I am usually not a sentimental man by nature. I never have been. But lately, for whatever reason, I have been thinking a lot about my mother. In thinking, I have come to some rather surprising (to me) conclusions.
Nearly everyone who is asked will say that their mother is a remarkable person. It goes with the territory I suppose. But I can truly say that my mother is remarkable person based upon her life and the way she has lived it. That is not to say that my mother is some sort of saint. She isn't and she would be the first one to admit it! However, throughout her life she has been consistently consistent.
Her attitude has always been one of her strong suits. She has been through some very difficult times in her 82 years. She grew up in the depression but was lucky enough to have a father (my grandfather) who always had work. Yet, she was not unaware of the plight of others. She saw friends and neighbors who struggled mightily just to feed their families. She remembers a frugal father who, while he saved everything he could for fear that one day he would be without work, saw to it that she wanted for nothing within reason. Most of all, he showered with a very special kind of fatherly love that has bound the two together for years even up to now.
Her mother (my grandmother) was a woman of enormous kindness and compassion. Her heart ached for those who suffered and struggled through life even though in her latter years she struggled daily with debilitating pain. She taught my mother to have a loving heart with dignity and integrity. There was an unmistakable bond of love between the two of them that became more and more apparent toward the end of my grandmother's life.
My mother has lived longer than both of her parents and in recent years has suffered from failing health. For years she swam daily. She often went out to eat with her friends and then did some shopping. She enjoyed an active life. Even blindness that set on due to macular degeneration did not stop her. She finally stopped driving probably much later than she should have but the thought of giving up her independence bothered her considerably.
As she grew older, her legs began betraying her. She had a harder and harder time getting around. While this may have sidelined other people, it didn't my mother! She adopted a walker and swallowed her pride by riding the mechanized carts at places like Wal-Mart. Then came her heart attack. It was a dark March morning a few years ago when I got a phone call in my office from her. She did not sound like herself at all. She sounded tired and weak. But what struck me most is that she sounded scared. She had every reason to be scared since at the very moment we were talking, she was having a major heart attack. One of the main arteries leading into the heart had become completely blocked. At the moment of our phone conversation she was dying. Yet, despite everything, her attitude remained positive and I am sure that is what got her through those very troubling days.
All this time she was living alone in an apartment. Then another brush with death and this one would usher in a life-changing event. Because she was unable to see and because she was unable to take care of herself because of her sight, she overdosed accidentally on the potent blood thinner she was taking to keep her healthy. She nearly bled to death as a result. She was in the ICU for a few days and the hospital for the rest of the time. During that time she came to the conclusion that she could no longer live alone and so moved into an assisted care facility. While it is not a nursing home, the staff does look in on the residents from time to time just to see how they're doing. They also distribute medication thus safeguarding against an accident like the one that nearly claimed my mother's life.
Now, in her older years, she has reached a level of happiness that she deserves so much. The most traumatic thing that happened to her was her divorce from my father. She loved him very much. It wounded her more deeply than she will ever admit. Despite the hurt and deep disappointment, she moved forward with her life. In an era where a single parent was very rare, she went to work to support me. She found time for me despite her work schedule. She sacrificed mightily for me so that I would want for nothing. Did we have all the money in the world? Not even close! Yet, there was always the comfort and security of the love of my mother.
I don't know how she did it. She never mentioned how difficult it was being a single parent and it must have been more difficult than most of us could imagine since it was not accepted as the way it is today. She had to be lonely. She had to wonder why things happened the way they did but not once did she ever mention even a hint of her heartbreak. She simply moved forward with her head held high into an uncertain future.
Most of all, my mother's life has been guided by her faith. She learned her faith, as did I, in large part from my grandmother. She was a lady who prayed daily. She was not afraid to tell you of her faith but did not feel compelled to tell anyone within earshot of her beliefs. My mother inherited that faith. She talks very little about her belief in God, but she comes from a generation who doesn't do a whole lot of talking about such things, they just live it! This is the only way that she could have gotten through the trials in her life. She prays often and one of the biggest disappointments in her life right now is her inability to go to Mass regularly. Yet, she continues on, speaking with God day in and day out as others might talk to a friend.
My mother has sacrificed for me all of my life. She has loved me when no one else did or dared to. She believed in me when every other person in my life found it impossible to do so. She stood by me with a mother's unfailing love and that is what brought me up from the depths of my darkness. It was the love of God and His eternal compassion made manifest through her. I owe much to her and as each day passes by, I find myself admiring and loving her even more.
I began this lengthy piece by saying that she is remarkable woman and she most certainly is. I hope that we have her around for a good long time so that we can all share in her wisdom and experience and learn more about life than from any other source. She has three great-grandchildren. May they come to know this remarkable woman as I have in their lives!