“If I know what love is, it is because of you.”
With the arrival of Mother’s Day a couple weekends ago, I would like to tell the story of a woman who has always inspired me. She was a woman of immense courage and strength. She taught me a great deal about life through her actions and hard work during her time on this Earth. I would have posted this earlier but I didn’t realize just how hard this would be to write. (And, so you know, it is a little lengthier than my usual posts.) Though it’s been hard these past couple of months not having her here, I know that she is never really gone. I only have to recall a moment or memory of her to keep her near to my heart.
I did not grow up in a traditional household, as my parents divorced when I was young. They split not that long after my younger sister was born. I would say right around the time I was a little over 2 years old. Then, a few years down the road, my sister and I went to live with my dad and stepmom in Montana. It was a change and an adjustment but we settled into our new life.
My parents owned a bar in the teeny, tiny town we grew up in located in Eastern Montana. And I mean tiny. As in under 1,000 people in the whole town. But, it was my tiny town and I loved it. My stepmom worked every single shift at the bar and still made sure we had dinner at night. She would get up around 8 or 9 in the morning to clean the bar (after making sure we were sent off to school). Then, she would do chores around the house, prepare dinner for the evening, go to work, come home late when the bar closed and then do it all over again. She still made time for every concert, play and track meet that my sister and I were at. She was superwoman and after all these years I still have no idea how she did it all.
I will never forgot the summer of 2012 when I found out about her diagnosis. It was ovarian cancer, something that you often hear is pretty hard to beat. Hearing that somebody you love has cancer is an incredibly scary feeling. You want to do so much for them but feel so powerless at the same time. Nothing seems to make sense and everything you thought you knew looks completely different. Then, you reach deep down into a place inside you and somehow find a way to keep going. It becomes a part of your life and while you still go through the motions each day, it is always in the back of your mind. At least, this is how it was for me. I did a lot of praying and questioning. I was angry at the Universe, at God. “Why would something so terrible happen to somebody so amazing?” That’s how we usually think when bad things happen. Maybe it sounds selfish, but it’s our nature to want to know the why and the how when something goes wrong.
Parents love their kids so deeply that no matter what they are facing, they will try to protect us. They don’t want us to know the harshness and cruelty of the world, at any age. No matter how she was feeling or how her day had gone, my stepmom was an incredibly strong woman. Even up until a few days before she passed away, whenever friends or family would call she would always tell them that she was doing great. Though I could tell just how hard this was on her body and just going out into the living room was a struggle for her, she didn’t care. Her strength is something I will always carry with me and whenever I feel overwhelmed or as if I can’t go on, I just remember all that she did and how hard she fought. I know I can take on anything.
She went through the surgeries, chemo and radiation but after almost 3 years her body couldn’t go on any longer. I don’t want to go into the details because that is not what I remember most about her. Cancer is scary and it sucks. I was lucky enough to spend the last 2 weeks of my stepmom’s life with her. It was hard to see her like that but I also knew that there was nobody else she would rather have taking care of her than her daughters. Even though I will never be able to repay her for everything she did for me through my life, I am glad I could have at least given her my time and love during her final moments.
She was the reason I started this journey on my blog, devoting a year to myself. I heard once, “It’s not that life is so short but that it’s so precious.” Going through all of this with my family for the past 3 years has made me realize just how true those words are. I was inspired by her love and caring for people around her. For her willingness to raise us as her own children. For her support and love throughout the 20 years I had with her. This is why I am grateful and feel blessed every day. How lucky am I to have had somebody who loves me so much? Not everybody is able to experience that, which is why I believe in spreading love and kindness wherever you go.
Friends, embrace today and relish every moment. Take a mental picture of the flowers blooming outside your favorite coffee shop. Notice something new on your city block. Say hi to your neighbor. Feel the rain on your skin. Act like a kid again. And if you love somebody, tell them. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and take life for granted. I’m guilty of it too. But maybe, just take a few minutes to do one or two of those things. Start small and I promise it will become a routine and pretty soon you will find that joy bursting inside of you. Remind yourself of how lucky you are and cherish this incredibly precious life.