Dear Mom,

I’ll never forget the day you were diagnosed with cancer. Neither of us cried. I’m not sure if it was because we were just too numb from the news or because intuitively, we wanted to protect the kids. But there’s also a beautiful image carved into my memory from that day. You and your grandson sat together, nuzzled in a chair reading a Frog and Toad book. Worry sat in my stomach and ached in my bones. I felt paralyzed.

But still, I watched you and my son. When Toad did something silly, you’d both giggle. You gazed into each other’s eyes and it was as if the lyrics to my favorite song played in my head. Nothing is sweeter than watching your own mother bond with your firstborn. Yet simultaneously, this beautiful moment brought me even more pain. Will she be able to watch my children grow up? I couldn’t punch that thought out of my head. And it lingered within me for an entire year.

Yes Mom, when you had cancer it was hard. It has hard because of the obvious reasons. You were in constant pain, you lost too much weight, your faith was rocked, and you wondered if you were going to live long enough to watch your grandchildren grow up.

But I know what hurt you most . . . 

It crushed your spirits that you couldn’t help with your grandchildren as often as you used to. Sometimes you were in too much pain to get down on the floor with your grandson to build LEGOs. On many days, you were even too weak to hold the bottle and feed your new granddaughter. Instead of you babysitting when I went back to work, we nursed you. I know this was difficult for your nurturing spirit, the one who was always selfless to others.

But I remember the times during those dark days, Mom. You still managed to cuddle your grandson on the couch and read countless books with him. You still rocked your granddaughter to sleep and sang “You Are My Sunshine”. Your grandchildren felt your love regardless of the cancer. They had no idea just how very sick you were. And they didn’t know that they almost lost you, either.

The other day, I stumbled upon a picture . . . one that you’ll likely want to forget, but one that I will cherish forever. It’s of you and your granddaughter, only six months at the time. You sat on the couch, your head covered by a black cap—nothing else. Your daughter’s cheeks were nuzzled into your robe and both of your eyes were closed. Peace and strength pulsed through the both of you. Your granddaughter still felt your immense love.

This picture will always make my eyes well up with tears. Yes, I know that my children will never remember what you went through or understand your pain. But one thing they’ll always know, because I’ll tell them, is that you fought and you fought hard—for them.

Mom, I know that it was difficult on you that you couldn’t help as much with the kids during that time. But I also know that your love for those kids is what kept you alive. And now I won’t have to tell them countless stories about their grandmother . . . because they’ll have their own.

You may also like:

To the Moms Who Conquered Cancer

Some of the Best Grandmas Live in Heaven

Cancer Can’t Take That

So God Made a Grandma

Angela Anagnost-Repke

Angela-Anagnost Repke is a writer and writing instructor dedicated to raising two empathetic children. She hopes that her graduate degrees in English and counseling help her do just that. Since the pandemic, Angela and her family have been rejuvenated by nature and moved to northern Michigan to allow the waves of Lake Michigan to calm their spirits. She has been published in Good Housekeeping, Good Morning America, ABC News, Parents, Romper, and many more. She is currently at-work on her nonfiction parenting book, Wild Things by Nature: How an Unscientific Parent Can Give Nature to Their Wild Things. Follow Angela on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram