When I was nine years old I awoke from a twenty-eight day coma to find my mother sitting beside me. She had been there every day even when the doctors had given up all hope. I could not see my body as it was encased in an iron lung which did the breathing for me. I could not speak or swallow with the tube they had surgically planted in my throat. But I was able to smile. I was so grateful to see her. Her only time away from me was to visit my little sister in the polio ward down the corridor.
During the months that followed – when I was freed from the great machine and moved to a bed, when the tubes were removed and I was finally able to eat and speak again, and when I was able to gather enough strength to get around in a wheelchair and finally walk again, she was there.
Then, when I finally returned home with my sister, it was to discover that we were doing so without her. Along with a brother, we would grow up without a mother, step-mother, aunt, grandmother or any form of female wisdom. That was far worse than my near fatal bout of polio. That had a much greater impact on my life than the weakness of my body and the nerve destruction I live with. I live with the physical pain of post-polio syndrome and for many years I endured the emotional pain of losing her.
Many people come and go through our lives, some of whom are very dear. That is the reality of life. We are not immortal in our physical sense. Rather than focusing on my loss, I had to learn to be grateful both for the blessings and challenges that were presented to me through her. My memories of my mother are of what she shared with me during the short years we had together.
I am grateful for:
There are many more things I feel grateful for in the experience of living with her and all the other mothers I have known. None of us do everything perfectly but we all do our best.
“But there’s a story behind everything. How a picture got on a wall. How a scar got on your face. Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin.”
― Mitch Albom, For One More Day