We've told many people our wonderful story of God's provision to get our whole family to Saipan following my Mom's death after her battle with breast cancer. Everything about this story is nothing short of amazing: it is full of miracles. [featured-image single_newwindow="false"]January 2012. Tim took this picture at the airport of Mom and me having a final laugh before crying as she departed Guam. She flew over to help us.[/featured-image]
Before I begin, though, I want to preface this story by saying that my mother, Anicia Tomokane, and I had an amazing relationship. Besides my husband, she was my best friend and confidant. It's important that you get to know her a bit. Knowing who she was and a bit about my relationship with her makes this story of God's wonderful provision that much sweeter.
She Taught Me About Hard Work
Mom was very positive and extremely supportive in so many of my endeavors. On Saipan, she was a celebrity and was a high profile career woman who ran for political office several times. She was well-respected by the local government officials in the CNMI and in Guam. Once, she was flown to the island of Guam to receive a special award just for women for her achievements as being the first appointmented woman by the Governor to run the Women's Affairs Office in Saipan.
When she was appointed by the Governor to be the Managing Director of the Marianas Visitors Bureau, she was not only paid very well but also had the privilege to visit various countries and surrounding islands several times a month. This job kept her very busy, though. She would even get foreign phone calls in the middle of the night --- her job never seemed to end.
Mom was so extremely busy that she attempted to have some quality time with me by sometimes asking me to come with her to her business meetings. We didn't actually get to talk much so I spent many hours just sitting around while doing my college prep homework, but I'm so thankful that she tried. She made up for it to my five siblings and me during the weekends when she wasn't gone for business. We would usually get together with members of our extended family and spend full days together at the beach on the weekends.
After I completed my youngster (sophomore) year and didn't want to become a Naval officer anymore, she and Dad supported me and welcomed me back home with loving open arms. They weren't embarrassed that only a year prior the island had paraded me during the July 4th festivities and wrote many newspaper articles about my being a midshipman. My parents loved and supported me and that meant the world to me.
She Taught Me About Praise
When I came back to Saipan from the Naval Academy, I taught for two years at the Baptist missionary college prep school I had graduated from 3 years prior. In 2002, I married my Sweetheart, Tim White, a Naval Academy graduate and soon-to-be Navy pilot.
Tim and I had discussed both of our desires of me being a homemaker and homeschooling mother if the Lord blessed us with children. We discussed these things along with many other details during our courtship.
Some people thought I was throwing my "life" away when they found out I was going to be a homemaker. Some professing Christians unembarassingly told me that I was wasting my talent staying at home and homeschooling. I couldn't believe how much opposition I had, but it didn't matter to me. My husband and I had studied Scripture and were happy with me fulfilling those roles as unto the Lord.
She Taught Me About Encouragement
And guess who else was my biggest fan in being a homemaker and homeschooling mommy? My own dear, famous career-woman mommy.
She always found a way to praise the vast things I would do as a mommy and homemaker. Mom would tell me almost on a daily basis how she wished more women would stay at home with their children and homeschool them if possible.
Without me prompting her, she seemed to find many great reasons why being a homemaker was a great blessing. She found all kinds of ways to praise Tim and me for homeschooling our children -- from their great behavior, abilities to use tools that were seemingly too complex for children their age, or numerous other things we do as a family.
Whenever I called her she would greet me like she won a grand prize and belt out a hearty, "Hello my precious, beautiful, first-born daughter!!" I loved it even though I would gush in embarassment. It felt so good to be so loved that way.
If more than two days would go by without a phone call from me, she would wonder if everything was okay on our end. We spoke to each other that often.
She Taught Me About Loving Others
Mom wasn’t your ordinary mother. She was so full of love that it seemed like love radiated out of her fingertips. She loved enough to be even willing to give a little “tough love” when needed. She could be direct and firm with others in a gentle way to impart knowledge, but overall she tried to speak with great love and grace.
An example I like to give is that when Mom would come across a young lady who was cursing, she would softly bring her finger to that young lady’s lips, smile, and say with a sweet, hushed tone, “You are much too beautiful to say words like that.”
She Taught Me About Generousity
Growing up, when we would barbecue food or cook outside on the grill in preparation for an outside big family party, Mom would gather a plate of party food and deliver it to the neighbors before the party started. Then she would tell them that they were welcome to come and get more food and join us if they’d like.
When I was married and Tim was deployed Mom would help me grill outside or cook food for a normal dinner we had in Guam. Since we lived on base housing the houses were all so close together. Mom would look at how much meat we were grilling, stress out at the numbers, and wondered if we had enough to feed all the neighbors.
“It’s okay Mom,” I would assure her. "They don’t all expect to be fed.”
“But won’t they go hungry smelling all this barbecue?”
“They’re used to it. They know we have to cook our food and they grill all the time too. Really it’s okay.”
She would try to share some food with some of the neighbors anyway just as we loved to do and we were glad to do it. That was my parents’ generous nature especially when it came to food they cooked.
Once when Dad was cooking for us on base I was very pregnant and Tim was deployed. He cooked fried rice so early in the morning before I was even awake.
In fact it was so early that when I woke up he told me he made a plate of hot fried rice and delivered it to one of my neighbor friends around six that morning. I was shocked! I knew for a fact that that lady wasn’t a morning person.
She Taught Me About Courage
My mom, Anicia Tomokane, had been battling cancer for over a year before we knew about it. By the time she announced it to the family in January 2013 and wanted to get checked, it had progressed to an advanced stage of breast cancer.
Mom had a tiny lump under her arm near her chest and ignored the pain. She disregarded the lump so much for most of 2012 that none of us grown children knew what she had been dealing with until a year later. Then it got worse.
I remember when I received the news that Mom was in the Saipan hospital. I received the news in Florida that the doctors highly suspected advanced breast cancer. Getting that type of news about your sweet mom is indescribable. I didn't know what to think.
To some of our family members, it was like getting a death sentence. We cried and comforted one another. We prayed and wanted to know what we could do in our limited circumstances. One thing is for certain -— we all wanted Mom to get better.
The doctors planned to complete a series of tests and necessary routine checks to determine if it was truly cancer. Almost all the physicians in Saipan and the Philippines who saw her cancer area said that it looked like advanced breast cancer. I was devastated.
Mom tried to treat herself naturally, change her diet whenever she could, or rely on powerful pain killers. She admitted to me that it was a struggle for her to break away from unhealthy eating habits that she had always indulged in. We encouraged and praised her for doing her best and told her that, above all, we were praying for her.
So many people were praying for Mom and she appreciated it very much! She was a woman of prayer especially since became a born-again Christian sometime after 2002.
Mom did her best to get better: she tried to take as many helpful supplements, eat as much good foods for her, and applied different topical things to draw out the toxins or relieve her pain.
Sometimes she would feel better and was free of pain and other times her pain was unbearable. It was a viscious cycle.
In 2013 Mom had flown to the Philippines twice for cancer treatment. Between Saipan and the Philippines she had numerous chemo and radiation treatments. Frances my younger sister escorted her both times because Dad could not leave Saipan due to work. He had a contract with Title 1 tutoring with the CNMI Public School System.
She lost her hair, her strength, her voice. What gave us hope was that she didn't lose her appetite. That surprised her nurses as well.
People said that she looked better -- younger even. She wrote down in her diary when she didn't need pain medicine but those days were rare.
Most nights she couldn't sleep well. She would moan in pain, and Dad had to massage her to assist her in any way so that she could get some rest. Dad would still wake up early to work but lacked good sleep. He was constantly waking up every couple of hours and helping Mom anyway he could. This went on for many months.
She Taught Me About Committment
When Mom was in the Philippines this past December for radiation treatments, her doctor decided to cut her treatment short. She was scheduled for 33 sessions of radiation but received twenty-two. He said she could go home now to Saipan. Mom was expecting to be there at least for another month according to their original treatment plan.
Her doctor told her that it was not necessary. She asked him, "Doctor, are you saying there's nothing more you can do for me?" He told her there wasn't.
We didn't know how to take the news. She felt determined not to give up, and we were determined to support her as best we could. We continued to try to cheer her up, send her anything she needed, help her laugh sometimes, and let her know how much we loved her.
You can read the continuation of this story here.
[reminder]How about you? How is your relationship with your parent(s)? How has your relationship with your parent(s) affected the way you interact with your children?[/reminder]