We lost our Mona this week. With a terminal illness, you always know that day is coming, but I still feel like we weren’t really expecting it. Mona was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer and given just months to live — and that was almost nine years ago. To us, it was like she was invincible. Her determination and strength in fighting the disease was simply incredible. I still don’t know how she stayed so positive and courageous through every obstacle; she had more of those than anyone I know. But she focused on enjoying life.
It’s hard to explain what Aunt Mona was to me and my brother. She was sort of a combination of a second mother and a sibling. Nothing can fill that void. Clay and I wrote this to try to explain what her last years were like:
When Mona received her diagnosis almost nine years ago, she made a decision. She would live on her terms.
There were days when Mona’s family thought she was out of her mind for going to work after being at the hospital the night before, but she was determined to really live with the time she had. She loved to help people, and at the school where she worked her strength and love affected more people than she could’ve known.
Stories have been pouring in recounting the difference Mona made. She was such a light. She brightened the lives of everyone who knew her. A teacher she worked with said she once saw Mona walking down the hall, slouched and slow-moving, and she knew it was a day when Mona was feeling pain. But when she asked how Mona was feeling, Mona straightened up, smiled brightly, and said, “I’m doing great!”
That’s what everyone around her saw: such toughness and positivity, even through the hardest times.
Other close coworkers called her “a miracle of sunshine for everyone that knew her,” “a dear, sweet person and so genuine,” and “the poster child for living life to the fullest.” They knew her as “a beautiful, amazing, creative, talented human being.” Her principal said, “I loved her spunk and quirkiness. She was classy. You would never know she was fighting for her life. She was cool.”
Mona pursued a degree in art history and realized her creative potential. She was always painting, quilting, and taking photos. She created beautiful artwork for many to cherish.
Most importantly, Mona loved life and loved people with all her heart. Her family was the most important thing to her, and her love for them was absolute and unwavering. Mona truly became who she wanted to be: an independent, creative spirit and full of love. She lived deliberately, and she was so fulfilled.
Mona touched many lives with her strength, love, and courage. She admired her sister-in-law Jimmie and would sometimes joke that when she was in a difficult situation, she would think, what would Jimmie do? Seeing Mona live in such a loving, positive, fulfilled way has made us look up to her; she is an inspiration. Now, to live deliberately and with strength, we will ask ourselves in the hard times, what would Mona do?