“It just seems so unnatural.”
Judy Anderson reflected on back-to-college shopping with her granddaughters. Annelisa will be a senior majoring in meteorology at St. Cloud State and Kylie a sophomore in elementary education at the Minnesota State University, Mankato. The girls lost their mom Jodi (Judy’s only daughter) on May 30 after a three year battle with breast cancer.
Of course, Judy’s statement is something any mom in her situation might say. We’re not supposed to lose our children. It’s not the natural order of things. But real life doesn’t always go according to plan.
Jodi was diagnosed with breast cancer in the summer of 2016 after a routine mammogram. After three years that included a bilateral mastectomy, radiation and three separate courses of chemotherapy, her body decided to be done.
At age nine, Jodi’s family moved to an acreage outside of Britt, Iowa where her parents still live. Her last visit back home was in March. . “She told me, ‘Mom, I want to come down on a day that works for you some weekend.’ I look back and you know, even then I think she knew it would be her last time,” said Judy.
Jodi spent her last day in her childhood home working on mastectomy pillows with her mom. Pillows that some people reading this have probably been blessed to receive. The Bosom Buddies ship mastectomy pillows through Life Reconstructed to women and cancer centers all over the United States.
Rarely do those pillows get hand-delivered, but Judy had the opportunity to do just that not long before Jodi passed away. Don (Jodi’s dad) and Judy took a trip to Texas and were able to add a stop to the Austin Cancer Center to their itinerary. There Judy presented Cancer Patient Advocate Olivia Taylor with a bag of mastectomy pillows to give to breast cancer patients. It made Jodi’s day when she found that the pillows her mom delivered were ones she had made. Even walking the painful road of the final stages of breast cancer, Jodi still found joy in bringing comfort to others.
She also found joy in reading and memorizing scripture. Jodi was a quiet and reserved person, but her faith was strong. Her favorite Bible verse, Isaiah 40:31 became a lifeline during cancer treatment.
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31
That verse was one of hundreds Jodi wrote by hand in a college-ruled notebook.
Jodi also loved worship music, and her favorite band was Casting Crowns. When she learned last fall that they would be playing at the Freeborn County Fair this summer, she wanted her whole family to go together. Jodi and her husband Jeff and their girls, along with her mom and Dad and her brother Brian and his family all made plans to attend the concert. But it was not to be for Jodi. It was a bittersweet time for the whole family as they worshiped without Jodi. Judy said, “I just kept thinking, ‘Jodi, can you hear them?’ I just wanted her to be there.”
The Mercy Me song, I Can Only Imagine, was played at Jodi’s funeral, and Judy holds tightly to the lyrics of that song. “I can only imagine what she is seeing right now. I know God had a plan, and I know He is working,” said Judy. “Jodi felt that too. She once said that if what she was going through could help someone else, it was worth it.”
She may be gone now, but the impact Jodi left by giving and loving others will remain.