What a dying mother taught me about living

You may have seen her in the news. And if you haven’t, you likely will.

Her name is Ashley Bridges. She’s 24. And she’s dying.

Ashley and two-month-old daughter, Paisley, in their California home.  Image courtesy of CNN.

Ashley and two-month-old daughter, Paisley, in their California home. Image courtesy of CNN.

What caught my attention, other than the precious image of Ashley and Paisley, was the story’s title: “Mother’s Ultimate Sacrifice for Newborn”.

I thought of those words. I thought of the daily and hourly sacrifices mothers make. Then thought of the sacrifices mothers-in-heart make for babies that will often never be: round after round, poke after poke, loss after loss. And I had to know hers.

I watched a short news clip about Ashley: how last November she found out she was expecting, just 10 weeks before being diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a malignant bone cancer. How the doctors told her to terminate her pregnancy and start treatment. And how she’d immediately refused.  Her response was complex in its simplicity:

“There’s no way I could kill a healthy baby because I’m sick.”

Ashley kept herself as healthy as possible.  She made plans, tried to live normally, and shortly after reaching 8 months gestation was given another diagnosis: a terminal one. The cancer had spread. Delaying chemotherapy had robbed her of time. And hope.  Her doctors suggested inducing labor, followed by aggressive chemotherapy, but warned it would gift her a year, if that.

So there she sits, as the camera zooms in: blue-eyed, lovely, and dying, with little Paisley nestled sweetly at her side. I watch, feeling guilty for my intrusion, and wonder:

Will she ever realize what a supreme sacrifice her mother made?
And more…
Will she ever understand how it’s possible to be loved that much?

As the extra chambers of my mother’s heart swell, I hear the answer. It taps at the door of my soul and solemnly whispers: Yes. She will understand. When she is a mother.

The truth is this: whether we believe it or not, whether we accept it or not, we are all terminal.  Sure, we may not walk the same path as Ashley. And perhaps our hourglasses will have a few more turns than hers, but we all have an expiration date. Her doctors know hers, just as the Great Physician knows ours.

I don’t pretend to know cancer intimately. And I don’t pretend to have the answers. But maybe Ashley does. Maybe living in and loving through every second is hers. Maybe being here, heart-tethered to this space, this moment, and this unique “blessing” is hers.

Those answers don’t mean she hasn’t cried, cursed and cowered. I’m sure she has. But she is confronting her choice, her ultimate sacrifice, with a lion’s heart…a mother’s heart.  And her answers are her own.

Her closing comment about Paisley is heartrending in its clarity:

“Maybe I’m not supposed to be here and she is.”

Maybe not, Ashley.

But know this: you personify the greatest and most noble of gifts: love.

And that gift will outlive us all.

If you’d like to see the interview, click here

And if you’d like to donate to Ashley’s Recovery Fund, follow this link: https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/wl34/save-smash-ashley-s-recovery-fund

  One thought on “What a dying mother taught me about living

  1. October 4, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    I know what it means for you to write this.

    Thank you for it. And your always heart.


    • October 11, 2014 at 7:51 pm

      No, thank you ❤

  2. October 4, 2014 at 5:26 pm

    No greater love.

    This young mother is old in wisdom, and instructs our hearts.

    Thank you for sharing this, sweet Dani, definitely loving like a mother.

    • October 11, 2014 at 7:52 pm

      Oh, Jane, you are loved for many things, but always, always for your friendship.

      With heart,

  3. mkk11304@comcast.net
    October 4, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    Very Touching, T!Sent from XFINITY Connect Mobile App

    • October 11, 2014 at 7:52 pm

      Thanks, Mom 🙂

  4. Amber
    October 4, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    Thank you for using your platform to champion the life of others.

    • October 11, 2014 at 8:02 pm

      I’m happy to do it, Amber.
      Honestly, I wish I could do more.

      With blessings,

  5. Jenae ~
    October 4, 2014 at 8:14 pm

    Words that pierce the soul! As a mother it is always a gift to me to remember how precious time is… I will pray for those who have not felt the warmth of their child’s body, that they will feel God’s warmth and love in the deepest part of them. And for those who have little ones, that they won’t take even one second for granted. Thank you for being a blessed reminder of what truly is important!

    • October 11, 2014 at 8:03 pm

      What a beautiful comment, Jenae ❤
      So happy you're part of my tribe.

      With heart,

  6. Kat
    October 5, 2014 at 1:10 am

    Thank you for this. Your words obviously come from the heart. What a courageous young woman but what a heartbreaking story.

    • October 11, 2014 at 8:04 pm

      Yes to both, Kat. What a sacrifice!!
      Heartrending and tremendous.

      With blessings,

  7. October 5, 2014 at 5:06 am

    Dani, life can be so cruel at times and yet so poignant especially when painted by your exquisite lye talented hand!

    • October 11, 2014 at 8:05 pm

      Thank you kindly, Stephen.
      For your words.
      And for your friendship.


  8. October 5, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    How utterly heartbreaking and beautiful in the same gasped breath. Thank you for sharing Ashley’s and Paisley’s love story with us in your beautiful prose.

    • October 11, 2014 at 8:06 pm

      Honestly, it was the very least I could do.
      I truly wish I could do more.

      With heart,

  9. October 5, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    Your beautiful words are a perfect tribute to this woman’s story. I don’t really have any words–thank you for sharing yours. xo

    • October 11, 2014 at 8:08 pm

      As always, thank you for reading, Michelle.
      It means so much.
      As do you.

      ❤ Dani

  10. October 5, 2014 at 10:57 pm

    Thank you for sharing. What a selfless thing this mother did. I am sure her daughter will understand her mother’s deep love and devotion even if she doesn’t become a mother. You always write from the heart, and I am always in awe of your talent.

    • October 11, 2014 at 8:11 pm

      Thank you for continuing to share in my journey, Sherry. The next year should be interesting, as I’m hoping to post some things which may shake up bloomingspiders a bit. But I hope you’ll stick around, faithful in friendship and encouragement.

      With heart and love,

  11. Linda Jo
    October 6, 2014 at 2:04 am

    How beautiful yet bittersweet, Danielle. We don’t always understand God’s plan… we just have to trust in it. Beautifully written and you do have a God-given gift here… thank you! ❤

    • October 11, 2014 at 8:12 pm

      Thank you, Linda. It means so much to know you’re there, reading my words and often touched by them.

      Thank you again.
      For everything.

      With heart,

  12. October 6, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    This is a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it.

    • October 11, 2014 at 8:14 pm

      Thank you for taking the time to read.

      Blessings of health and heart,

  13. October 10, 2014 at 5:00 am

    I don’t have the words to respond to this as it deserves, but thank you for sharing.

    • October 11, 2014 at 8:16 pm

      I assure you, Annie, a comment alone is more than enough.

      Thank you.

      With heart,

  14. October 31, 2014 at 5:54 am

    What a beautiful touching post. Thank you for sharing this story.

    • October 31, 2014 at 10:38 am

      Blessings to you for reading.

      With thanksgiving,

  15. November 5, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    An incredible story which shook me and reminded how lucky I was to have my mum for fifty years. I like everyone else admire the courage shown by this wise young girl

    • November 5, 2014 at 3:33 pm

      She is all heart, that’s for sure, Maria. Thank you kindly for reading.

      With blessings,

      P.S. Just love your site ❤

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