The Old Lady Row

As I mentioned in my last post, I want to spotlight inspiring individuals that have been touched by cancer in some way. Whether they are survivors, have had a loved one go through it, or are otherwise connected to cancer issues, I want to help get their story out there. I know that everyone’s story is unique and there is always something that can be learned from it. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve sent emails to ten or so friends I knew would have something to contribute to this blog.

My amazing friend, Meredith of NotJustAnArmyWife.com, was the first to respond. Meredith & her husband, Matt, were very supportive during my cancer journey and helped fund raise in my honor for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night fundraiser back in November. So it was no surprise that she was incredibly generous with her time and responded to my request. She truly wrote from her heart and I am so grateful she was willing to share her story.

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Meredith & her mother, Ann

The Old Lady Row

In the church where I grew up, there was an “old lady row.” I don’t know if that was the official term, but that was what we called it, and that was what it was. My family sat in the row behind them and I spent a lot of time staring at that silvery-blue hair. It fascinated me, but I wasn’t old enough to really appreciate that these women had led long and fascinating lives. I never understood it when my mom talked about how she couldn’t wait to be an old lady and to sit in that row. There were 8-10 of them, some with colorful brooches, all with set perms, and none with a man. To me, it seemed sad. Growing old was a notion I took for granted, as most people do.

But my mom couldn’t wait to be an old lady.

For a time, you are a kid. Then, you have kids. Then, they have kids. These are milestones most people just expect to have. It’s difficult for me to hear people complain about getting old, because I know it’s a blessing denied to so many. Losing my mother was hard. She was the glue in our family, as so many mothers are. Older women relate their struggles with losing a mother. There are so many shared sorrows. The one true version of family stories, all potential advice, even favorite recipes…it all dies with a mother. You start picking up the phone to call her for years after she’s gone. You miss her with every fiber of your soul and countless precious moments are spent wishing she was there.

But there’s something else, when a life is cut short. I didn’t just lose my mother. I lost a future grandmother for my children. I lost the special moments I’d share with her at my wedding. She didn’t see any of her three children get married. She won’t ever be a grandmother. She won’t sit at the old lady row at Aldersgate United Methodist Church. We will never go to her house for Christmas and watch as her grandchildren and even great-grandchildren gather around her to hear embarassing stories about their parents. My kids will never experience her indescribable kindness and gracefulness. They won’t get to see her gorgeous, infectious smile and be comforted by her embrace.

Cancer destroys the parts of life that most people take for granted. My mom was 52 when she died. She had three “grown” children, ages 29, 23, and 22. One day, she’ll be a grandma through photos, prayers and distant memories.

But my mom couldn’t wait to be an old lady.

Meredith Kasenow

Meredith’s mother, Ann Moore, was a career broadcast journalist in Evansville, Indiana.  She was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer in May of 2007. She kept a blog during her journey, and founded Gilda’s Club, Evansville to help those affected by cancer. She died on July 3, 2009.  

Meredith’s mom also beautifully discussed facing her mortality and her Christian faith on camera. I found it incredibly powerful and it helped me get through the first few weeks of my diagnosis. You can watch that interview here.

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