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Life and Religion

Cancer, death and resilience to go on
There's a hole, but we'll continue to move forward
Published Wednesday, August 23, 2017 3:13 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

Death doesn’t have to break you, but it will change you.

Mary Mahoney, left, and Ashley Mahoney at the 2015 Thunder Road Marathon, Ashley's first. She's training for the Novant Health Charlotte Marathon in November and raising money to benefit the American Cancer Society in honor of her mother, who died Aug. 20.

Cancer killed my mom, Mary, on Aug. 20. She fought a hard nine-month battle, and in the end the disease proved too powerful. Cancer won in a way, but it also lost. Her death inspires more resilience rather than despair.

People describe her death as a “passing,” or for those with a belief in heaven or a form of an afterlife as a “homecoming.” Personally, a spade remains a spade. She died. Now that should not come off nearly as morbid as it may sound. Death can’t help being messy. It makes things uncomfortable. It brings out the self-centered tendencies in some, and grace and compassion in others.

My saint of a sister often encourages me to rise above, and gosh does it feel exhausting trying to stand 10,000 feet tall. Particularly now, as people try to put grief in a box. Go ahead and try, because grief will break that box. It doesn’t mean that the deceased didn’t matter, but what would she think of a family torn asunder due to the inability to function?

That doesn’t mean that you act on autopilot. As a very wise lady continues to tell me “pegs and holes,” which implies that you take each day as it comes. You match each peg with its hole, and then you move onto the next one. You honor the deceased by living, by shining so brightly that the world can’t help but notice.

For 40 years, she preached both to me and at me. Honestly, sometimes I hated her for it—she was the Emily Gilmore to my Lorelai—but I also couldn’t stand when she made me eat cooked broccoli or green beans—both of which I’ve grown to love as an adult. Her shining example of faith in the most trying times touched all of those around her. As my editor would say, she was the kind of person “who never met a stranger.” 

When she spoke to you, you knew how much she valued your conversation—how much you had to say. A dear friend of the family described that as a “glow,” and gosh, does that description match her.

Does her death leave a space at the table? Of course it does. Now it’s time to reset the table, and serve those who take a seat at it.

Donate to Racing Against Cancer: https://www.gofundme.com/racing-against-cancer


Would she be extremely proud? That goes without saying, of course she would. The overarching aspect of this piece is the maturity and wisdom contained within. To the individual who reads this with an "open and sincere" heart and mind this will provide some hope and encouragement to continue on and begin to understand that even though "life" can be "messy" at times the benefits far outweigh the difficulties.
Posted on September 16, 2017
So beautiful, Ashley. Keep shining bright.
Posted on August 23, 2017

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