“You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have truly lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love.”
~ Henry Drummond
This post is about love, not between two romantic lovers but between a mother and daughter–my mother and me.
When my mom was struggling with breast cancer, her doctors implanted a device in her upper chest where some of her drugs could be injected after the veins in her arms and hands had became too difficult and painful to access. Unfortunately the area became infected and the device had to be removed, which left an open wound. To heal, the wound required a thorough daily cleaning. I asked the home health nurse to show me how to care for the wound so I could help my mom restore health to at least that one thing.Love compelled me to do that. Love willed me through my fear, past my sadness, and into my compassion. Love guided me to face my pain to help soothe my mom’s. Love didn’t necessarily make that task any easier, but it did allow me to take the first step.
Love also helped me do other things that I had never conceived of:
- Rushing across the Dallas metroplex between my double shifts as a waitress to be with my mom during her multiple stays in the hospital in the first couple of months after her diagnosis;
- Bathing my mom and changing her diapers when her cancer progressed so much that she could no longer care for herself or even leave the hospital bed we had at home;
- Holding her unresponsive hands and caressing her motionless face while I laid alongside her dead body in the Dallas hospital where she spent her last days;
- Reading a poem I’d written about her at her memorial service in front of hundreds of family, friends, and others who loved her.
Had love not possessed me during her illness and death, I could have never done such delicate, difficult, and sometimes seemingly ineffective tasks.
Of course, love had gotten my mom through trials and suffering too, as is the case for all parents. Whether she was worried sick when I got Chicken Pox at the age of four, or exasperated when I threw the tantrum to end all tantrums, I’m sure love guided her. When I did things she didn’t understand or condone, love may have helped her come closer instead of pulling away. Love, I’m certain, had to be accessed regularly once I reached my teen years when so often kids and parents lock horns or build walls between each other. Love may have even given her the courage to be so vulnerable to me during her last six months of life.
“It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the loneliness and pain of someone unloved in our own home. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.”
~ Mother Teresa
July 2 was the 14th anniversary of my mom’s death. July 14 is her birthday. It’s been so long that I don’t really remember her voice, and though I don’t consciously think about her everyday, love helps me stay connected. Through memory of our shared life experience, I get to be with my mom in spirit. As those of you who’ve lost someone you deeply love know, there are times when you miss that person so much that you weep uncontrollably, overcome by your loss and filled with hopelessness. Writing this piece is opening me up to that pain anew. But love helps me ride those waves of despair and emerge whole, despite my scars.
Thank God that love does all it does for us. It’s the superhuman gift we’ve each been given — a superpower possessed by all mortals. Without love I’m quite certain that there would be no point to life, no reason to exist at all. So while loving someone with all your heart makes you extremely vulnerable, love will also mend the heart’s wounds, leaving you both more tender and more tough in the process. May each and every one of you do scary, difficult, gentle, powerful, and important things for love. And may your beloveds do likewise for you. Your lives will never be the same. . .and that’s a wonderful thing.
For all of my beloveds, especially today for my mom, born Cora Sue Boehm, on July 14, 1943.