Monday, May 12, 2008

Mother's Day Memories

I had the unexpected pleasure of spending yesterday with my daughter and my grandpuppies (yes, pathetic perhaps..but I'll take what I can get at the moment). I always dreamed of being a grandmother. Probably because my mother was the best grandmother ever, even though she barely got to know my children before she left this world. So naturally I had those "missing my Mom" moments yesterday, especially when my daughter gave me the new Johnny Mathis CD--my mother's equivalent to Barry. I had the best mother. And she left this world too soon. In honor of her, and all those mothers that have left loved ones behind, I'd like to share this story of her.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade

I can’t say that my mother verbally spoke these words. This is one of those gems I learned from watching her live with cancer for four years. A wise person once said that your children are always watching you, even if you’re not telling them things, they are picking up nuggets to live by. My mother gave me a gold mine without ever saying a word.

Before my mother was diagnosed with cancer, she had been in the hospital a total of four times in her life: once when she was born, twice when she had her two children, and once when she broke her leg in several places trying to entertain me on Thanksgiving at a rollerskating rink. She hated going to the doctors office and avoided it like the plague. She had to be dying before she would call the doctor. She hated needles, giving blood, and avoided all types of surgery even when the doctors explained it was necessary. She would just smile and say, “God can heal me much better than you can.” And they had no choice but to believe her. Because, up until she was introduced to cancer, he always did.

To make a very long story short, she smiled and laughed her way through every surgery, test, treatment and negative diagnosis. The day she died, her oncologist told me, “I don’t know what to tell you. I have had her dead for two years. Every time I think she’s not going to make it, she opens her eyes and smiles and asks me when she can go home.” She baffled every doctor and nurse assigned to her case. Visitors left her hospital room feeling hopeful after talking to her, in spite of all the gloom and doom her doctors dished out daily.

She and I spent hours on end in waiting rooms, doctors’ offices, labs, and hospital rooms laughing about everything from the size of her patient folder (it was a volume) to the sad faces everyone put on when they spoke to her. We used to try and mimic them after they left and give them names to match their faces. We laughed so much that the nurses in the hospital had to tell us to be quiet because we were disturbing the other patients who were sick. Imagine that, a little cheer in a hospital ward. What were we possibly thinking?

One day, toward the end of her life, she was battling a brain tumor that was affecting her motor functions. Very simply, she was having trouble walking and kept constantly bumping into walls, doors and people quite unexpectedly. She and her friend took a trip to the mall to do some Christmas shopping. As she held onto her friend for stability and walked around the mall, her legs quite unexpectedly gave out on her and they went plummeting to the ground. The two of them laid in the middle of the floor in a Montgomery Wards store laughing so hard that neither one of them could stand. People kept trying to help them, but the more they tried, the more it made my mother laugh. I still smile when I envision the two of them sitting on that floor laughing in that crowded mall during a busy Christmas shopping season.

The average person might say, “There’s nothing funny about cancer”. And I would have to agree with them. It’s not funny. It’s deadly and it eventually robbed my mother of her life. But it’s not the cancer that was funny. It’s all the unexpected things that happened that she found humorous. Somehow, they helped her cope through the pain. Somehow, the smiles told everyone around her to stop treating her like she was sick. Somehow, even when she was dying, she managed to remind all of us that she was happy with the way she had smiled and laughed her way through this horrible ordeal. She made gallons and gallons of lemonade, sweet and sour mixed together…the perfect blend to quench anyone’s thirst and leave them refreshed and satisfied. That lemonade gave all of us hope that even in the worst of circumstances; you can see the humor and the joy in this life.

My mother and my daughter Jillian--her last Christmas with us

She was always smiling. Even in this picture, with an inoperable brain tumor, she was smiling. Today...and every day, I miss that smile. I miss that laugh. And I miss her overwhelming joy that even in the worst of circumstances, found something to be happy about.

To our mothers,
Texas Fan


Anonymous said...

Not much to say to that but beautiful, simply beautiful! What a great teacher she was to you.


Debbie said...

What a great story about your mother. As I read this, the tears are welling up in my eyes. She sounds like a beautiful lady. I wish I could have known her. She has passed alot of wonderful traits on to you. I am proud to call you my friend. THANKS

Scooter said...

Wonderful story. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

There is something special about a Mother's love and how they can always bring joy into our lives Your Mother sounded like a very wonderful and special lady and you have obviously picked up alot of her traits.
Thank you for sharing your story.


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