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My sister, Tracy, was diagnosed with brain cancer exactly nine months ago. Within weeks of learning that she had a rare brain tumor, called an oligodendroglioma, she underwent an awake craniotomy to remove the tumor. After this, she received six weeks of daily radiation and daily chemo. The next step of her treatment was a higher dose of chemo (one week on; three weeks off). Three cycles in to this regimen, she developed systemic hives that travelled all over her body: her legs, torso, arms, fingers, face. Everywhere. At one point (and I’m shortening the story here quite a bit), the hives got so bad so quickly that she had to go to the emergency room to get her wedding band cut off her swelling finger.

Sometimes we parody her medical journey with the rhythms of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. If you give a woman an oligodendroglioma, she’ll need to take Temodar. If you give her Temodar, she might develop hives as an allergic reaction. If she develops hives, she’ll need to take a whole lot of steroids. If you give her steroids, she won’t be able to sleep, so she’ll need a sleeping pill. (Etc., etc., etc.)

Tracy and I stare at each other across the miles on video calls, shaking our heads. She is never one to dwell on the pain or discomfort or mind-bendingly-horrible itchiness, so she’ll change the topic either by saying, “Fuss-a-fuss-a-fuss-a,” or “This, too, shall pass.”

This, too, shall pass. We say it to each other, knowing it’s true, but hating how long it can take to come true. This, too, shall pass. These hives shall pass. They have to!

And they do. They did. The hives passed because her oncologist took her off the chemo she had obviously developed an allergic reaction to. And now she is facing 6-8 months of a different chemo cocktail. More toxic. More invasive. More side effects. More opportunities to fuss. Or not to fuss. More occasions to say, “This, too, shall pass.”

Awful things don’t last forever. Even chronically awful things like long covid or depression or grief don’t last forever – at least not statically. The awfulness changes or gets integrated or at least comes and goes in waves.

Or eventually the final passing comes. 

There’s hope hidden in the mantra – this, too, shall pass. Awful things don’t last forever. They pass, in one way, shape, or form.

But there’s also a sadness sitting inside it. Beautiful things pass, too. Life is so precious because it is so short.

Last weekend, I visited a graveyard on Mackinac Island. The oldest grave in the yard belongs to a little girl named Mary Biddle.

Legend has it that she drowned after falling through the ice off the coast of the island. She had just turned eight years old, and Christmas was a week away. In the years after her death (again, according to a shaky but oft-repeated legend), her father honoured her memory by creating a pathway of Christmas trees between the island and the mainland of the upper peninsula – to guide travelers across the safest part of the ice. Her gravestone – covered in visitors’ pathways of coins and rocks and jewelry – includes a poem by W.E. Peters:

As the sweet flower that scents the morn

But withers in the rising day

Thus lovely was this infant’s dawn

Thus swiftly fled its life away.

Life is but a breath. Grass withers. Flowers fall. When my sister declares that this, too, shall pass, I sometimes think about her whole life – not just the hives or the hair loss – but the beauty of her one wild and precious life. This life, too, shall pass.

And so shall mine. And so shall yours.

I suppose my deep knowing of the fleetingness of things is part of why I am a record-keeper. I write things down in my diary, I keep my annual planners. I number my days in these ways as if to say, “Yes, these things passed. But they did happen and look, here’s the record!”

I also find deep comfort in the memory and record-keeping of God – who stores up our tears in a bottle and records them on a scroll (Psalm 56:8). And I trust that not only our tears that come from love will last, but also our work that comes from love (1 Corinthians 3:13, John 15:16). These things, too, shall last.

Yes, things pass. But the things that matter also leave their mark. They last. They last in the mind of God and in the ripple effect of grace and love, passing from generation to generation.

The Christmas trees on the ice and the rocks and bracelets on Mary’s tombstone are a way of saying, “This, too, shall last.”

The hug that I shared with my sister at the end of our recent family reunion – this, too, shall last. 

Crowns of glory, words of the Lord, our everlasting inheritance – these, too, shall last.

Bless you, my friends, as you wait for the passings… and rest in the lastings.

Header Image: Photo credit – Robb Keizer (my brother-in-law) taken of my daughter, me, and my sister, on the southern shores of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Heidi S. De Jonge

Heidi S. De Jonge is a pastor in the Christian Reformed Church who lives in Kingston, Ontario, with her husband, three children, and a dog.


  • Daniel Meeter says:

    Robert Frost: Nature’s first green is gold. But you’ve gone and made it eschatological with hope and faith. Thank you dearly.

  • How this blessed my life today. Thank you. ❤️

  • Katy Sundararajan says:

    Thank you for this deep, sharp beauty.

  • Deb Mechler says:

    I needed this. Thank you.

    • Heidi De Jonge says:

      I am so glad that what I need to write some others need to hear. A reciprocal wonder that keeps me blogging! Bless you.

  • Jane Brown says:

    Such meaningful words today. Thank you

  • Cathy Smith says:

    Both unflinching and sensitive. Truth and beauty. Thank you!

    • Heidi De Jonge says:

      You are welcome, Cathy. May we have strong unflinching backs and soft, sensitive fronts (and wild wondering hearts, to complete the Brené Brown trifecta!)

  • David Schelhaas says:

    “The ripple effect of love and grace passing from generation to generation.” What a beautiful but heart-aching thought.
    Thank you for this .

    • Heidi De Jonge says:

      You are welcome and thank you, Dave. It always warms a certain place in by brain to receive a word from one of the people who taught me to write.

  • Jan Zuidema says:

    Oh, so sharply beautiful and true. Thank you for your blessing as we ‘wait for the passings…..and rest in the lastings”.

    • Heidi De Jonge says:

      My prayers continue to go with you and for you as you grieve the sharp beauty of your granddaughter’s death. 💔

  • June says:

    This is balm for me in my present grief that tends to overwhelm me. God bless you and these words.

    • Heidi De Jonge says:

      May the balm last until it doesn’t… and may there then be another balm waiting… as the grief comes in waves. Bless you, June

  • Henry Baron says:

    Grateful for our thoughts and truths this morning – thank you!

    • Heidi De Jonge says:

      You’re welcome and thank you for reading and responding, Professor! (You weren’t my professor, but you taught my friend- perhaps many of my friends!)

  • Lea Wilkening says:

    This delightful piece of written art work, too shall last. Thank you 🙏

  • Tom Prins says:

    “The ripple effect of love and grace passing from generation to generation.” This is a goal, a comfort, a satisfaction, and a blessing as I age. May I, dear God, enable this passing.

  • Sherri Meyer-Veen says:

    Beautiful and powerful as always Dear One. ❤️. My family was just talking about this legend and the trees as my siblings often go up snowmobiling. And I love your multi-layered “this too shall pass” and the follow up of what does last?! Beautiful 😍

    • Heidi De Jonge says:

      Love you, dear Sherri! Thank you for the connection… So beautiful that you know this legend and place.

  • Sara DeMoor says:

    Stunningly beautiful, Heidi. Thank you.
    I was reminded of a book on my bookshelves by the incredibly K.J. Ramsey entitled: This Too Shall Last: Finding Grace When Suffering Lingers. (K.J. has a beautiful social media presence, too.)

  • Jack says:

    Grief is an ambush. You pick up a leaf, an old cup, your child’s shoes left in the hall, stand before a pile of peaches at the grocery and suddenly weep. When grief ambushes, may comfort soon follow.

    As always, beautifully composed with tonal mixtures that reveal what dear friend Mary Ruefle says about humans: “We’re blenderized.”

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