I have been somewhat lucky in my life. My childhood memories are mostly full of happy times doing normal things that kids do growing up. It wasn’t perfect; is it ever? But if I had to start over, I probably wouldn’t change it. What had the most impact in my life growing up, what made it great, was the presence of my mother. When I think back to my early years, I see her smiling face all over the place. It’s not that she was naturally perpetually happy, it’s that she strived to see the positive in everything. She insisted on seeing the glass half full; always kept an eye on that silver lining, and the sun was always about to come out, no matter how ominous the skies. She was a determined optimist.
It’s not always easy to embrace the positive instead of the negative. I believe it takes a certain amount of effort and much courage, especially in the face of adversity. In keeping with my mother’s view of the world, she showed relentless strength and continued hope even when faced with the most dire consequences. Just days before her life story came to an end, she was still making efforts to be strong, hanging onto hope until the last moment, more concerned about others than she was about herself. She would look right through me, sensing my devastation, smiling weakly to give me something to hold onto.
When her final moment came, I shamefully lacked the courage to be with her. As much as I loved her, and would have traded places with her in a second, I was unable to face the reality of her death. I was too weak. I like to think and hope that I have since learned something from my mother. That maybe, just maybe, I have come to find some of her courage and positivity.
Three years ago I sustained a broken neck in a car accident on my way to work one morning. It was a traumatic experience to say the least. I was told repeatedly by neurologists that I was extremely lucky not only to have been spared paralysis, but to have even survived the injury. I spent a week in the hospital, immobilized on my back, totally dependent on others for even my most basic needs. I was then sent home in a halo brace for several weeks.
During that time I believe I grew in leaps and bounds as a human being. I began to evolve from a child to a woman. I had the sense that my mother was by my side the whole time I was recuperating. Despite the pain, the immobilization, and the fear, I thought of my mother and her courage, and it helped me to hold onto a positive state of mind. I felt so lucky to have been spared worse consequences, and my appreciation of life expanded. I remembered and was inspired by the strength my mother had shown in difficult moments much surpassing my own. It helped me get through.
There is no real comparison to be made between what my mother experienced and my accident. Her experience was ever so much worse – it ended her life.
What I am compelled to say is that although a door was rudely and painfully closed in my face, another one, unexpectedly, sprung open. It took awhile but I finally found it and stepped through it, and I saw the light.