Kicking Down Open Doors

What originally started as email correspondence with my small group has turned into this blog on December 14, 2011. The original emails are posted retroactively, and I will attempt to continue on from there.

Drinking From a Fountain That Will Never Run Dry

          I am blessed? I am blessed. I am blessed! Really, I’m so freaking blessed, so much to the point that it’s incredibly hard to relate to many hardships. It’s also subconsciously caused me to sometimes have unreasonably high expectations of myself, others, or anything else I’m associated with. Especially when it comes to people, most specifically family, I have rarely been disappointed. All of my reference points have been solid. My aunts & uncles, grandparents, and cousins are all what I would call “high-balled (in contrast with low ball/blow..yeah sorry that’s crude) people.” Some of the best memories from childhood and from my more recent history revolve around my nuclear and extended family. Those big family reunions are what I look forward to most, what I might even giggle in anticipation for. The biggest drama we’ve had was about 10 years ago at a reunion dinner between an uncle and his nephew over shark fin soup. Was it wasteful/disrespectful vs ethical to refuse it? Ooo crazy, right?! The tension lasted for 20 minutes. We still talk about it to this day.

          All that to say that that is an example of how I’m blessed to the point that I can’t truly relate to people who dread seeing family (shout-out to the 2011 sandpaper sermon). I was talking to Ivan about this tonight while he washed and I rinsed the dinner dishes. We realized that people listening to us chat might have said or thought of the fact that we lost our mom and considered it at least a partial equalizer of sorts. I used to think that too, but that couldn’t be more inaccurate.

          As open as I’ve been about my feelings surrounding my mom’s death, I don’t think I’ve ever admitted that I used to blame myself for what happened. You see, I often times pride myself on my brain’s ability to come up with something good to say when it comes to verbal comfort and compassion. I’m not sure why given my track record, but I do. But the more people I met, the more I realized that I could only provide comfort and compassion if I could relate in some way or fully understand the situation. Naturally, my prayer to God was to increase my experiences and understanding, so that I could reach out to more people. This was all happening right before my mom was diagnosed with cancer. When we found out, I was incredibly distraught but I could see how it was also an answered prayer. I could now relate to people going through the cancer ordeal with loved ones. It was like something to mark off of a checklist of empathetic experiences, still thinking that it was in God’s plan to heal her and prolong her life on Earth.

          When she died, I was still looking at things with that checklist in mind. I blamed myself, thinking that I had essentially asked God to kill my mom. That guilt was almost unbearable, but I was blessed to be surrounded by community who helped me throw away those lies. The truth is that my mom’s death wasn’t some sort of equalizer nor was it something that I caused. In fact, my mom’s passing was an enormous blessing. Here’s just a snippet of what I’ve gained from it:

  • What do I really need? Many would put their mothers at the top of that list, but mine is in heaven. I’m still here and I’m still okay. As painful as it can sometimes be to say, mom wasn’t holding me together all this time. God was, is, and will.
  • New focus. Pretty self-explanatory
  • The reminder that life on Earth is temporary and that my life is not mine. This so common but so true. I really can’t be reminded enough of either. I decided to really live my life for Jesus in 2006, so it is not mine to waste.
  • Pertinent to what I originally started writing about, that showing compassion in the face of relation and understanding is easy. My prayer for more experiences and understanding was well-intentioned but misguided. After she died, I realized that it’s not about compiling all the possible experiences. It’s impossible after all, so am I allowed to use that as an excuse? Hellz no! God’s really been challenging me to love with my heart rather than just my brain. It’s not always my job to understand, but it is to love.

I could go on because that was only the beginning. I have the feeling too that God’s not done showing me things from that event. It’s overwhelming to think about how much has happened this year. I’m not trying to paint this overly rosy picture or anything, but there’s just so much to tell. The bottom line is that I’m blessed, embarrassingly so.

What Do You Want Me to Say?

          When it comes to personal maintenance, annual check-ups, dental appointments, haircuts, vaccinations, you name it, my mom was on it. And of course if she was on it, then I was on it (her on my behalf of course). I otherwise wouldn’t have paid much attention to my physical well-being minus eating. Allow me to illustrate her “on it”-ness. In spring of 2002, there was morning breaking news about several college students who suddenly died of meningitis, a bacterial infection that everyone knows of now but was unheard of at the time. I don’t follow the news much, so I didn’t know. All I knew was that I had just arrived at my friend’s house when Mom called me to come home saying I had a vaccination appointment in half an hour. It was swine flu before swine flu, but I was safe. Another story. On the exact day of my 18th birthday, she scheduled me for my first adult women’s check-up if you know what I mean. Are you kidding me? RIGHT when I turn 18! Anyway, she was ON IT.

          Fast forward to present day. She’s no longer here, doesn’t have to be “on it” anymore, and stopped being as “on it” for me since I graduated college anyway. In fact, it’s been 2-3 years since I’ve been to the doctor’s for my annual check-up. From when my mom started her radiation/chemo treatments in May of 2011, her passing in December, all the way to February of 2012 when Popo left the country, I have gone to hospitals, seen tons of doctors, and sat in dozens of waiting rooms non-stop. But it’s all been for someone else, more specifically not for me. To be honest, I’ve been scared and I’ve been scared for quite some time now. A week or so after she died, Ivan came to my room leaning in the doorway and asked me when was the last time I saw the doctor. I answered, “I don’t know, why?” automatically without thinking of the implications.

"Well, you know…cuz of mom."

"Oh…yeah, I don’t know."

"It’s important."

We both went to our double sink bathroom to brush our teeth. He left it at that, knowing he had said enough and that his little sister would probably have snapped at him had he prodded more. It was then that I realized that I was scared.

          In case you hadn’t heard/read before, my mom died of vaginal cancer. It makes me uncomfortable to read, write, or say it. You don’t hear sexually explicit words fly from my mouth much, if at all. I always ride the euphemistic train for those terms, but her death isn’t a euphemism for me. The whole process has taken its toll on me and my family. I was scared of going through that again, of putting my family through that again, almost as if to assume that I already have cancer, that I’m just waiting for when I’m ready to deal with cancer again. And then there’s also all the thoughts and implications that go with me having cancer. The past year easily flashes through my mind in an instant, still drawing tears or watery eyes almost every time.

          “But today is a new day.” I’ve said that to myself a lot since December 17th. It’s true. Today IS a new day, but it’s taken me 4 months of saying that before I could do it. But I did it. I went to the doctor’s this morning for my long overdue check-up. I got all the tests I would possibly need to get with a quick shoutout to my doctor who is also my Popo’s. She is ridiculously comprehensive. She understood what I was doing and asked enough personal questions to show her concern but not enough to make me cry. Then it was comprehensive business as usual. All that’s left is to wait for the results, ones that I’m anticipating with a little anxiety. I’m not sure if I’m suppressing feelings or what. I don’t think it’s fear, but more of a just wanting to know type thing.

          The only reason why I’ve written about this at all is so that the feelings are out there without having to be angry and yell at the people who care about me most, who are the only ones I would tell this to in person. Hopefully this will spare them. I could maybe explain this craziness with a bunch of things: growing up in an Asian household, being an internalizing introvert, even more specifically being an INTJ, having quick temper issues, the works. I didn’t grow up openly talking about my feelings and it’s still something that I’m learning to do, to understand that I need to allow people who care about me to ask questions. I already know and feel it in my body how I usually would respond. I would play it off like I was fine and then while talking about it explode.

"Are you okay? How was it being at the doctor’s? Are you worried?"

"It’s fine. I mean it was just the doctor’s. I know I might’ve mentioned that I was scared before, but it was fine. I didn’t feel anything while I was there. I just don’t think about it. Robot status."

"Okay, just wanted to check in. It’s okay if you did feel something."

"Well, if I actually think about it…(getting annoyed now) why do we always have to talk about how I feel? Who cares if I was scared? Even if I say that I was, what the hell does that do? What if I say I’m worried, that I don’t want to have cancer? That I’m just tired of it, tired of talking, tired of making me cry? WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO SAY?"

I’m sure that’s how it would go if you spoke to me now. Hopefully I won’t blow up when it actually gets to the part of talking about it. I’m not even sure if it’s good to stick this in a public space, but I’m going to anyway. Now there’s just the waiting.

Mission (Im)Possible

          The city of Fremont can rest easy tonight for reasons unknown to most. There was a war tonight in the average-sized gym of Mission San Jose High School where the Lady Warriors hosted Monte Vista High School in a 2nd round NCS playoffs game. The Lady Warriors opened up the first quarter with a 5-4 early lead, only to lose it for the rest of the game until the fourth quarter with 1.8 seconds left to go. That’s when Gigi Hsu pump faked and drove baseline and threaded a pass through a sea of arms to find an open Alexa Iwatani for the game-winning shot. Yes, the shot that propelled the MSJHS Lady Warriors to the NorCal Champs tournament for the first time in school history.

          Wait a second. The shot that did what? Other than being very freaking timely, that shot did nothing by itself. If I stopped this post there, you’d find the same kind of story in the Mercury or the Contra Costa Times, sources whose jobs are to superficially and dramatically report the events that unfold. But that’s not me. I’m a part of the basketball program, one of the tiny cogs. I saw the work that the coaching staff put in to prepare the girls for this game. I saw how hard the kids worked memorize and ultimately execute the game plan. I heard the words said before the game and how the team fired themselves up chanting, “STAY HUMBLE! STAY HUNGRY!” I heard the crowd surge and wane with every great pass or missed shot. The crowd was so loud that the sound waves shook my body. And even those details are not enough to do this team justice.

          What about the previous game when a teenaged girl let her missed shots frustrate her but experience instead how her team picked up the slack? She vowed that she would never be that mentally fragile again and scored 16 points tonight, the most important of her basketball career yet. Did you know about the player who had the ball in her hands down the stretch of big games, only to come up short? She was placed in that position a number of times before finally coming through. She hasn’t looked back since and scored 14 points tonight. What about the one who had been big for us all season but was reduced to a facilitator and defender tonight? She cried tears of joy for the team win and couldn’t have sliced it a better way. What about the players who would come off the bench and get yanked the second they made a mistake, never able to prove what they knew in their hearts they could do? They now focus on doing the little things and whatever else they can and came up huge for us tonight. These stories and countless others like them are the backdrop to this night where for a few more hours, it will feel like things couldn’t get any better.

          Each player walked into this season as weak individuals but banded together to become now fifteen strong. Even though they were seeded higher than the past 2 teams we’ve played, everyone picked us to lose. They counted us out. And of course, the deeper we cut into the field, the more it makes sense that we should fail. But somehow, the ride is still going and we are not done. I’m just happy and grateful that I’m getting dragged along too.


Many the Miles

          In case you didn’t already know, Sara Bareilles has a song called “Many the Miles” where part of the chorus is:

"How far do I have to go to get to you?

Many the miles, but send me the miles and I’ll be happy to follow you.”

On top of being a damn good song (plug, plug, plug), it also describes what I’ve been feeling and what I think I might feel for the rest of my life on Earth. It’s been 2 months and a week since I last saw my mom. In the world’s view, she’s dead. The message has been reinforced over and over again when I wake up each morning to the sound of Dad talking to some credit card company or bank on the phone: “We need to change x and x because well, you see, my wife recently passed away.” As more time has passed, Dad is now a veteran of speaking that sentence. I can’t hear the quivering and hesitation in his voice anymore, but the weight never goes away. Okay, world. I get it.

          On the other hand, my belief system…that term sounds too detached and heady for me to use. My God-infused heart tells me that yes, she’s no longer walking the face of the Earth, but is instead going big or going big with Jesus. I know that with my heart, soul, and mind, the full body experience, but I still struggle with the grieving process, also a full body experience. Last week, the regular basketball season ended. It was a milestone for sure, and I remember thinking and telling other people that it’d be hardest to deal with my mom (Mom) being gone during these times. Now that it’s here, I can confirm that it’s true. The last week of basketball season killed me because she would have come to those games. It kills me that after she died, I immediately and naturally started to type out “my mom” instead of “Mom” or “Mommy,” but I went back and edited it to “Mom.” This is the first post that I’m allowing myself to type “my mom” without feeling guilty. It’s so small and insignificant, but it’s the one that hurts the most. It’s as if the situation officially became real and not just some sad story that I can vividly tell like I was a part of it.

          Two months is a long time, but it’s also a really short time. I’ve been grieving for two months, and I still don’t know how to do it except to let it out and let myself feel things. I don’t feel guilty anymore, like I quit or gave up because it’s true. I’ve now given up these feelings to God and now this page. With each keystroke, my fingers don’t quiver or hesitate, but they still feel the weight, my fingers and dad’s voice. I also feel the weight of my community, my church and basketball ones. They didn’t just love me, but they also let me love on them in full knowledge of what’s been going on. My life’s journey has been and will be littered with divine appointments in the form of people and events. At this particular juncture, God has been revealing them in the present as they come, my communities. They make me feel like I can run the race too, the one that my mom has finished faster than me. They help me remain anchored in Christ who is my joy and my salvation. They remind me that I can miss my mom and that I will more intensely with every milestone, but I’ll always at least be okay.

          How far do I have to go to get to You? Many the miles, but send me the miles and I’ll be happy to follow you, Love.

The League of Extraordinary Wanters?

          Have you ever seen The League of Extraordinary Gentleman? Except for when it came out in 2003, it’s one of those movies that you resign to watch alone on TV on a Friday night, after desperately and unsuccessfully trying to find somewhere to go or someone to hangout with. So you check your email, surf the web, and soon find yourself with nothing to do besides sitting on your couch and searching for buried treasure. Yeah, it’s one of those. They’re entertaining and require little to no thinking. They’re great for finding quotables, metaphors, and moments to later refer to. They also always have a ridiculous name, a ridiculous plot, and/or a ridiculous cast. The League of Extraordinary Gentleman has all three. I think I’ve seen it 4 times :)

          If you haven’t seen it, it’s basically a group (or league harhar) of people with supernatural powers or talents that were assembled by a mysterious man to stop a mysterious evil. There’s Dorian Gray, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, some chick whose power I forgot with the token sexy role, Captain Nemo of the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ship, this invisible when naked dude, Sean Connery who could be in this movie as himself but was actually an old guy who can shoot a gun really far, and Shane West who plays someone who is just there and gets to be cool later on. Really good, right?

          It wasn’t until I became a supposedly mature adult that I realized what it meant to be a part of my family, the League of Extraordinary Wanters. They really know how to want things. As mentioned in an earlier post, Popo has always said and asked of God that she be taken home as soon as she is no longer able to serve Him. She’s currently 87 years old, can get up and down the stairs without a walking aid, and still frequently travels internationally for ministry purposes. Crazy. Dad is one of the most God-centered, grounded-in-the-Word men I know. He is obedient to whatever God’s plans are for him. Jesus is enough, but he still wants more. He wants every single little thing that is promised. His hunger makes me think, “Why wouldn’t I actively want all that God has for me?” But I honestly don’t feel that way right now. My uncle has the superpower of appealing want. He can want something so badly and in such an exciting way that it makes you jump on his “Want Bandwagon.” Then he’ll partner with you so that you can achieve that want together. Ivan can see a want so clearly that he can ask himself or others leading questions which help reveal the path of satisfaction. And then there’s me.

          I’ve always been a number of steps slower than the rest of my family. Even though I know this very well, I can’t always stave off the antsiness that comes with the waiting to catch up to them. Right now I’m like Shane West. I’m definitely in the family, a token member of the League of Extraordinary Wanters. Yeah, I’m in the building, though not yet legit. But I’m beginning to see that maybe my superpower isn’t going to be like one of the others. It’s still a seedling, but mine might be the ability to have super wants, to dream of big things. Like Mr. West, I WILL get to do something cool later on.

          I serve a comprehensive God, the mighty One who is capable of things bigger than I’ll ever come up with. Even if I end up not having a superpower, I am blessed to be born into this family, the League of Extraordinary Wanters who are already and will continue to use their powers on my behalf. Something good is going to happen. Something good is in store, even on the night where I’ll be watching a certain movie for the 5th time.


          I’m not even sure if I should write anything about this because there’s just a lot to feel about it on my end. Breathe. Today would have been Mom’s 59th birthday. Had she still been with us on Earth, we would have enjoyed a simple family meal at home. Dad would have cooked her favorite Chinese vegetable (see gua) and some transparent noodle (fun see) soup with winter melon and Chinese mushrooms. We would have some sort of mango cake or torte from Trader Joe’s for dessert and talk about how she’s one year away from 60. We would smile and laugh. There would definitely be some Jesus shoutouts in the mix and some praises about her 58th year of life. Then my brother and I would clear the table and wash the dishes together while Dad walks upstairs heavy-footed as always to brush his teeth. Mom would stay in her seat at the dinner table, content to listen to us talk about ourselves and bother each other. Yeah, that’s what we would have done.

          What I love about that scene is that 95% of that was not left to my imagination. Been there, done that for many years now. It’s how Mom always wanted it and how she would have wanted it. When it came to communicating her feelings and desires, she never let the well run dry. I knew what clothes or shoes she “secretly” wanted to buy but would never frivolously do so, lest her daughter pick up the hint and buy it for her. If I brought home any food or drink, I’d expect to begrudgingly give her a bite or a sip. I knew how she felt about my jungle of a messy room and how she feels about it now that Ivan’s basically cleaned it for me. I’ve always known how she loved me, what she wanted for my life, who she wanted me to be, and how she was proud of who I am. I’ve said some of these things before but they bear repeating.

          I often tell my players not to dwell in the “shoulda, woulda, coulda zone” and I expect the same of myself. I don’t think I’m violating those expectations. It is true that I know and have written what we would have done. I know all that. I have knowledge of it but emotionally, I’m not there. I’m not feeling sorry for us that we couldn’t celebrate Mom’s 59th birthday, but I’m aware. I am emotional. I’m still grieving, but I’m not sorry.

          Mom’s not sorry either. She’s kickin’ it with Jesus. Holla at ya boy! I wonder exactly what she did today. Is her birthday significant to her anymore? At dinner tonight, it was the 3 of us eating a simple meal, cabbage on one plate and green beans w/beef on the other. We wept together talking about Mom, about how life has been since. Before that, I spent the day with church family, not worrying about how heavy my heart could be. We’re not going to celebrate her birthday which I truly believe she doesn’t care for any longer. As Ivan suggested, we now celebrate her eternity birthday, the day she met Jesus face to face.

          As tears force their way through my eyes, I’ll say it one last time: Happy birthday, dear Mommy. Happy birthday to you.

Drive and Kick

          Drive. Kick. In basketball terms, driving implies dribbling the ball forcefully to the basket with the intention of scoring. Kicking implies that a player who is on the way to the basket passes the ball further away with the intent of setting up the receiving teammate to attack. When said together, “drive and kick” describes a method of offensive attacking that involves players who are willing to drive into harm’s way and deftly kick the ball away from danger and into the opportunistic arms of another. The further a player is able to plummet herself into danger, the better the opportunity will be, as long as the pass is accurate and the receiver can see the paved path. Hooray for sacrificial relationships!

          Hmm, this “drive and kick” deal is starting to sound kinda gospel-y! But anyway, that’s what we’ve been working on in practice lately. Now that I’ve taken the time to fully explain it, the “drive and kick” way goes against basic basketball intuition. Intentionally put myself in danger? Pass the ball when I’m already close enough to score? Crazy, right? As much as it goes against the grain, it goes completely for teamwork. A team full of efficient “drive and kick” players creates openings for themselves and others along the way. When it’s done right, it is truly a sight to behold. It’s like watching a group of people weave their bonds of trust tighter and more intricately than before. Whoa, whoa. Are we even talking about basketball anymore?

          I started playing basketball when I was 5 or 6 years old. I started intentionally driving and kicking when I was 9. I learned the purpose of it in high school and all the other implications in college. I have processed things via basketball since I was 12. Basketball this, basketball that. This sport, this passion has served as my canvas for 15 years now on top of being one of the very few things that motivate me to be physically healthy. It’s been my arena to learn whatever social skills I possess. I don’t really know where I’m going with this. It’s just hitting me extra today how sports can do so much for everyone, kids, parents, friends, anyone. 

          Pick up a sport or anything else that can be your canvas, something that moves you. What’s your “drive and kick?” If you don’t have one or want to learn another one, come find me and I’ll teach or show you mine. Let’s drive and kick together.

Nothing to See Here

          As a basketball coach, I’m always telling my players to make good or better decisions. It’s hard to imagine that anyone can suddenly make good or better decisions just because someone said to do it. But my team has somehow managed to time and again make better decisions at my beckoned call or at my spit-inducing screams. I was once a player myself, able to accomplish what I was just describing. I definitely get it, the mysterious, magical ability to raise my level of play in response to a request, out of obedience, or under the duress of unadulterated fear. I get it. Now that I’m a coach, I can see it from both sides, and it’s amazing how players can do that.

          Whenever we lose a game like tonight, it always gets me thinking during the wee hours of the night, just as I’m about to go to sleep. Follow my basketball geekiness for a bit, okay? Honestly, we just couldn’t buy a bucket. Our defense was great. We blocked out. Yes, we turned the ball over one too many times, the result of bad decisions. Yes, it took us a while before we settled into the game. And yes, there’s always things to poke and pick at about what adjustments we could make to be more successful. But when it comes down to it, we just couldn’t get the ball to go through the hoop. I can write these facts down, reread it, process it, and be somewhat satisfied. But I can also hear myself yelling at me to make good and better decisions.

          I’ve coached a certain way up to this point, emphasizing certain concepts. I ask my team to do the little things, to do them damn well, and to measure our success by the execution of those things. What kind of a coach would I be, telling my kids the things that I do, if I don’t believe that myself. I did believe in those things and I still do, but it’s funny how coaching this specific group of girls has made me believe it even more. Through the course of the game, I was pretty hard on them tonight. I screamed at them, wore my angry face, and was not consistently the model of positivity and appropriate intensity that I would like to be. My prayer before the game was to carry myself in such a way that honors God, whether we’re winning or losing. I came up short tonight, but even now, as I’m typing, I just love for my team. I smile when I think of them, my kids who have made these tough times more bearable.

          We have a very clear identity. My team is not what the casual basketball fan would call naturally talented. We’re not tall. We’re not particularly fast or quick. Every player on my team knows this because I’ve told them that verbatim. I’m so mean, right? But that’s exactly why I like them so much. They work hard and they do the little things well, because they understand that we have to do the things that other teams usually don’t to be successful. We play probability basketball which is code for “we play a brand of basketball that only loved ones can enjoy watching” if you catch my drift. All teams go by the mantra of we are the sum of all our parts, but I’ll bet you that that’s truer of my team than yours or a majority of the ones out there. I’ve asked them to leave all the glory they could possibly receive to work toward the highest possible offensive outcome and to force our opponents into the lowest possible offensive outcome. It doesn’t matter who goes in, they all do it. Do they make mistakes along the way? Of course! But they make all right mistakes, the kind that they can and do learn from.

          Even more so, I’m convinced that every one of my kids is a fabulous person. Last year’s team was pretty problem, drama-free, but that pales in comparison to this year’s. They love each other and truly enjoy the company of their teammates. There’s no griping about playing time, only cheers and encouragement. When someone messes up, a teammate explains what happens. I can see how comfortable each of my kids is when they’re around each other. Their quirks and awkwardness is on FULL blast in the team’s presence because there’s trust, the unguarded, fully-accepting kind. They know each others’ strengths and weaknesses, openly discussing both. How rare is that? Amazingly of all, they follow the beat of my awkward drum without hesitation.

          I have the privilege of getting to work with a team like that everyday. They’ve willingly exposed their hearts and personalities to me. Their eyes swelled when they saw their coach attempt to stay strong when breaking the news that my mom had passed away. They let me know when this or that person has a new boyfriend or love interest. They laugh with me, even when my jokes can be borderline terrible. They accept me for me and I for them. It’s no wonder that they’ve been the source of my longest post to date. There’s nothing to see here. No pride. No drama. No beating around the bush. Just us, me and my kids.

How to Love

          In a little more than an hour, I will be attending Mom’s cremation service. I’ve never read a manual on how all these post-death rituals go, so I don’t really know how I’m supposed to dress, how I’m supposed to act, or what we’re supposed to do. I have this idea that those things are somehow connected to how I’m supposed to love Mom going forward. I took a class called “Death and Dying” in college. I know we went over the different stages of grief and I remember liking the class. What I also remember is that I only attempted to retain the information I needed to write my required papers and pass the exams. I could probably look it up online? Yeah, right. To be honest, I’m a little excited about what the button looks like. You know, the button that Dad probably gets to push that initiates the conveyor belt and incinerator. Part of me hopes that it’s a sizable red button with a glass encasing that Dad needs to flip open to press it. Part of me is also obligatorily disgusted with myself for even having these thoughts. Am I allowed to be excited or see humor in any of this? How do I love Mom in this situation?

          Mom wrote emails to all her friends and family since the first cancer diagnosis until the very end. I started writing at the beginning of the end, when we found out that the cancer had spread to her brain. I do feel that writing is one of her legacies that she left to me, so here’s me trying to carry it out. What’s nice about my newfound urge to write is that it helps me process my thoughts better. And after packing that weighty paragraph under my belt, God has given me some peace and reminded me of what will be forever important: my identity. Amazingly, my parents have raised me all along with identity in mind.

          My mommy was my biggest fan. She was proud of her daughter who never stopped being a tomboy yet a crybaby. She came to almost every basketball game that I played. She was a total proponent of me quitting my job to chase my basketball dreams. It didn’t bother her that I’m not the politest of people or that I have the social grace of a turnip. She valued my sometimes tunnel-visioned-point-A-to-point-B mentality and the quality of care I try to give others. Most importantly, she was happiest about my ever-growing walk and anchoring in Christ. I can say all these things without blinking or proofreading because she’s told me all of this. How many people get to say that? I’m so blessed, probably more blessed than you, no contest.

          I could wear basketball shorts if I wanted to, but don’t worry, I won’t. I can laugh or show excitement in anticipation of the big, red button if that’s what happens. (I do have a feeling that the button will fall short of my expectations, but we’ll see.) And I will do or say whatever feels natural when I’m standing in the crematory with my family. I might cry, but I don’t have to. The way I can most honor Mom is to be the person she raised me to be and to keep going the way of the cross. I know how to love.

The Storm is Over

          On December 17, 2011 at 9:45am, Mom finished the race and joined Jesus in heaven. What’s it like, Mom? I had mini pizzas and quiche for lunch, nothing to scoff at, but I’m sure you’re having better.

          Mom went away peacefully. Her last request was simply to have everyone leave the room except for Ivan and I. After everyone left, she asked us just to talk to her and to each other in her hearing. She was loving us to the very end. When I saw that she was probably starting to go, I quickly brought everyone else back in: Dad, Ivan, Popo, Mom’s little brother, my auntie and uncle, and a few of her friends. We let her know how much we loved her, and asked Jesus to come and take her home. After she breathed her last, we remained in the room and shared stories and fond memories to celebrate Mom the champion.

          There was a lot of crying, some laughing, sad smiles, dripping snot, and hugs as we banded together around Mom. We even took some pictures. I’m not sure how these things usually go, but the way we did it seemed to suit us. I love Mom and I’m so glad that she was able to leave all her pain and burdens behind. I’m also so devastated and emotional, capable of crumbling at any second. My full, oversaturated heart is broken, but I still know that I am loved, cared for, and protected.

          This is new territory for me. I can’t even write cohesively, but I still feel like doing it. Thanks for bearing with me. I’m not exactly sure where to go from here. I will move forward, the precise direction unclear. All my questions will be answered through living life and walking alongside my heavenly Father. If you ask me how I’m doing, you’ll probably receive a generic, token answer because it changes from moment to moment. “It definitely sucks, but I’m alright.” That’s the truth, as unsatisfactory as it may be to you. If you’re one of my basketball players, please don’t tell your parents yet. I have a game to coach tonight and I don’t want to lose myself before it. Yes, my mom just died. Yes, I’m sad. Yes, my heart is heavy. But YES, I’m anchored in Christ. I will always be at least okay.

          Now that the water’s calm, I can look out my window and see that it’s gorgeous outside. I intend to enjoy it. This storm is over.