When we hear the words “stage 4 cancer,” we are left to process a rush of upsetting thoughts and emotions. Our minds race with the unknown — we think of pain, suffering, and ultimately, loss.
We walk our loved one through cancer treatments, surgeries, and scary side effects. We watch someone we love grow frail and try to remain optimistic and strong, even if we feel like we’re dying inside.
On Oct. 31, a family from Fort Wayne, Indiana, experienced the loss of beloved wife and mother Margaret “Peggy” Summers. She had selflessly and bravely battled stage 4 kidney cancer, and now she could rest in peace.
At just 55 years old, Peggy left behind her husband and four children, including 18-year-old Hannah Summers. Peggy also left something else behind — emotional goodbye letters to each of her children and to her husband.
Hannah found the letters on her mother’s dresser just hours after her mother passed. Peggy had written them in June, before a risky surgery, intuitively knowing she didn’t have much time left.
before my mom passed she wrote us all letters. this is mine. please hug your parents a little closer and never take them for granted because you never know when you could lose them. I love you momma. ? pic.twitter.com/e2TZtg92bK
— hannah summers (@_hannahsummers) November 1, 2017
Hannah debated sharing the intimate words on social media, but ultimately decided she wanted people to read her mother’s words and understand her mother’s strength. “My mom was the most selfless, compassionate person I have ever known and she meant the world to me,” Hannah told PEOPLE.
Admittedly, Hannah and her family bawled their eyes out as they read the carefully chosen words from their mom. But in the midst of their grief, a sense of peace washed over them, bringing a slice of healing to their bleeding hearts.
Heaven gained its most beautiful angel today. I love you mom. Always. Can’t wait until I can finally see you again someday. pic.twitter.com/15vTM7Zrxp
— hannah summers (@_hannahsummers) October 31, 2017
Difficult as it was to read their mother’s last words, Hannah realized her mother would always be with her, her memory deeply embedded into her daughter’s heart. “I think the letters are definitely helping to give us a little bit of closure during this difficult time,” Hannah expressed.
Hannah, who is a freshman nursing student at Indiana University-Purdue, received admonition and encouragement for her current season of life as well as for her future. “Please don’t be mad, bad things happen in life and we have to learn to deal with it no matter how much it hurts,” Peggy tenderly told her teenage daughter.
Peggy’s words resonated with the cares and concerns many mothers have over their young adult children — use common sense, be prepared for emergencies, balance school with work, but keep the focus on school. Peggy’s counsel included keeping family members close, clinging to faith in God, and passing her love on to any future grandchildren.
Hannah was left humbled by her mother’s thoughtful actions, knowing the words were written while her mother was enduring intense physical and emotional pain. The last year of Peggy’s life had been fraught with infections, groaning in pain, vomiting, and hospitalizations.
“I don’t think I ever heard her complain one time during her diagnosis even though she was going through so much pain and suffering,” Hannah recalled. “She would always say, ‘There’s people who have it much worse than me, so what do I have to complain about?'”
Hannah knows that even in the face of death, her mother could only think of her children and their wellbeing. “She wasn’t thinking about herself when she wrote them, she was thinking about us,” Hannah said.
shared this on facebook but wanted to share on here as well to show everyone how beautiful the gift of organ donation can be ? even after mom has passed she’s still changing the lives of so many #peggystrong ? pic.twitter.com/ZIZBKmQ3PO
— hannah summers (@_hannahsummers) November 16, 2017
On Nov. 16, Hannah shared yet another way her mother’s legacy would live on. Peggy was a registered organ donor, and while her organs were not suitable for donation because of cancer, both of Peggy’s cornea’s were healthy as can be.
“Even after mom passed, she’s still changing the lives of so many,” Hannah wrote online. It seems only fitting, as Peggy lived a life of putting the needs of others above her own.
Hannah hopes those who read her mother’s words will hug their own families a little tighter. “I also hope they help people realize that life is precious, and we need to appreciate all our loved ones because you never know when they could be gone,” Hannah said.
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