On the same day of The Great Hurt, we also got The Bad News. My mother-in-law, who had not been feeling well for a while, found out there was a possibility of cancer. One week later, she found out the The Worse News: lung cancer, inoperable, aggressive. She started her chemo THAT DAY. Her prognosis from here on out will depend on her body’s response to the chemo, but she was told that, had it had been left untreated, she would have been dead in two months.
Now, let me tell you a little about my mother-in-law. (Who, from here on out, I will refer to as Gigi, which is her “grandmother name.” “Mother-in-law” sounds way too stuffy for her!) Obviously, she raised an amazing son, but there’s even more to her than that. I met her when I was 14, so, although I may not have known her all my life, when I did meet her, I still had braces. ‘Nuff said.
When I was an awkward 14 year old trying to find a place in life, Gigi accepted me without any questions. It didn’t bother her that I was a minister’s daughter. (I think a lot of my friends’ parents were…delicate…around me because of that.) I was in a strange place in life; I had just been dumped by the boy I was sure I would marry (with typical 14 year old angst), and I was coming out of a stage of spiritual rebellion. I was looking for something solid; I needed a home away from home. As far as Gigi was concerned, I had been a part of her family for years.
When it became obvious that Josh and I were interested in each other, Gigi didn’t chase me away because she was concerned about her reputation. (Remember, he’s 6 years older, and I’m a minister’s daughter. Yikes!)
When I was in a car accident at 16, she was at the hospital within minutes.
When my parents were out of town when I was sick, she sent Josh to stay at my house and kept me at hers to take care of me.
Shortly before we got married, she sent me a note that said, “My son has truly found his soul mate.” I may not be able to find the card (the struggle is real,) but I will never forget that.
I personally feel like she has been one of my biggest cheerleaders. When I do something crazy, like start a photography business or start homeschooling my children, she’s right there cheering me on and giving me free workbooks.
She is an amazing grandmother. Even though she has a ton of responsibility (more on that in a minute,) she is ALWAYS there for our children.
But she’s even more than THAT. Nine years ago, she found out that her nephew’s 3 daughters had been placed in foster care. At the time they were 4, 3, and 18 months old. It broke her heart to think that they were separated from each other and the rest of the family. So, with my father-in-law’s blessing, she began the process of fostering to adopt all 3 girls.
A year later, the girls had another biological sister who was immediately removed from their bio mom because of drugs in her bloodstream. Without hesitation, she was made a part of the family.
I have the privilege of knowing a small handful of people who have adopted 4+ kids. They are all very different from each other, but one thread they all have in common? THEY ARE INCREDIBLE.
But Gigi’s even more than THAT. Three years ago, her youngest daughter, Harlie, was terribly ill. Since then, she has been in and out of the hospital numerous times. She has gone from “never walking again” to running, she has gone from “never eating again” to not needing TPN feedings anymore. Gigi has been with her every step of the way. She has hooked her up to her feedings and maintained her physical health EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. There has been a lot of screaming and tears and infections and medicines and a WHOLE lot of vomit, but Gigi is in this journey with Harlie, and she’s in it to win it.
But even though she’s used to hospitals, she’s not used to being the patient. And I know that it’s hard for her to be on the receiving end of care.
So what do I do with this blog with all this going on? I have been thinking about it for a while. I finally came to this conclusion: I’m going to keep blogging as normal. Why? Because I get the impression that Gigi likes the blog. And she’s got more time on her hands than usual to do some reading. Do I want my readers to pray for her? ABSOLUTELY. And I’ll drop a reminder of that from time-to-time. But I’m not going to make everything all doom-and-gloom all the time because, frankly, that would make for some TERRIBLE hospital reading!
SO, to start off with, I’d like to show some pictures from Mother’s Day, the day before The Bad News Day. We dedicated Arrow that day, and our families came over for lunch afterwards. Gigi was not feeling well so I didn’t pester her to come into the heat for pictures, but I still managed to get some family photos that I think she will appreciate:
All the kids that day. (Obviously, the word “kid” used loosely!) I’m sure Gigi would agree that the Harrells are truly a part of the family!
My apologies about Egan’s posing. He’s going through a phase. I tried to get him to do a normal pose again.
I also feel like we need a moment of silence in honor of this get-up.
Josh’s tie was so long on him, the back of it doubled as a belt.
Gigi’s “kids,” in-laws included. (There will be one more next year!) I am so honored to be a part of this bunch! (Also, let it be noted that I’m an only child, so I knew the only siblings I would get would come through marriage. Do you see what I did there?)
Josh’s sister Heather and her hubby Jeremy, who have worked hard the past 3 weeks to help Gigi out with this transition!
Josh’s sister Kristy and her son, Xander. Yep, this Xander.
Grandbaby #6 on the way!!!
And I saved the best for last…
This is very-quite-possibly the first time I have taken a picture of all of Gigi’s children in one group without other friends/family in the shot. **insert heavenly angels singing here**
SO, all that goes to say: We love you, Gigi! We’re praying for you! Thank you for being our biggest cheerleader; now it’s our turn to cheer for you!