Sometimes you just don’t know where to start with words, so I’m just going to start and I may not stop for a while.
My mother, Karen Akin, passed away on December 1 at 10:10 p.m with my dad and me at her side holding her hand and praying with her.
In early June, after spending many weeks in our home off and on after James Walker’s birth and many weeks of beautiful, sweet memories, my mom had a scan and found out that the melanoma tumors had spread to the left frontal lobe of her brain. She had been diagnosed with melanoma in 2010. It was in the lymph nodes at the time of diagnosis. It metastasized in 2013 and continued to spread for the past two years.
When we found out about the tumors in the brain and in her bones, she decided that she would remain upbeat and she really didn’t want to tell anyone about it except for a few friends and family members. My mom didn’t want to talk about cancer all the time. She didn’t want everyone constantly asking her how she was feeling. She wanted to go on about life as usual- living and loving life without people feeling sorry for her. So we didn’t really share her news either until my dad posted about it on Facebook in October.
She and my dad spent an incredible ten days in a villa in Tuscany with dear friends in June. In July, we all went to Colorado to visit my brother, Walker and his girlfriend. When we were in Colorado, it was the very first time that we’d ever seen my mom show any signs or symptoms of cancer in nearly 6 years. She was nauseated, tired, and often frustrated and overwhelmed. We went to visit my cousin’s family in Alabama in August and noticed more symptoms of the brain tumors. But we had two wonderful vacations. So many incredible memories! Playing with the boys. Talking about what heaven will be like. Singing and laughing and remembering things from childhood.
In September, Todd and I went to Indiana for the Influence Conference and my mom and dad came to visit for a few days. More brain tumor symptoms- trouble forming thoughts, difficulty multi-tasking, difficulty getting around and she was generally just not herself. In October, Todd and I took all the boys to my parents’ house for a long weekend and it was more of the same- just worse.
Since June, her health was rapidly declining. But the loss of her personality and the woman that I know was the most heartbreaking part.
My mom is such a part of me. I’m used to calling multiple times a day just to tell a funny story. I’m used to making plans for our next visit. I’m used to calling on Friday mornings to discuss what happened on Scandal the night before. And she couldn’t talk on the phone or text anymore. And, gosh, I have been missing her for months. I feel lost without my best friend.
We began to specifically pray that she wouldn’t feel anxious and she wouldn’t feel pain. That a peace that passes all understanding would overwhelm her. We prayed that she would know just how loved she is.
We know that God’s ways are higher than our ways and that He has perfectly written His story and it included a plan for a beautiful life for my sweet mom. And for all of our lives.
Watching my dad so lovingly care for my mom is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. It’s real love in its most raw form. Having the incredible opportunity to hold my mom’s face in my hands and to tell her every reason I love her is a gift I didn’t take lightly, and my dad was able to do that every day for months. He held her, he cared for her, he prayed with her, and cherished her.
We’re experiencing every emotion possible. I can’t speak for my dad and my brother, but I’m heartbroken. I’m mad. I’m grateful. I’m hopeful. I’m in shock. I’m relieved that her pain is over. But I know I can speak for my whole family when I say that we’re so thankful. We trust the Lord and we know that He is good. He is merciful. He has provided us with so many gifts and we’ve seen so many blessings. We were given more than five precious years with her before we ever experienced any setbacks from cancer.
All of my babies got to be held and rocked and sung to by the most loving woman in the world. They know a KK that would do anything in the world to be with them.
I’ve learned from a woman who trusts God. A woman who has given all of herself to others. A woman dedicated to helping those that can’t help themselves.
A woman who saw a problem and fixed it. She would stop at nothing to fix a problem for someone or to provide an opportunity for someone. She loved people and wanted to help make things better for them.
She loved movies and committed to see every Oscar-nominated movie before the awards show every year. She loved music and would bust out in song- hymns, classic rock, show tunes, Lady Gaga and Adele. She loved it all. She loved to dance and would jump to her feet any time she heard “rock me mama like a wagon wheel.” She wanted Elton John to sing “Honky Cat” at her funeral. For two decades she maintained this wish. And we honored it on Monday at her service with a recording of “Honky Cat.”
She was a staunch Republican, incredibly conservative, but also full of compassion. She adopted a homeless couple. She ministered to lost women and was committed to rescuing women from sex trafficking. She was generous to a fault and would give someone anything they needed and would drop everything to serve you if she could. Even if she wasn’t feeling well that day.
Over the past month, my mom, dad, brother and I have read letters from countless friends who have been impacted by my mom’s presence in their lives. We’ve cried and laughed and we’ve been so thankful for these incredible people who want her to know how much she is loved. And when I think about what she’s done in my life…. I just don’t know where to start.
My mom. My best friend. She was my biggest fan and the woman who pushed me. Her influence in my life has shown me what complete trust in the Lord looks like. What bravery looks like. How to mother. How to love. What it looks like to be a good friend. She is the fabric of my life. She is all over everything I see and every breath I take. My mentor. My cheerleader. My coach. My dear dear mother. The orchestrater of all the fun. The creator of all the beautiful things in every room. She had the magic touch.
She had impeccable style and so much class, but also so much sass and the ability to sit and relate to anyone without offering any nonsense. Just grace and truth and so much love for everyone she loved.
We’ve joked that she’d be saying to us, “Oh, just get over it already!” She would. She was a dust yourself off and get on with it kind of woman. But the loss we’re experiencing is immeasurable. She lit up a room. She held everyone’s attention without asking for it.
Sometimes just hearing her voice on the phone on a bad day just turned me into a puddle of tears. The comfort she provided just by knowing she loved me was all the comfort I needed. We’d schedule visits with each other before another was over. Many days now I can’t catch my breath as I imagine this life without her.
My brother, Walker, loved her dearly and she would have done anything for him. And my dad. Oh my dad. She was his best friend and he was hers. He cherished her right up until her very last breath. The example of marriage that they have set for me is amazing.
She adored Todd, and was always saying how lucky we all are to have him in our family. (I often joked that she grew to love Todd more than she loved me!) We know she’s with us. In our actions, in our words, in the songs we sing. Gosh, she’s even there when I look in the mirror now and see so much of her in me.
When I think about what she would want you to know and what she’d want me to share, it’s this. My mama was not perfect. She was precious and she changed lives, but she wasn’t perfect. She is not the hero of this story. She was a woman who was saved by grace through faith in Jesus. She loved her heavenly Father. She wanted a deeper relationship with Him. She wanted to show the love of Christ to those in her life. Jesus in her is the hero of this story. She would want you to know that and she’d want you to draw nearer to Him. To trust Him and let Him take the reigns.
And that’s what we’re doing. We’re leaning into our Savior, letting Him carry us, and not wasting a single minute that we have to tell anyone about the Good News in our lives. We’re experiencing incredible sorrow and unspeakable joy. The joy of the Lord is our strength. He is good!