The Words No One Said to My Son That Night

The lights dimmed as I gripped my program and shifted in my seat with anticipation. After driving my son to what felt like 101 rehearsals, I was ready to watch him perform in his school’s junior high musical.

The spotlights followed the young teenagers around the stage, songs filled the air, and my son made the audience roar with laughter. I felt the familiar joy all moms feel as we watch our children do well. I felt relief that he didn’t forget his lines or trip over his own rapidly-growing feet.

I also felt a weight of gratitude that I suspect didn’t cross the other moms’ minds that evening. I was thankful that my son had a great time performing, for friends and relatives who joined us in the audience, and for a school that gives my child these opportunities. But there was one thing I was grateful for above all of these.

I was grateful that no one would say to my son that night, “Your mom sure would’ve loved this. She’d be so proud of you.”

Seven years ago, as I read the dismal survival rates for angiosarcoma, as I traveled to MD Anderson Cancer Center to receive months of treatment and participate in a clinical trial, as I walked through the early months and years of survivorship . . . I thought ahead to these moments. I saw my children, a few inches taller and a few years more mature, playing in piano competitions, dancing in ballet recitals, competing in spelling bees, and walking to the stage during school awards assemblies.

No matter how much I squinted and searched, I couldn’t see whether or not I was sitting in the crowd. I feared those normally-happy occasions would be marred by my absence. I imagined the sad half-smiles and the words others would say to console my children: “Your mom would be so proud.”

And by God’s grace, here I am. Not a week goes by that I don’t marvel at my presence here in 2017. I know other children are missing their moms, and it breaks my heart. I don’t take my present or future health for granted.

But as the house lights came up and I made my way to the lobby after the show, it was a joy to hug my son and say, “Wow, I really loved that! I sure am proud of you.”


This article originally appeared at

Marissa Henley
Marissa Henley is a wife, mom, cancer survivor and latte addict. She is the author of Loving Your Friend Through Cancer and writes about clinging to God's character at She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Instagram!

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