My mother was such an inspiration to me. She was only 30 when my father passed away, so young to be a widow. So young to have to face the world alone with a child. My mother had a job as a nursing assistant then – she only worked part time evenings – to give her and dad some “fun money”. When dad died, it was her only income – and she decided to make more of it. So, at the age of 32 my mother went back to school and got her nursing license. She is a registered nurse to this day. NOW she works 12 hour days – 3 on, 4 off. She likes it that way, it gives her more time for her grandchildren and her yard.
While mom was in school, year three of her four year program, her mother got sick. We took her to the doctor and the diagnosis was grim. My grandmother had end stage bladder cancer that had metastasized to her lungs. They gave her three months to live. It was her 75th birthday. My grandmother started chemo that same week – she asked the doctor to work for a year – she wanted to live long enough to see her great grandchildren come into the world. My cousins wife and I were pregnant at the same time – two great grand babies – due at the same time!!
The chemo was taxing on her I know – but it had to be ten times worse for my mother. She worked nights, cared for grandma during the day, and then tried her best to keep me sorted out with my myriad of pregnant teenager issues.
That had to be the hardest year my mother ever went through.
Once my daughter arrived my grandmother seemed content. Photos of my cousins daughter soon arrived – she was born one week to the day (nearly the hour) after my daughter arrived.
Then grandma started to have problems. She became depressed and suicidal, and it was so hard for my mother to concentrate on school, home, and grandma. So in my second semester of college I took some time off. It was November, and I could use the break from things – so I took care of grandma. I also took care of grandpa, who was not paying attention to his own health, the sicker grandma got.
When my grandmother died – I was at school picking up my grades, and my mother was at school (the other end of town) taking a final exam. My aunt called the school, and I zoomed home. My mother wasn’t far behind. I walked into her room, took her hand in mine and told her goodbye. I also checked her pulse and respirations (Paramedic classes, couldn’t help it), and called 911. Thankfully, the dispatcher put me through to our fire chief, who I grew up with, and he sent the ambulance out only as a courtesy to me. They left their equipment outside when they came to pronounce my grandmother dead. They knew she was a no-code. I called the funeral home when they left, and made my grandmothers funeral arrangements. My mother and my aunt were in no condition to handle it at the time, after all their mother had just died. It was her 76th birthday.
My mother struggled so hard that year, with me pregnant and only 17, her mother dying, her father struggling with the grief that goes with losing a spouse of 50 years… she had it rough – but she toughed it out, and she made it. She showed me that no matter how hard things seem to be, no matter how much it hurts, no matter what the cost – you have to continue living your life. You have to do things that make you happy, you have to continue to love yourself, and most of all, you have to keep going. One foot in front of the other. Keep your sunny side up. Those are words that were passed from my granddad, to my mom, to me – and now on to my kids. I grew up hearing it – and I say it to myself every single day.
My mother surely taught me how to live life to its fullest, even when you are looking deep despair in the eye. Just keep your sunny side up, and put one foot in front of the other.
I love you mom!