Learning to be a Daughter, Mother, and a Pastor . . . with Hope

Post Author: Jodi Hinrichs

Mother & DaughterThe first month was the hardest.  The time spent wondering—wondering what the future would hold, the next hour, the next day, and hopefully even the next year.  The time spent waiting—waiting to hear what the next medical professional would have to say.  I was exhausted and emotional and trying to hold everything together.

And then she came home and we started a new journey, shaped by new realities—a new future that didn’t look like the one we had planned to embark upon.

It sounds very much like a birth story, doesn’t it?  It sounds like I welcomed a precious baby girl into my life.  I have, twice.  But not in this story.

This story is about learning to mother my mother, all while trying to mother my children and pastor a congregation.  This story is about learning to mother my mother, all while still being her daughter.

My life has been shaped by cancer.  My dad died of cancer when I was nine.  He died six months after his diagnosis.  I don’t remember many details from those six months, but I do know that they worked their way into my soul.  And I remember the many, many, moments of dealing with the realities of grief, loss, death—and even resurrection.  These are the moments that still take place as I continually face life without my dad’s physical presence.

So when one of the two surgeons came out to talk with me in the waiting room this past March, I was calm and self-assured as I asked questions and waited for answers.  And yet, I heard the word “cancer” and the words “much more extensive than we anticipated”.    The inner nine year old me fell apart; the thirty-five year old me held it together.  The last time I heard a parent had cancer resulted in my world collapsing.  I wasn’t ready to face that again.  As a daughter, I cried.  As a daughter, I questioned God.  As a daughter, I struggled.

As a pastor, I continued to plan midweek Lenten services.  As a pastor, I continued to shape Holy Week and Easter worship services.  As a pastor, I prepared to celebrate death and resurrection.

And I did things that needed to be done.  I visited my mom nearly daily for the weeks of hospitalizations and the weeks of rehab.  I stopped by her apartment regularly for months after.  I did her laundry and dishes for four months.  I am going on six months of grocery shopping.  I am her transportation to doctor’s appointments, CT scans, and chemo.  I am the one who drops everything to take her to the ER when something is not right.  I am the one who listens along with her to what the doctor has to say about her prognosis.  I ask questions and write down answers.  I log into her medical records to make sure I understand.

Sometimes I feel like now I have to be the mother.  I was relieved when my sister who lives across the country came to visit for two weeks.  For two weeks, I didn’t have to be my mom’s mother.   Mostly, though, it’s new territory we are navigating.  As she gets stronger and looks to an end date for chemo with a very good prognosis, I have to mother her less and less.  I will still care for her, in many of the ways in which she cared for me over the years.  I know the day will come when I’ll have to mother her some more, but I’ll be ready because she taught me to be a mother.

And because I’m a pastor who journeyed a very personal Lenten journey this past Lent, God opened me up to experience a very Easter message.  When my mom dies, be it from this cancer—though that doesn’t look likely—or somewhere down the road, I will be okay.  Resurrection is real; that will get me through.

In the meantime though, I’ll keep learning—how to be…a mother, a daughter, and a pastor.


A daughter for 36 years, a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for 10 years, a mother for 5, Jodi continues to learn how to be all three (at once) thanks to the lovely people of Shepherd of the Cross Lutheran Church in Muscatine, Iowa and two precious little girls (Alexa, 5 and Mackenzie, 2).

Photo by Colin Cook, http://www.flickr.com/photos/colin_cook/9384667831/, October 14, 2013, Used by Permission of the Photographer, All Rights Reserved.  For more of Colin’s photos, check out his Flikr Page at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/colin_cook/.

1 reply
  1. Hannah
    Hannah says:

    Thank you for this. I am also a daughter who lost a father to cancer (at age 14) now care-taking for my mother as she battles cancer herself. I have wrestled similarly with the different “versions” of me (25 years old and 14 years old) and have chronicled some of it on my own blog. I was so encouraged to hear your story as another pilgrim!


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