Coat of Arms

My mom, Nita, is one of the healthiest people I know for her age. I won’t tell you how old she is, mostly because you would probably call me a liar. She looks much younger than her trips around the sun. She did a half triathlon a few years back just to stick it to Man of aging. She eats much healthier than we feel comfortable being around—she’ll peck at a salad while I’ll leave the restaurant not realizing how much steak grease got on the back of my neck. She buys organic food and exercises regularly.

If you know her, you know what a light she is. A vibrant treasure that couldn’t love people more. She’s someone who can make you her friend whether you want her to or not…it’s really not up to you. She’s funny and probably the goofiest person I know—just see her around her grandkids and you’ll understand the full extent of what I mean.

I think God really brought out the good stuff when he made her.

And she now has cancer.

 

None of the above has changed. But that word can wrap around a person like a wet, moldy winter coat found in an abandoned cellar. It can cling to your skin, continually begging to become your new definition. So much so that it can be hard to step into the light. On June 11th it wrapped around my mom in the form of breast cancer. Naturally it was difficult for her to admit the diagnosis to the world, and firstly, to herself.

But it is in times like that when we need reminded most of who we are, and what our real definition is.

 

I, like most, have asked, Why does my mom have cancer? As if a chart of God’s master plan or other explanation would somehow make it any easier for all of us. Maybe it would. We all go through it enough that it’d be nice to know it’s for something. We only recently finished celebrating Serenity’s cancer survival—my wife’s sister. They found it in her shoulder when she was only 28. Maybe a master plan chart would really help.

It’s doubtful that an answer will ever get scrawled across the heavens but I did observe something just as awe-inspiring. Once my mom made her diagnosis public, people started pulling at that nasty ol’ coat.

I saw the hugs, the outpouring of thoughts and prayers, the flood of shoulders begging to be leaned on. I saw the people saying the if-you-need-anythings with nothing but sincerity in their eyes, practically pleading. I saw the people offering to mow my parent’s lawn, clean their house, bring food. I saw the money placed in their hands. I saw the flowers. I saw the tears of empathy and support. I saw people reminding my mom who she is. And she is loved.

 

I believe that most of us have been touched by cancer, directly or indirectly. We can at least understand the nuts and bolts of going through it. We are surely pulled by its gravity.

And through this empathy I saw that cancer was bringing unity. It had caused a community to stand up from their chairs and lift my mom on their shoulders. It created an opportunity for loved ones to show why they are called “loved ones.” And it has been a sea of open arms.

 

I don’t know why God puts up with cancer, but I know that He loves when people come together. When they give their time, money, energy, and hearts to one another.

When they love like He loves.

Does cancer exist to give us the chance to wrap ourselves around someone, and become their new coat? Reminding them of what they are, like a crest of old. A warm, dry covering of strength and friendship that is quite literally a coat of arms. I don’t know, I’m not qualified to answer that. It may be that we just live in a broken world. But I do think that this is at least a beautiful side effect. A bright silver lining. So bright in fact that the cloud itself becomes much easier to look at.

Cancer sucks, but people don’t.

 

Thank you to every one of you who are there for us. We love you all deeply.

 

 

•••

Follow my mom’s journey here.

And check out Serenity’s book on the subject.

28 Comments

  1. Kathy N. said:

    Ugly cry. Coat of arms. What a perfect description. I’ve worn it. I want to be it.

    July 16
    Reply
  2. adavis691 said:

    Your mom is an amazing person. I remember the first time I met her. We introduced ourselves. I went to shake her hand but she grabbed me and said, “I am a hugger”. Everyday I am sending her some really big hugs now! All of you are in my prayers!

    July 16
    Reply
    • Ryan Long said:

      🙂 That sounds about right. Thanks so much for the prayers.

      July 16
      Reply
  3. lolliehofer said:

    Beautifully said, Ry. Prayers are continually flowing for this wonderful, godly woman who is loved by so many.

    July 16
    Reply
  4. Your mom has always had the “light” shine … I have known her before she met your dad and we all knew she was something very special. Praying for her and your whole family like crazy. Another Kansas girl transplanted to Nebraska. She is one tough lady and I know you will all be happy to get this bump in the road behind you. God’s richest blessings to you for writing so eloquently about the girl we all love.

    July 16
    Reply
  5. Kathie Wilken said:

    That was beautiful. The word picture is perfect. And yes, your mom is loved.

    July 16
    Reply
  6. Keira Luntsford said:

    I was so sorry to hear of your mom’s diagnosis. I haven’t had the chance to get to know her well. But, anytime I’ve been around her, I’ve wanted to know her more than I do, because of her bright, loving personality. She and you are all in our prayers.

    July 16
    Reply
  7. Serenity said:

    Oh, so well said. When I have gone through it, I definitely begin to muddy (in a beautiful way) whether it was a curse or a big, fat blessing. So much love, so much goodness in people.

    July 16
    Reply
  8. Jeanne Effrein said:

    Wonderfully written! Praying for healing, strength and wisdom for your mom and dad!! The Grace of God to get through times like this is very real! So thankful that He is our rock in times of trouble!

    July 16
    Reply
  9. Kathy Feldman Newkirk said:

    Very beautifully written. It brought tears to my eyes and a pull to my heart. I just lost my Mom on 6/7/15 to cancer. (Jason Feldman’s Grandma)

    July 16
    Reply
    • Ryan Long said:

      We heard about that and were so sorry for your loss.

      July 16
      Reply
  10. Tracy Rice said:

    Thanks Ry. Great picture of the body of Christ connected together. Your mom is an amazing woman.

    July 16
    Reply
  11. Pat Mancha said:

    Please give your Mom & Dad a extra hug from Frank & I XOXO

    July 16
    Reply
  12. Wendy James said:

    My heart hurts for all of you!! Praying for each of you — that God will carry you through each & every moment!!

    July 16
    Reply
  13. Sheila Dudney said:

    Beautiful. Like Mother, Like Son.

    July 16
    Reply
  14. Sara Garcia said:

    Nita is His light. She has blessed my family and me beyond words. This amazing coat of arms that she is receiving is just a fraction of what she’s given all of us over the years. Beautifully written Ryan. We love you Nita!

    July 16
    Reply
  15. Marcella said:

    Ryan, my heart is saddened to know your mom, the sweetest woman I ever met, has cancer. But I also know we serve a God more powerful than cancer. My prayers to your amazing family!

    July 19
    Reply
    • Ryan Long said:

      Thanks Marcella, we appreciate it. Also, it was great seeing you on Sunday.

      July 21
      Reply
  16. Coat of arms is beautifully spoken. For me, it’s the umbrella, and our potential as human beings to shelter those in the storm of cancer. Sometimes people suck, including me, but your writing reminds us all to try harder, and God does love when His people come together.

    October 14
    Reply
    • Ryan Long said:

      Thank you so much for the kind words. The umbrella is a great visual.

      October 14
      Reply

Leave a Reply