The last time I blogged was in August of this year. I shared some of the struggles I had faced the spring before and how the summer of 2023 was my shortest summer break ever. I talked about how I had worked on a few small house projects over my four week break and had just taken life a little more slowly than other summers. On August 1st, I jumped back into work, excited for the 2023-2024 school year.
August and September went well. We had new leadership in Central Office, a few new team members in my department, and some focused strategic growth-planning. It was shaping up to be a great first quarter.
And then came October.
On the morning of Monday, October 2nd, I was standing at my computer typing a report when I got a casual text message from my mom, "I'm gonna run up to the ER at KU Med."
Mom had been having some significant back pain for a few weeks and had pushed through the pain for a little while to get through September. We were just coming off of Homecoming week and basketball wasn't starting yet, so she felt like it might be a good time to go try to figure out what was going on with her. Little did we know that this trip to the Emergency Room would change our lives forever.
Mom was admitted to the hospital that night and in a whirlwind two weeks, had several tests and procedures done to finally reveal that she was facing Stage 4 Neuroendocrine cancer throughout her body. They sent her home with hospice on Wednesday, October 18th, and on Friday, October 20th, she went to be with Jesus.
Over the course of 18 days, we went from thinking she had a kidney stone or something similar, to planning a Celebration of Life for our amazing wife, Mom, and Grams.
It has now been just over two months since we lost Mom.
We have heard stories of her love and generosity from so many people.
We have created a hashtag in her honor to share these stories with others: #thankyoujeaniestephens.
We completed a (hilarious) bucket list of items that Mom had created for us to do, following her passing.
We have navigated a wonderful visitation and funeral with over 800 people in attendance. I will share more about her service in a future blog post. I don't think I've processed it fully yet.
We have gained another daughter, who will be with us until May (thanks to Mom's dream of hosting an exchange student).
We made it through Thanksgiving, leaning into the memories, the love of family, and the comfort of Jesus.
And this week, we celebrated our first Christmas without her here. We used paper goods from her house, handed out the stocking stuffers to the grandkids that she had already purchased (#thankyoujeaniestephens), and shared memories through the entire evening.
I know she would have been proud.
In Philippians 4, the Apostle Paul says that there is a "peace that passes understanding". I have always heard this phrase and believed it to be true.
But over this last two months, I have felt it in a way that is truly indescribable. Losing my mom has changed me to the core, and yet -- the Lord has sustained me day in and day out, wrapping His arms around me and giving me hope for the future.
God is still good, friends. He is still here and He is still good.