What Terminal means to me

Micah Pederson by Micah Pederson Additional Needs

Micah Pederson

Micah Pederson

I am a mom to two children biologically and many children through foster care. My husband and I have been married three years. Our foster home is a...

As a foster and adoptive mom to precious little people who have medical needs, I never know what the story will be when I answer a phone call from a social worker.

Our team knows that not much can shock or scare me away. And yet, the hesitance in the voice on the other side of the phone is always deafening before I hear these words: “…But there is something you need to know: The child is terminal.”


The very word used to twist my stomach to a nauseating churn and my cast my mind into a worried net of tangled fears and crushing what ifs.


Terminal means loss and heartache and fear.

Terminal means life is hard and quite unfair.

Terminal means pain is real and love can’t heal all.

Terminal means limited days.

Terminal means death.

The word still makes my heart skip a beat. The label sometimes accompanies a horrific and dark reality. And yet, I am learning that the word terminal is often times simply that: A word.

Doctors know so much. But they don’t know everything.

Medical diagnoses can be very accurate. They also can be completely wrong.

A body can fail very quickly. Or it can fail very slowly over many years.

Terminal wants me to spend my days afraid.

Terminal wants me to feel time slip through my fingers.

Terminal wants to tuck sickening thoughts of death into every corner of my mind.

Terminal wants to turn the sweetest days tart with the bitterness of looming loss.

Terminal changes everything.

But terminal also changes absolutely nothing at all

The gut-wrenching label makes no difference in the way I live life alongside and love my children—all of them.

When I hold these precious bodies close to my own, it is rare than I think of death.

When I child arrives at my home labeled terminally ill, the first thing I do is hold that little one close and peel that label off—every last sliver of it.

I look into precious eyes and I speak the truth of life over a soul more precious than I can comprehend: “Look at you! You are so beautiful and full of life! God is working such amazing wonders in and through you. Your life is so meaningful and so abundant. I am so thankful to have you in our home living life with us.”


Days are limited for all us. Life is laced with unknowns.

My children who are well are held just as preciously as my children who I am told have numbered days. The reality is that we are all terminal.

None of us know the number of our days or when tragedy will come knocking. But each and every day, we have the choice to choose life and life abundant.

We can decide to lay aside fear and double-fist the very moments that make life what it is both in beauty and heartache. It

is up to us to treasure the souls around us and spend every minute messily navigating the days that are gifted to us, no matter the number. It shouldn’t take a label of impending death to make us choose to live.

Some days, I can barely cope with the harshest of realities I know families face. Thoughts of children with small numbers of days and parents with empty arms leave me overwhelmed with grief and anger.

Terminal is a powerful and influential reality.

Terminal is one of life’s greatest teachers.

Terminal tells me its ok to sit in the hurt and choose not to be brave some days.

Terminal reminds me to not go to bed angry.

Terminal beckons me to laugh at mishaps and dance in the rain.

Terminal whispers reminders of the shortness of life and preciousness of each hour.

Terminal tells me to lay bitterness aside and choose kindness over comfort.

Terminal, though rooted in expectation of death, highlights the beauty and preciousness of life.


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