A dreary, rainy winter afternoon is not the best time to look through beautiful old cards from a beloved soul who has recently gone home to God, but that is where I found myself with the hope of finding a missing envelope. My cousin had called looking for information on my mom’s chemo grant for a person in her life who is battling cancer. I was intent on finding this precious information which was a godsend to our family for over 2 years! When I had finally found the grant information, I had already spent hours looking through beautiful cards and notes from my amazing mother. Many of the notes were sent when mom was truly sick – after brain radiation and receipt of powerful chemo drugs. Reading through the cards, one would never know that the author was a stage 4 cancer patient battling a life threatening disease. Love and concern for me, the recipient, was all that radiated through her gentle and inspiring words.
In the quiet of my dimly lit room I read the following note written by my beautiful mom just one year ago “Because of my wonderful family, I feel loved and strong and protected. God is good!” And then a few months before, in a Mother’s Day card to me she wrote “You make me feel special….” I sat silent for many moments after reading these cards wondering if we actually made a difference to her. And if we did, thank God – because I didn’t realize it until this moment. It came as a relief to me in many ways because mom was always a leader – a woman who protected and cared for us (and so many others) her entire life. It felt good to think that we could have given that back to her in the final years of her life when it really counted, when she really needed us – as she was fighting a disease that was causing her so much pain.
I am reminded of the old saying “you cannot give what you don’t have.” I’m thankful that mom gave us unconditional love as children and adults; she always made us feel special and she empowered us to be leaders. I recall lovingly that as children, she would come into our bedrooms and after prayers tell us to go right to sleep. We would always her ask why, to which she would respond “because you are special, the animals in your room get up at night and have a party – you don’t want to disturb them so go to sleep.” Thinking back, this would actually scare and delight us – not sure which but mom got her way with quiet kids and some much-needed evening peace. She was so clever, funny and always joyful – a sign of a loving and protective soul! She kept things light as appropriate and when needed – got serious. She always knew the right time and the right balance. I will forever be in her debt for these important gifts as a mom and as a professional.
The other part of mom’s message above that really struck me today is the line “God is good!” At the time she wrote that, things were very uncertain in her health life. The main chemo drug that had been successfully containing the cancer for 2 years had stopped working and her oncologist had moved her into intravenous chemo – something she truly dreaded. Our appointments at Dana Farber became more frequent and her fine motor skills were challenged due to the growth of the cancer in her brain. “God is good “- she wrote! Indeed He is and mom lived this truth her entire life believing these 3 little words no matter the circumstance. Because of her deep faith in God, she was able to navigate the cancer part of her journey with courage and grace – a gift which can only come from Him.
Thinking about mom tonight I smile – there are so many reasons to do so. Her gentle voice, her signature left-handed script, her perfect cards chosen so lovingly, her cool jeans that she loved to wear when visiting her kids and her genuine concern for every grandchild as evidenced by the cards in my drawer. I smile because she is still a daily part of ALL of our lives – her beloved husband Joey, her 3 children and 8 grandchildren. Her heroic life lives on in all of us. Her example as a woman of strength – a leader with humility, courage and grace is so rare today that we need to hold her up for others to follow. (I’d say this even if she wasn’t my mom.) Looking around at the political climate today brings me to despair. If more people were like my mother the world would be a better place. As leaders, we need to have faith in God, especially when times are tough! As leaders, women need to know how to humble themselves and reach across the aisle to those who may not share their beliefs – mom always did this in every facet of her life – at home, as a nurse and as a volunteer! And finally, as leaders – women need to protect their families and one another with LOVE! We don’t do that anymore – we are too busy disagreeing or pointing out something that is wrong with the other person. Mom always taught us to focus on what is good – what we had in common and then work toward a better tomorrow.
I have faith we can do better! My beautiful mom is as an example of how to be a strong leader of faith and love who cares for and protects others. Let’s give it a try!