• Holly Tomlin

Cancer... from a sister's perspective


"Sisters, sisters...there were never such devoted sisters..." There is a running joke in our family every Christmas since Holly and I have been married.  Our husbands, wonderful in so many ways, do not share our appreciation and love for musicals, especially our family favorite and tradition, "White Christmas."  Daron and Cory pretty much killed this tradition the first year we all celebrated together....SMILE. I, however, can close my eyes, and suddenly I am around 10, Holly is 5, and we are gathered in our living room on 1504 S. Martin, dancing with plume feathers (thank you 1980's decor) and singing our hearts out to the song "Sisters."  I know we sounded every bit as good as Rosemary Clooney and the skinny beautiful sister whose name I never remember.  This is one of my most precious memories of my sister. July 9, 2015 holds a different kind of memory.  Around 9:30 in the morning, I heard my phone ring and saw "Momma" on the caller ID.  Now, my Momma and I talk at least once a day, but when I saw her name, a funny feeling came over me.  It is rare that we talk at 9:30 in the morning.  That phone call changed so much.  It was a quick, spoken through tears conversation of which I do not recall a lot, except, "it is cancer.  We are headed to meet with the oncologist." And click.  I was shaking.  I texted my Daron.  I prayed.  I pulled it together because in the next room, my three children were beginning their day, and until I knew details, this was not something to share.  Also, the very next day, at 8:00 in the morning, I had an interview for a teaching position.  In these moments, I called on the Lord, my rock and my strength, and He met me there.  His peace completely wrapped around me and calmed my anxious thoughts.  I prayed and called on my prayer warriors.  Proverbs 26:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”  ‭‭How true this is, and how thankful I am.   Evening came, and my sister posted her honest, open, real, and beautiful blog post with her news.  I cried as I read it.  I cried as she shared each detail, all the while bringing glory to the Lord.  I remember crying the hardest when she shared she would not be able to work with her "heart babies."  I know this hit me hard because as I was preparing to possibly return to teaching, my calling and gifting from the Lord, she was mourning a leave of absence from her calling, from her families and little ones that she loves so well and serves with the love of Jesus.  She is amazing.  It is beautiful.  And reading this only sparked my passion to serve the Lord even more.  (I will add, I did in fact interview the next day, and I am now teaching first grade.  Smile!) The next few weeks that followed, and even still, I witnessed the beauty of the Body of Christ in action.  I will always be thankful for Aly Pray and her sacrifice and service, her love and friendship to my sister.  She is humble and would not want any recognition, but she stepped into quick action, organizing and meeting the needs of Holly and her family, and with countless other ladies, poured out love and service, from gift cards, meals, childcare, housecleaning, words of encouragement, prayers.... The night before Holly's PET scan, we attend a prayer gathering and worship time with a ROOM full of precious women.  It was the most beautiful time.  The presence of the Lord filled the room.  Absolutely beautiful.  Absolutely ministering to Holly and each lady in attendance.  Many tears, but we ended the night praising God through worship, singing "Great Are You, Lord." The next morning, I drove Holly, almost in silence, to her PET scan.  Reality hit walking in to Texas Oncology.  The two or so hours Cory and I sat in the waiting room was forever long.  And then the wait for results.  "Be still and know that I am God...." It is hard to wait.  I love another translation of this verse that says it clearly, "Stop striving."  Yes.  Seriously.  The Lord goes before us.  As I taught our 5th and 6th graders this week in Sunday School, His character, of which I am daily learning more, reveals He is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent.  The Lord has gone before Holly, before me, before each of us in this situation.  See, Holly had prayed an "anything" prayer, saying, "Lord, You can have anything.  Show me anything I am placing as more important than You."  This summer, I led a small group of ladies in Bible study, which was "Anything" by Jennie Allen.  Each week, as I studied and prayed and led and discussed, I saw the Lord at work in our lives.  No doubt He had gone before us.  He walks along side us each day.  He has certainly carried Holly through her suffering.  It has no doubt been hard.  It's hard to read a text saying "my hair is falling out in clumps."  How do you respond to that when it is your loved one, how do you respond to anyone in that moment?  How many times have I fixed Holly's hair?  Before softball games.  Before dance, homecoming, prom...for her wedding.  All I could say is, "it's hard.  I know.  I am so sorry."  My mom said it best, as only a mom can.  "The first time we saw you, you didn't have a hair on your head.  We loved you then and love you still."   Over the past few years, I have seen a change in my sister from the inside out.  She has always been beautiful.  However,  as she has grown in her love relationship with Jesus, her beauty is remarkable.  She is becoming more like Jesus.  She is living surrendered to Him.  She is walking through trials and being refined.  He is making beauty from ashes.  I was seeing this in her life.   At the end of the book "Anything," Jennie Allen writes,   "As if he were letting us in on the secret, Jesus whispered back to his father,         This will all be worth it.  Wait till they are with us and see our glory. Just         wait till all of this work and suffering and pouring out is over and we are in         heaven together forever.  Just wait. A day is coming when our eyes         will close and there will be no more chaos.  No one will be preaching or        writing books about God to help us remember, because we will be alive         in that world with him forever.  Anything is nothing in light of that.         In light of forever. In light of him." Right now, the suffering is real, it is hard, and it is not always pretty.  However, it is worth it.  I believe this is true: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” ‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:16-18‬ ‭ Beauty from ashes.  The eternal weight of glory.  Looking to the things that are unseen.  All of this for One.  The One who is Hope, Love, Grace, Life.  We fix our eyes on Jesus.  He is worth it.  He is enough.  This is all for You, Jesus.  Nothing is wasted.   Holly's story is being written by the One who created heaven and earth, the One who holds the future in His hands, knows the name of every star, the number of hairs on our heads.  Yes....I praise Him for the story He is writing in her life.  All glory to Him.   This weekend, my little family and I were able to spend time with Holly and her family.  It was a fun, relaxing, filled with laughter time.  It was just what I needed, and I am thankful.  I love my sister and her family dearly. My encouragement to anyone in my shoes, the loved one of a person diagnosed with cancer, is to love them well.  Be a listening ear.  Be supportive, encouraging, available.  Be real.  Be prayerful.  Cry and laugh.  Make memories.  But most importantly, point them to Jesus.   He is real.  He is coming.  We live in a world in desperate need of Him.  Let's share Him and reach the hurt, weary, lost around us. written by Amy Fraim

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