Monday, September 8, 2008

Brave and Strong

Many people have told us how brave and strong we have been as parents during this whole journey with Joseph. Thank you for that compliment, but I have to tell you that Joseph made us want to be brave and strong. We were not in denial; we knew our time was short and we wanted to make lots of happy and fun memories for him (and for us). He did not know his time on earth was short but he certainly loved life and didn't see any reason to not have fun all the that really helped us. I also felt this important responsibility and focus, and nothing else mattered in the world.

I have to confess something to you. I have not always seen the role of "mother" as the most wonderful, important and sacred role that I do now. When I first had Joseph I really struggled with being bored and wondering if I was even contributing anything to the world by taking care of him. I missed seeing other adults every day and getting compliments on my work if I did it well. If I changed 10 diapers in one day and managed to do some laundry and cook dinner, I really felt proud, but it felt like "invisible" work because I felt like it only helped me and my small family.

Then when we added Holly to our family I mostly felt completely exhausted and overwhelmed all the time, trying to allow Joseph to expend energy while also letting my newborn sleep as much as she needed to during the day (which was usually 3 naps). It felt like an impossible job compounded by the fact that Allen was working insanely long hours during his last year of medical school. We did have fun, but I felt like my life was a never-ending cycle of playground-hopping/putting-kids-to-bed/collapsing on the couch at the end of the day. There was no such thing as "me" time, something I desperately needed. In fact, right before Joseph was diagnosed I didn't think I could do it for one more day. Ironic, huh?

When Joseph had that first MRI and the doctor said those fateful words, "There is a fairly big mass inside his head, and it's probably cancer," my world came crashing down in so many ways. I felt disbelief that my healthy and rambunctious boy could have something that deadly inside him, guilt that I had been so complaining on the inside over how hard life seemed, and just incredible pain and fear about the future. What about Allen's residency? Could I do this on my own? What do we do from here?

The months that ensued are the months you have read about on this blog--lots of family time, support, help, joy in the little things, and just happiness that we had another day together. So, in some ways, Joseph getting cancer was the best thing that ever happened for our family. We realized how special we all were to each other and got to spend every waking minute all together. Would I have ever have chosen this road for Joseph? Absolutely not. Do I want Joseph back in our family right now? Yes.

But one of the things I am more certain of now is that every child, every person is of grave importance to God. Those diapers you change, the meals you make, the hugs you give, even the bathrooms you scrub are all seen and recorded and valued by God. Jesus says, " 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' There are no "invisible" jobs. Everything you do matters, whether anyone sees it or not. Being a mother is a worthy job, not because it's "rewarding" or "fun," but because you are molding little hearts and minds and teaching them about God and the world he has made. And, it is not a job for the weak. If you are a mother, you are a strong, brave, hard-working, and inspiring person. You have to be to endure the terrible twos, tantrums, attitudes, spills, falls, messes, and many failures as a parent. So, if you know a mommy, give her a hug, buy her a cup of coffee, send her an encouraging note to tell her how amazing and wonderful she is.


Anonymous said...

Great post Gillian - it totally goes along with my prayers today, my quiet time, and the sermon I heard this weekend. I constantly have to remind myself that I am called to this at this point. Changing diapers, etc :) IS a calling.

I marvel at the calling you all have had over the last few months and the influence you still have. We are still thinking of you and praying for you regularly. May God bless your precious family with rest, love, and peace. Easier prayed than done I imagine. I don't know you, but I sure love you sister!

carolyn page said...


Thanks for your words of encouragement and not being afraid to show your humanity. This is a time where you could very well not write, but you are choosing to express yourself to all these hundreds of people who look at your blog. You are a city on a hill that is not hidden. You are a light on a stand that is giving light to everyone in the house. God is being glorified and it is a beautiful thing. I'm welcoming the days of motherhood so much more because of your stories. Continuing to pray for you, Allen, and Holly.

Love ya,

Sam said...

Once again encouraged at how God uses your words to bring the Gospel in to our lives! I was just talking with sj this morning about how much I miss big bad Joe, which makes it even better to hear words from a great mommy and sister. Thank you


Nana said...

Gillo I am sending you a bear hug from Old Mommy bear.I want to affirm you and the role you played as "Mommy" for the past 4 years and two and a half weeks.The world tells us we can do it all have the job the "Nanny" and the kids when we get home from work at 6pm. or 7pm.But the truth is we cannot have it all.The most important role we can play is the role of" Mommy bear" oh how I loved it when Joeseph called you "Mommy Bear"Its because you were Mommy bear day and night 24 /7.Joe P. and Holly were and are blessed to have known that.You knew every little thing about Joseph all his little mannerisms his sense of humor,His sad times his happy times you knew when he was sick or when he was teething you knew when he was up to mischief..because you were with him all the time.You didnt have all the luxuries others had but you had that time which now you know was the most precious thing any of us can give each other.There is a saying that says "You know how much someone values something or somebody by the amount of time they spend with them or the thing.I hope that makes sense.Joe P. was so blessed to have been your baby.You loved him well.I dont want anyone who reads this to feel bad if they work outside the home.I know so many mos have to.Our children are only on loan to us as my mom used to say and she also taught me that we make memories every day so try to make them good ones.I love you sweet child of mine and I love Allen too.Thank you Allen for being home with Joe P. and Gillo and Holly for the past 9 months You are a great Daddy Bear too."This is the day the Lord has made let us rejoice and be glad in it"

UKNat said...

Thank you for those much needed and perfect words. Natalie

The Anderson Zoo said...

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR ENCOURAGEMENT TODAY. We do not know each other but I stumbled across your blog and have been praying for you and your sweet family.

I have been struggling with those questions you were asking yourself. I am a stay at home mom with four precious gifts and sometimes I wonder if I am making a difference in the world.

Thank you for your words. It helped me changed my perspective.

We have such a blessed calling.

MaMa of 4

trmills said...

You just made me cry. I'm tired (and big) and needed to hear all of that. Thank you, friend.

suzanne morris said...

I may be older than you and further along in the "mothering" process, but you (and Allen) are heroes to me. I have learned so much from what you have said and how you have lived. Thank you for being so real, so transparent, so articulate, so faithful. I love you guys and miss your whole family.

Anonymous said...

Gillian, I have been thinking of you so much lately. Your last post-before this one was so wonderful- so beautifully expressed. And this one will mean so much to sooo many people, I am sure. Your honesty is amazing amd so refreshing. You are so right about motherthood--it is truly a gift from God. None of us ever know what the next day will bring with our children. Your time with Joseph was so special in that you were able to lavish upon him all of your time, love and devotion. What a gift and what incredible memories you have to cherish for a lifetime. You have blessed so many people with your writings and I always can't wait to read your blog!! I know that a book/books will be in your future!!!:}
I hope you are doing well-- I continue to pray for you.
Ann Lewis

Anonymous said...

Can I read this to our MOPS group this week? You are such a blessing, Gill! Love you!

Sarah-Jane said...

I love you Gillian!

Sarah Partain said...

Great thoughts. Thanks for those words. I find myself in the same boat many days and am glad to know I'm not the only one! And I think that b/c of Joseph and your journey with him, my recent days have been sweeter--I've tried to give and enjoy more hugs and remember that I am doing the work God made me to do!

Randi said...

Sending you a cup of coffee. Everytime I get my french vanilla now from Dunkin' Donuts, I'll definitely be thinking about Joseph over my cup of Joe.
Thanl you again for the wonderful post. Everytime I go to bed after reading Joseph's blog, I always leave feeling spiritually encouraged. Thank you.
Motherhood is sacred and so are children's hugs; we are always praying for your beautiful family.

Lynn T said...

Gill and Allen, thinking of you both tonight. Gill, what you wrote is amazing and so encouraging.
Love you and miss you. Sleep well, Lynn

Nikki said...

you don't know me personally, but I am on a team in Puerto Rico and the women that are a part of this team have been praying for your family. I have been continuing to read your blog, and as a mother of two small children I want to say thank you for your most recent post. It was such an encouragement to me. It is amazing to see the perspective that God has given you as you walk through this journey. Thank you faithful sister!

Anonymous said...

It's amazing to me how many people's lives have been changed through your little Joseph! As a mother, I want to thank you for speaking those words of encouragment to us all.
Carey Heid

Anonymous said...

You are amazing and wonderful...

tiffany said...

You truly are a strong woman -
every time I look at my little boy I think of you and lift you up in prayer.

Courtney said...

Thank you.

-Courtney S.

Anita J. said...

Gillian that was beautifully written. Thank you so much.

donnyandkim said...

Gillian...sometimes I feel conflicted, because I am growing so much as a result of reading your blog and a few others you have on the sidebar of Joseph's blog. Thank you for allowing God to use your pain to spur others on. You have encouraged me tonight...I will wake tomorrow to face a day of diapers and vegetable protests knowing the encouragement of another mom...thanks.

Allyson said...

Oh, I love it - how beautifully said.

I love seeing how you lived with every ounce of your being during the last 9 months. I know I e-mailed you before and mentioned how your sweet Joseph changed our lives – and it’s all in learning to enjoying the little things. What an example it has been for me! I've cut out the extras that have taken me away from my precious family and have learned to live joyfully and look forward to each day! For this IS the day the Lord hath made, I WILL rejoice and be glad in it!

We get so caught up in the day-to-day mundane stuff / always looking forward to the next great whatever, that we forget WE ARE LIVING. We need to enjoy and cherish the here and now.

I think about you guys all the time and pray for you each time you come to mind. I've borrowed a few great quotes from Allen and put on my site so that others will learn to live life to the fullest too.

Thank you for this great post! You just summed up what real living and true joy is.

Allyson Stephens

amberhess said...

I look so forward to your usual this one brought me to tears and my knees. I know so many have said this but by you sharing your very difficult reality is ministering to so many. All through these last few months the same picture of you holding Joseph that night SJ and I stopped in on our way home from the beach keeps coming to my mind. God is using that precious little life in so many others lives. Joseph's life has left a mark on so so many.
We are praying for your family.

Anonymous said...

Read the post, left my desk, went upstairs and played with my little boy. Laughed and made a memory. Thanks for the reminder. May God be with you, you are a gift.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your beautiful posts. I think it is so amazing that you can see the good that came out of the bad. That must be a really hard thing for most people to see & it is such a blessing that you have. I will continue to pray for your family, but you must know that you have been such a blessing to everyone who reads here! Thank you!

the morris gang said...

Thanks Gillian. Those are some sweet and healing words to my mama's heart this morning. I felt like this post was a hug from God...thanks for letting Him use you!
love, jennifer

Amy said...

Gillian, It is your honesty that has continually amazed me over the past months. Again, it is so appreciated. You lead so many to follow Christ by being a real person with real feelings. I remember those first few months home with my babies, taking a year off work and thinking that I was no longer doing anything important in the world. Now that they are teens I see these amazing young people who will change the world someday and I know all that time cleaning, changing diapers, etc... was time well spent. Your remind us that every day is a blessed gift even if it feels like it is spent with mundane chores. Thank you for that. I am praying for you today and for your precious family. I know you would have had all of this happen any other way but it is amazing to see how Joseph changed the world- I encounter it daily on this blog.

Anonymous said...

You are so amazing! You bring tears to my eyes, but raise me up to feel important and strong. I am a better mother to my children today because of you and this journey you have taken me on. The raw, honest feelings that you share are inspiring! I continue to think of little Joseph daily and pray for your family.

Karin Peabody

Amy said...

Thank you. I don't know you, but stumbled across your blog a while ago. I am a stay at home mom of three chidren ages 1 to 5. My husband is currently deployed to Afghanistan. He has been there for 7 1/2 months already. Some days I struggle with "just" being a Mom. Thanks for reminding me that it is the most important "job" I could be doing. I needed those words today. What an amazing gift God has given you. When we should all be encouraging you, you seem to encourage us. I can't imagine the road you have walked and continue to daily, but know your in our thoughts and prayers. Thanks again.
Amy in Clarksville, TN

The Stewards said...

It's amazing to me how God is enabling you to encourage other mothers while you are in the midst of such circumstances. You are truly a blessing. You continue to be in our prayers.

Christy said...

I love you, Gill. Have I mentioned that you're a great writer?

Jody (atlanta) said...

Love you Gillian. Your writing and honesty is soo appreciated. Thank you for taking the time to share with all of us.

I remember how you would struggle with still 'setting limits, disciplining' Joseph these past 9 months. I so admire your ability to be a fun loving parent while guiding them both into becoming loving, kind hearted, polite, emphatetic kids. Your and Allen's actions are proof of how seriously your take your role as parent and how honored you feel to be a parent.

I am glad you and Allen got to really cherish these last 9 months as a family. You both are role models to me daily to NOT sweat the small stuff and to keep your true priorities in check. There is no more important or gratifying 'job' than being parents and our children are only on loan from God so we need to soak up every minute and raise them well.

I am thinking of you, Allen, and Holly constantly.


Jaime said...

Much love to you, Gillian. Thank you for these words. You and your family are constantly in my mind and on my heart.

notes from em said...

how is that you are continuing to minister to those around you when all we want to do is minister and love you all?
God is truly gracious to all His children, and He is using you to be gracious and encouraging to us.
How mysterious are His ways.
We are still praying for you all daily.
love, love, love

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for that bit of encouragement and I am feeling "stuck" inside for day #2 of sick-child. Joseph and Holly are so lucky to have such an amazing woman for a mother.

Lindsey Harman

Jean Joiner said...

Thanks for that encouragement! You were such a great friend to me in all our outings with the kids. As much as your post and other things make me want to treasure my time with my's still so difficult sometimes. Thanks for writing. :)

Wright Family said...

What a beautiful post! Gillian, you are always such an encouragement to everyone else! We are still praying for you guys every day.

rebekah wright

Anonymous said...

I just read your story for the very first time and I am encouraged by your words, broken by your story and humbled at how God has given you strength and courage to write such precious words at a time when you are in such need and grieving beyond anything that I have ever experienced!! I will be praying for your family as you continue to walk or sometimes crawl through this empty season of your life. I am glad that you have Holly and a loving and supportive husband. You are a blessed woman Gillian b/c you have an incredible mother, too--at least from that e-mail that I just read. WOW!!
I know we have never met but, I just felt compelled to write. A sister in Christ.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for continuing to post. I look forward to reading. I continue to pray for your peace and comfort and am constantly amazed by your "bravery and strength".

Audrey said...

Gillian - wow, that second paragraph is TO THE 'T' exactly how I feel at times! I just told my husband about "being invisible" earlier.

Some good friends of ours once told me right when we had our oldest "Audrey, this IS your mission field". (not saying I can't go on mission trips) But, that this should be my focus.

Thank you so much, Gillian, for reminding me, and all of us, of that today. The Lord is speaking through you.

Audrey said...

I know I just posted, but I'm just sitting here in awe & tears how you would take the time to encourage all of us moms during your time of grieving. I cry because I feel those things you typed, those feelings of a mom. I, too, would pray that my boys would NEVER have to go through these things but as Ashley has said to us so many times in reflection of Joseph's story..."God truly is near to the broken hearted" and we're seeing that firsthand right here. He is near and you are encouraging US!!! AMAZED!!!

Michael and Jana said...

thank you so much for your encouraging words even in the midst of your own pain

Jana Kelley

heidi r weimer said...

I've stayed home for nearly a decade with my kids and have been itching to get out and do something in the world. (We also happen to need more income now since have adopted three more kids and are about to adopt three more.) But, I am THIS close to quitting my job. I love it, but I love my kids more.

I have been thinking about you guys and Joseph and how I would never regret quitting my job and relying on miracles to feed us, but I would always regret working outside of the home full-time right now, especially should something like cancer or death happen to one of my kids.

Thanks for writing. This post is far deeper (and far more refreshing) than the typical "Being a mom is the most noble job you can have!" speeches I so often hear. I am weary of those.

This, though, was real, authentic, and anything but superficial.

Alison Garrison said...

I came across your blog a few months ago. You are an inspiration to me. I am a mother of 4 children wanting to get back into our Catholic faith. I know I am a christian woman, but have left the church a few years back. I want God back into my life and my families. I had things happen that strayed me. You are a woman of faith and I want to be that too. You are an inspiration to me. I don:t know what I would do or think on losing one of my babies and going on. Actually, your little boy made my eyes open. He was so brave.. I feel in love with him reading about his braviorir (sp) All my love and prayers go out to you and your family.. You have made me a stronger person...

Love Through Christ


bella said...


You put motherhood in such great perspective. Your experience makes me want to cherish every moment with my children. "He gives and takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord"

Lissa said...

Your words speak to me (as a mother) so strongly. Thank you.

Siobhan said...


If you only knew how much you have taught me about being a mum - I'm new to it and you have helped me cherish every single second in a way that I simply would not have if you had not shared your journey these past months. Every day I pause a little longer, watch him a little closer and hold him a little tighter.

After Joe died there was one line you wrote "Now I realise I need him too". I know these words will stay with me always. I need my little boy almost more than he needs me. I feel blessed that I know this so early in his life.

Thank you

Siobhan said...


If you only knew how much you have taught me about being a mum - I'm new to it and you have helped me cherish every single second in a way that I simply would not have if you had not shared your journey these past months. Every day I pause a little longer, watch him a little closer and hold him a little tighter.

After Joe died there was one line you wrote "Now I realise I need him too". I know these words will stay with me always. I need my little boy almost more than he needs me. I feel blessed that I know this so early in his life.

Thank you

Margaret said...

Bravery=Honesty and you are one of the bravest people I know. It is tough to admit that we don't always give with a cheerful heart as God wants us to. It reminds me of how many times as a new mom I was so irritated that NO ONE tells you how hard it is!! They only tell you the sweet stuff- not the exhaustion (above all else), the stained clothes (yours, not theirs!)how your hair falls out because they take all of your nutrition. And how dependent you become on Starbucks! The sweet stuff does MORE than make up for it all but I prefer to go into things prepared- knowing the whole story. I vowed after that that I would always be honest with new moms about how tough it would be but it was still worth it. And the one pc of advice I give is to find other new moms bc no one can give you support like another new mom!! You were certainly my support. My rambling point is just to thank you for being honest and telling the whole story. It's easy to just talk about the sweet stuff, but it takes guts to be one of the few to tell it all.
Maybe there were days when you felt tired and stressed, but you still did everything for your children. Having watched you on good days and bad I can tell you that your children never knew the difference- they only feel your love and know that you are there.
You are the BEST, Gillian!

Anonymous said...

I just happened to check the blog to see if you had added anything and now I am all teary eyed. You are so right, there are no small jobs. Thank you for the reminder. I need it every day right before school lets out :-). I just prayed for you guys this morning.
Katy Tubesing

KCAimee said...

Incredibly inspiring words. Thank you.

Sandi and Dan said...

I guess I'm one of those "strangers" who has been following Joseph's journey from afar (I graduated from MSM with Allen). I am so sorry to hear of your loss and I pray that the pain in your heart will soften over time. Thank you for sharing Joseph's amazing life with all of us.

Your fellow mother, wife, and pediatrician, Sandi Cohan

Anonymous said...


I have no words to tell you what is in my heart right now. Just when I think there's nothing more you can do or say, here you are again.

You don't know me but I have followed your life for the last year. I work with Matt T.

My Sunday School class has prayed for your family and especially Joseph. I know that the God who created the universe and knows the very number of hairs on our heads does nothing by chance. Why Joseph? I don't know. I do know that Joseph (and his parents) have touched more people during this past year than most of us will in a lifetime. What a wonderful testimony the two of you have. Were we worth it? Of course not. Would you change the circumstances? Of course.

Always the coward I think 'couldn't we have learned this another way?' But His way is perfect. When we get to heaven, I'm sure he'll be expecting some questions from us about this. Looking through that glass darkly is difficult but one day we will see clearly.

Again, let me say how much I admire the two of you and how lucky Joseph was to have you as his mommy and daddy (and sister). How valuable you are to God for the responsibility he gave to you.

Nanette McKinney

Brea said...

Gillian, thank you for your encouraging words. Motherhood is the hardest job, and the greatest privilege I have ever been given. I know that I'm unequal to the task and unworthy of it and yet God has entrusted 2 precious boys to me. Very humbling, indeed. You have been an amazing example of perseverance to all of us who are on this journey of motherhood. Thank you for sharing your heart. We continue to pray for you daily.

creative gal said...

Thank you for your post today. I think sometimes, we all feel that we are doing "nothing" when in everything we are serving HIM! Thank you for your post today!

John and Shannon said...

thank you from a new mom. i needed to hear that.

Anonymous said...

Dear Gillian,
Tears are running down my face as I write this. Your willingness to share a glimpse into your heart continues to amaze me. How thankful I am that you are my son's wife, my daughter (notice that the "in-law" is forever dropped) and mother to our grandchildren. Joseph knew how much he was loved by you and Allen, he never doubted that you LOVED being his mommy and Allen his daddy. And, Holly does too! Praying continually for all of you. With love, Kathy

Orlagh said...

Gillian your words are amazing! I hope one day to be as great of a mom as you! You are an amazing person and I am so lucky to be related to you!! Love you and your family crazy!! I will continue to pray for you, Allen and Holly... you guys are always on my mind and in my heart.


Brooke said...

Beautifully written Gillian - I didn't really sense a stay-at-home mom bias at all, but then I might be biased too.

With Andy being so very busy I've been struggling recently with the treasure-every-moment/don't-worry-about-how-clean-the-house-is thinking versus the emotional/mental/physical toll that being everything to these two little people (without as much husband support as I was used to) can take on me some days... only to get up and do the exact same thing the next day and everyday. Your post made me cry but also helped me to look at my work again from Jesus' perspective - something I sorely needed. Thanks so much for your beautiful and well timed words.

Sugar Mommy said...

Thanks for reminding me! Thanks for being a wonderful mommy and a great inspiration.

LAURA said...

thank you! I needed this encouragement this week. . with a 2 (almost 3) yr old and 15mo old, most days, i feel exactly as you described yourself just before you discovered Joseph's condition. running ragged feeling "invisible" with a husband who works alot and is overseas alot with no "me" time. thanks for the perspective. i needed those words.

tracey said...

What a sweet post, Gillian! I remember your crazy days, especially when Holly was still very little. You are such a fun mom...I remember you jumping right into Joseph's funny world of cars and trains. Thank you for reminding us to take joy in the little things. God has given us children to love and care for...and you, my friend, are an amazing mom! I think Joe P. knew that too.
Praying for you daily.

Amelia Christmann said...

This means so much and is such an encouragement to hear. Being a mom is such a struggle on so many levels. Thanks for making me feel like not the only one out there who sometimes just wants to throw in the towel when it comes to parenting, and also for reminding me of the awesome responsibility and blessing of being that person, and that it does matter to God. I passed this entry on to a bunch of my friends. Love you.


Chloe said...

Actually, For Gillian

"For My Mother", May Sarton

I summon you now
Not to think of
The ceaseless battle
With pain and ill health,
The frailty and the anguish.
No, today I remember
The creator,
The lion-hearted.