At the age of fourteen my mother had several strokes and fell into a coma. She laid unconscious in that hospital bed for over a month, and one day she woke up with a body that refused to move. Her entire left side, from her face to her foot, was paralyzed. I can only imagine the emotions that she was experiencing, and the thoughts that were going through her mind.
I’d always known her to be an active and happy individual; always finding the light side of things and laughing about something (many times at herself), and always humming or singing one of her favorite tunes. Up until the day of the stroke she had worked full time, kept a fantastic flower and vegetable garden, was a fastidious housekeeper, attended church devotedly, was a great cook, talented seamstress, and was a dedicated wife and mother.
She was an avid reader who took the time to read to me on a nightly basis. Old Yeller, Jane Eyre, Peony, and Great Expectations are only a few of the books she introduced me to. My fondest childhood memories are of the times we spent together enjoying nature. We’d sit outside under the stars, and have conversations about everything under the sun. I learned the importance of sharing my thoughts with others because of her ability to share hers with me. She taught me the value of learning something new every day. I knew her as the rock who would always be there for me, come what may. But, a stroke stole my mother from me. Suddenly I was the caretaker. For months after the coma, she was unable to do anything for herself, and could barely even talk. At the age others were experimenting with their dating techniques, I was learning the meaning of unconditional love.
Although she rarely complained, the frustration and sadness she felt was apparent by the welled up tears in her eyes. But, somehow, she always managed to give me a crooked smile through her tormented condition. The most painful memories I have of this time in my life, were of her attempts to walk on her own. Time after time she would end up on the floor. Instinctively, I would run to aid, but she always insisted on getting up by herself. Watching her writhe about on the floor until her good hand could take a firm hold of her useless limbs was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. It seemed like an eternity before she could get to a seated position because her side dangled heavily and would pull her down every time she would get half-way up. But no matter how long it took, she never quit trying.
People pitied her because her body was crippled. They saw an unproductive woman because she was unable to function as she once had. I am sure she saw the pity in their eyes, but she never let other people’s negative remarks, or their body language influence how she felt about life, or about herself. She refused to be labeled an invalid and fought hard to stay positive. She was determined to live a full life despite her dire circumstances. And, she did.
Mom never regained the use of her side. Nevertheless, she learned to cook, wash, and even iron with her one good side. It was amazing to see how she would invent ways to compensate for the loss of her limbs. The most impressive part was that she laughed at herself, and sang through it all. When things got tough she’d say“Life is great, if you don’t crumble.”One thing I’ll never forget was how she’d begin each day. As soon as her eyes opened, the first thing out of her mouth was,“This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”It still amazes me that in spite of her condition she remained grateful.
So now, whenever I begin to gather my party favors to throw myself a pity party, I remember my mother’s attitude and try my best not to crumble. With her as an example, how can I allow myself to whine and complain about anything? For that matter, with Christ as an example, how can anyone allow themselves to complain?
What we believe is ingrained in our hearts. The words we speak and the things we do show others what is in our hearts. Let’s make sure our beliefs are good because we’re someone’s teacher, whether we realize it or not.
What lessons are you teaching those watching you?