A terminally ill woman is determined to live long enough to see her longed-for first grandchild but the doctors don’t hold out much hope.
When Helen Marstons was 43, she was diagnosed with a particularly virulent form of cancer, and she beat it even though the odds were against her. Helen was a born warrior and never gave up.
She beat that cancer, but when she was 50, it came back, and this time there was nothing the doctors could do to bring on a remission or buy Helen a little more time. But then something extraordinary happened.
Helen’s daughter Terry called from New York. “Mom,” she said weeping. “Oh mom, the gladdest news! I’m pregnant! The doctor says I’m due sometime in late February…”
“A baby…” breathed Helen, her thin face lighting up, “Oh I’ve been longing for a grandchild! I can’t wait to hold that little one in my arms!”
Terry was silent. Her father had told her the doctors’ best prognosis gave Helen two to three months on the outside — the seven months until her baby was born was an impossibility.
The human spirit can overcome any challenge.
“That is going to be wonderful mom,” Terry responded softly. “It’s going to be wonderful!” But Helen had heard Terry’s pause. She, too, knew the doctor’s prognosis, she knew her chances.
Helen hung up the phone and looked out of the window at the falling night. “I want to see that baby, God,” she whispered. “If ever in my life I have done anything that pleased thee, I beg thee, give me strength.”
Helen closed her eyes and thought about the long months ahead — months which she knew would be of agony. She knew that if she simply stopped fighting and yielded to the terrible enemy within, the end would come swifter, easier.
But Helen squared her jaw. “You listen up, death, you may cheat me of many moments in my family’s future, but this one I’m having. I’m going to hold my grandson in my arms.”
The doctors were later astounded when Helen rallied and seemed to draw strength from some invisible source, she was even well enough to go home, and so Terry and her husband relocated to Pennsylvania to be near her.
It was something that was never spoken of, but they all knew these last precious days, these months were all they’d have together. Terry spent hours with Helen, with her mother’s hand resting on her belly.
Once in a while, the baby would kick and Helen’s face would light up. “Oh, what a boy you’ve got there, Terry!”
Terry laughed. “It could be a girl, mom!”
But Helen shook her head. “This is a boy, and he’s going to be quite an athlete, like your great-grandfather who won a silver medal at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. You should name him Ebeneezer after him!”
“Ebeneezer!” cried Terry laughing. “Mom! The poor kid! That’s just too cruel!” And the two women giggled and hugged each other as if there was no clock ticking away the end of one life and the beginning of another.
But Helen’s enemy was sly and vicious and sent out tentacles of malice into her brain, and three months before Terry was due, she had her first seizure. She had been writing out a Christmas shopping list for her husband, Len when it happened.
Len heard a clatter as the pen fell on the floor, then a strange grunting noise, and a drumming sound. He ran to Helen’s side and found her in the grip of a Grand Mal seizure.
Helen was rushed to the hospital and a CAT scan confirmed the doctor’s worst fears, the cancer had spread to Helen’s brain and its march could not be halted. Helen looked at the doctor.
“Tell me the truth,” she enunciated with difficulty. “What now?”
The doctor took her hand. “Helen, it is starting to affect your speech, it will affect your movements…”
“My memory,” Helen whispered. “My sight…”
“Not yet, we don’t think…” he said. “But Helen…There are no guarantees. You know this is an end game.”
Helen nodded fiercely. “I know,” she mumbled. “But if I can think, and I can see, I can win…”
Meanwhile, Terry was so upset by her mother’s worsening condition that she ended up in the hospital beside her mom, with a possible threat of a miscarriage. Helen gripped her daughter’s hand, her big eyes sparking fire.
Helen opened her lips, but the words wouldn’t come out. “I know mom,” Terry whispered. “I have to win my battle so you can win yours!” And she did. Terry stabilized, and the day of the delivery came closer.
The doctors opted to deliver Terry’s baby through a Cesarean section, and when the child was born, it was lifted into Helen’s waiting arms. She looked down at that scrunched-up yelling face and smiled.
“E-ben-ee-zer!” she cried. With a trembling hand, she lifted a thin silver chain at the end of which a medal sparkled. “E-ben-ee-zer…” she whispered it like a blessing, and a tear fell onto the baby’s upturned face.
er, Helen made her peace with this world, kissed her daughter, her husband, and her grandson goodbye, and finally gave herself up to eternal sleep.
For the rest of his life, Ebeneezer carried around his neck an old silver medal, and in his heart the precious legacy of the woman of indomitable spirit and courage who had given him his name.
What can we learn from this story?
The human spirit can overcome any challenge. Helen’s determination to see her grandson astounded the doctors who thought she’d never survive.
Love, courage, and determination are legacies we pass on down the generations. Helen inspired her family and her grandson with her wonderful spirit.