romance…

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

I had begun seeking.

Tentatively at first. Skeptically. But honestly. Whole-heartedly.

Suddenly, I began to find a feather every day, sometimes in the oddest places. I began to call them my “God-feathers.” As midnight approached one day, I realized that I hadn’t found a feather. The depth of my disappointment surprised me.

Earlier that evening, Roger and I had attended a performance by classical guitarist Christopher Parkening. I had dressed in heavy-metal black, my hair adorned with a tiny braid, tipped with a colorful plume (courtesy of Roger’s Spectacled Amazon Parrot). Afterward, we returned to my house. Fueled by the energy of youth and ardor, I decided to prepare a fresh mussels feast for Roger. I heated a pan of olive oil, thoroughly rinsed the mussels, peeled a few cloves of garlic, and began chopping fresh parsley.

That’s when I found it.

A sleek, flawless, miniature feather amid the parsley sprigs. Mere minutes before midnight. Miraculous. so. very. personal.

During that moment, I knew, unmistakably, that I had heard from The Living God. My natural response was amazement, adoration, AWE.


With forehead reverently pressed against the cool tile of the kitchen floor, I thanked Him. I understood that I’d had a close encounter of the divine kind.

Yet, I awoke the very next morning already doubting my experience….

(To be continued.)

♥ ♥ ♥

Do you have an amazing God-story to share? Tell us about it! And come back on Monday, August 4th, to read the conclusion of this “Snapshot.”

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