In the days after Kate Bowler's surgery for stage four cancer she began letters to her young son and reckoned with the idea that he might read them after she was gone.
She writes in her new memoir: "I used to think that grief was about looking backward-old men saddles with regrets or young ones pondering 'should-haves'. I see now that it is about eyes squinting through tears into an unbearable future."
Kate Bowler is an Assistant Professor at Duke Divinity School and the author of "Everything Happens for a Reason: And other Lies I've Loved." She spoke with MPR News Host Kerri Miller about experience.
Bowler says that she can divide her life into two categories: before and after her diagnosis. "And in the after, you really lose the ability to speak in the future tense," Bowler explained.
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Grappling with that division is hard, especially as a mother.
"When you look at your kid, kids are all the future tense," Bowler said.
She no longer talks to her son about things they will do when he turns 10 or making plans to visit the pyramids. "You learn to hope for things," Bowler continued. "But you just stop thinking in that way.I think that's the hardest part of the two parts of my brain to reconcile."
She has these conversations with her husband, who kindly nudges her to live in the present by advising her to not to "skip to the end."
Another thing that has kept her hopeful is seeing progress.
"Honestly, I never thought I would see this book published," Bowler said.
"I wrote that little dedication to my son the first minutes of my chemotherapy treatment. It wasn't even a book yet; I just had hope. It helps me practice thinking forward to see beautiful things come to fruition."
Use the audio player above to hear the full discussion.