My Choice to Spare Heartache

AUTHOR: | POSTED: December 29, 2010 | COMMENTS: 1 Comment
CATEGORIES: Love This...Not So Much,

Carolyn Savage

Our dear friend, Joyce Aughenbaugh, here shares the story of her selfless choice to spare her ill mother from the knowledge that her daughter was battling cancer. She has also shared a poem she wrote that was inspired by the experience of being a caregiver for her mother.

We hope you find Joyce’s selfless example as inspiring as we did.


My experience with cancer pales in comparison to what you and others have gone through. My story is unfortunately, all too common these days: 1 in 8 women experience breast cancer. Sandy Scott had a story worth sharing as did Jenny Suggs and Elizabeth Edwards. Sadly, the world has lost these role models. My cancer diagnosis was a shock and a dark time in my life, but my story is so trivial in comparison to others. I am alive and better for the experience. I have a new appreciation for life and a deeper ability to empathize and help others going through such trials. The experience of my high risk pregnancy & the premature births of my daughters, especially Danielle’s fragile condition at birth, the death of my father, the caretaking of my elderly mother and then her death were probably equally challenging life experiences for me. In reference to my cancer experience, I truly wonder at this point, if I have anything remarkable to share. But if my story could benefit anyone, I would share the following chapter in honor of my mother.

Perhaps the darkest moment of my breast cancer journey was hiding this news from my mother. A fiercely strong, independent, loving woman, she was now in a nursing home at age 87, struggling with declining health, the loss of her home & an unwelcome, increasing dependence on others that was very difficult for her to accept and for her 7 children to witness. With all that she was going through, the knowledge of my cancer diagnosis would have been crushing for her. What mother can bear the helpless sadness that her child is ill? Visiting her the night before my mastectomy, just a few days before Christmas, I desperately wanted to fall into her arms and blurt out my troubles and worries. Even at the age of 48, I wanted my mother’s reassurance, embrace and comfort. But, at that moment she needed me. She needed help with basic needs; bathing and getting ready for bed, comfort of her own. I put aside my needs and cared for her as she had cared for me all the early years of my life. When I helped her into bed and kissed her goodnight, I told her not of my mastectomy, impending surgery just hours away, chemotherapy treatments to come, and fear of the unknown, but I told her I was going on a “trip” and would be gone for awhile. I kissed her goodnight wondering if I would see her again. I left her with tears in my eyes, still carrying my heavy, lonely secret, now made even heavier with the guilt of a lie.

Looking back on this moment, so unbearable for me at the time, I can now see the gift in it. By the grace of God, I was able to transcend the darkness and self-centeredness of the cancer and attend to someone else’s needs above my own. And how wonderful, that it was someone so deserving as my mother. I can now look back at that moment without regret, grateful that God gave me the strength to attend to my Mother and not disturb her peace of mind. Since my diagnosis, my spiritual life is deeper, my faith stronger. God was, and is, always at my side, providing whatever grace is needed for the moment.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

I’ve also shared  a poem I wrote in 2006 that was inspired by the experience of caring for my Mother in her sunset years.

I Saw You Tonight

I saw you tonight.
Yes, I recognized you.
Oh, it was not instantaneous.
It took me awhile to see past your clever disguise.
But suddenly, in a moment of rare enlightenment,
I realized ; it was YOU!

I saw you, Jesus.
I saw your face in the face of my beloved mother.
When I looked into her tired, aging eyes,
They were full of warmth and care.
They smiled at me.
It was then that I recognized
Your eyes smiling back at me.
I saw my own eyes reflected in them.
And my reflection surprisingly looked like yours.

I heard your voice, Jesus.
When my mother spoke with concentrated effort,
Her words, full of concern for me, were your words.
When I replied, my response was one of love & care.
And suddenly, my voice sounded just like yours.

I touched you Jesus.
When I touched my mother’s weak arms
And stroked her tender skin,
It was as if I was touching you.
She thanked me with words full of gratitude.
It was as if you were speaking directly to me.
And my hands, caressing her aching muscles,
Miraculously seemed as if they were yours,
Doing your work.

I kissed you, Jesus.
After I laid her down to sleep,
And rearranged her many pillows,
I softly kissed her lips.
And it is now that I know,
I had just kissed the lips of God.

For it is in the encounters with each other,
That we encounter you.
Sadly, too often, we don’t see you.
We are too busy, too distracted, too self absorbed.
But in those rare moments,
When we pay attention,
You show us yourself.
And when we fully participate
In the gift of the relationship
And the act of giving ourselves
To another human being in need,
We receive the gift of becoming more like you.

Nice meeting you, Jesus.
Hope to see you again soon.

Inspired by Rose Kosinski
written by her daughter, Joyce, 2006

One Comment on “ My Choice to Spare Heartache ”

  • Mona | February 19th, 2011 11:52 pm

    Dear Joyce,

    Your poem is wonderful and your story very touching! You are a great person and I really really love the truthfulness of your words. I immediately recognized myself especially in these verses “Sadly, too often, we don’t see you.
    We are too busy, too distracted, too self absorbed” and yet He’s always around…..
    Great poem and very very touching story!
    I wish you all the best and thank you for sharing,

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