My dear Mama,
I woke up this mother’s day next to you and slapped you on the back shouting ‘Happy Mother’s Day!’ Before you had the chance to fully respond to this moment of abrupt awakening, I annoyingly placed my hand over your face just to be a further nuisance. At 34, I still like to try your love and patience with silly shenanigans. And through my hand you said, ‘and it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done.’
May this morning commence…we’ve already had an hour long catch up over coffee and you’ve shown me the afghan you are going to crotchet for my new adventure vehicle in retirement. Man, I’m blessed…and I could have lost you.
I remember unloading your car after work at 12 years of age and picking up a brochure about breast cancer…I knew what was coming. That night your boyfriend Jim came over for dinner. You brought us in on your breast cancer diagnosis around the dinner table and reassured us that it had been caught early. Life hadn’t been easy up to that point. We were young, but ready to stand up for the matriarch in our family. That night I fell down a flight of steps. Jim attempted to help me up from my stumble. I used some choice words with him. He was patient. You saw my pain and dismissed him to take on this time with your girls.
You went in for your lumpectomy and axillary lymph node dissection two weeks later and came home with drains leading from your chest. I would measure the cc’s of blood and serum that discharged from your chest wall in the little reservoir. You healed despite the multiple attempts at draining the seromas under your armpit and went back to work in the post-anesthesia care unit at the hospital. Your chemotherapy commenced. You never complained. Your hair began to fall out. You would cry uncontrollably at Hallmark commercials. I would pat your back while you vomited in the bathroom. Your white blood cells dropped; likely to the point that it was unsafe for your to work at a major metro Atlanta hospital, but your had two girls to feed. So, you taught me how to give you subcutaneous shots on an orange and then I injected the medicine into your body to boost your immune system. You praised me for my gentle hand, and I would do it all…anything to make you feel better. Then the radiation came and the discomfort and burns, but you never complained. My warrior mama, you showed me what perseverance looks like.
And I wanted so badly to be your shield…to protect you…from the sickness, from the inquiring minds that didn’t know how to address your illness, from anything that dared disrupt our attempts at normalcy. Seventh grade field day; your winter turbans and wigs were too hot for the Georgia heat. You were on your second bout of chemo after radiation and sat in the bleachers covering your sunburn susceptible skin with a wide brimmed hat. Walking along the long line of buses at school after the events that day some kid mocked your hat from the window of a bus. He was making fun of MY mother. I stormed past the bus-driver with the intention of assaulting that boy with my fists and words and all the anger and pain in my heart that had just been building for so many months. He was shocked as I tore down the aisle towards him and then I heard your calm voice from the window, ‘Susannah.” I looked in his eyes…he was petrified. “Susannah, it’s not worth it love. Come on honey; let’s go home.” My hands dropped like weights, my stiff upper lip began to tremble and tears poured forth as I turned in surrender towards the bus doors. You taught me forgiveness, humility and surrender.
You captained the ship. We didn’t freak out. You put one foot in front of the other and your babies followed. We celebrated 5 years of being cancer free, then 10. I wanted to go to school to become a nurse…you wouldn’t let me. 20 years later…no recurrence, thank God.
Mama, you are my rock, my inspiration, my biggest teacher. Sometimes I wonder how you summoned the strength to lay in bed at night, body depressed by treatments only to wake in the morning to go care for some other souls in need to support your babes. You taught me grace and compassion.
I am so fortunate…so fortunate to have you as a mama. So fortunate to have lived darn near every day of my life healthy. So fortunate to serve other survivors now in a way that I wish there had been someone there to listen to you and take away your physical pain and barriers to health and well-being then.
Mama, through your own times of peril, you gave me some of my greatest gifts. You taught me the values of perseverance, forgiveness, humility, surrender, grace and compassion. Thank you. I love you to the moon and back.