That’s okay if you sang that. In truth, the song “Seasons of Love” from Rent is truly one of my favorites. Now the meaning withstands much more than I ever thought imaginable.
A year ago, in February 2021, my mother, her caregivers, and myself all graced the cover of Life Along the Wabash magazine. The article was beautifully written with images that captured the essence of our love story.
My mother, Carolyn Davis, a long-time local nursing home administrator, shared the story of her diagnosis of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) with a community that she selflessly served for so many years. The story of love was between girls that had worked for her as Certified Nursing Assistants through the years under her guidance and direction, creating a passion for serving others in their time of need.
When it became my mother’s time of need, those ladies didn’t have to think twice to answer her call.
For 15 months, my mother’s caregivers were there for her when I was working, attending my children’s extracurricular activities, or needed a date with my husband. I was my mother’s caregiver every evening, every night, and throughout every weekend. The bond I shared with her is not one everyone can say they have with their own mother, and that makes me sad. My mother was my best friend, my confidant, and my mentor both in life and in career. It was her that lit the spark that fueled my own fire for a love of healthcare that I continue to be passionate about to this very day.
My mother raised me with the thought of others always playing a part in the way I handle most situations. Whenever I see an elderly man eating alone at a restaurant, the first thought that comes to my mind is that it’s his anniversary with his wife that passed years ago. Perhaps this was their favorite place to go and maybe he’s enjoying the very same meal they’d eat while sitting in that very same booth. Tears brimming my eyes and warmth flooding my heart, I make sure to smile at that man, even pay for his meal.
It was my mother that instilled in me the concept of looking at it from other’s points of view, even when they are completely opposite of your own. See something from their eyes, hear something from their ears, and imagine walking one day in their shoes. Be mindful of this. No matter what a person has done in their life, good or bad, that person is (or was once) someone’s child. This person…is a person, too.
When my mother received her devastating ALS diagnosis, her integrity never waivered nor did her outlook. She would constantly say, “I could sit here and cry ‘why me?’ but really, ‘why not me?’ I’m no better than anyone else who has or will get this disease.”
How can you argue with that? My mother’s advice was second to none, and I truly mean that. Her strength has gotten me, and countless others, through the worst hardships of life.
The one piece of advice that sticks out the most is her outlook on intense feelings. Whether it be grief, anger, sadness, or frustration, my mother always repeated herself.
“Suck it up and deal,” she would say. “Sure, this is hard, and you have a right to feel the pain, frustration, and agony; but, you don’t get to live there. You don’t allow it to swallow you. Instead, you suck it up and move on. You find ways around that barrier. Was it not how you planned? Too bad because that’s how it is now. How are YOU going to MAKE it work for YOU?”
She had given me this advice countless times, but the depth of it could never have gotten me through the worst hardship I had to face. Losing her.
My mother won her battle against ALS on Oct. 25, 2022. ALS is a progressive disease that takes and takes until there is nothing physically left to take. My mother, a true ALS warrior, continued to fight her failing body until there was absolutely nothing ALS could take from her any longer. Still, the light of her brilliant smile, the warmth of her advice even through her last whispers, and the depth of her fighting spirit was never taken from her, and thus, never taken from us.
It is due to the affection and love she molded into her caregivers, our family, and friends that my mother’s love continues on. Her aspirations to treat others better than you would treat yourself has been spread through the community and embedded in those who knew her, cared for her, and loved her.
That is how love truly never fails.
525,600 minutes. How do you measure, measure a year?
It’s time now to sing out, although it’s not the end. To celebrate, remember a year in the life of a friend.
Remember the love.
I cannot possibly thank everyone who was a part of my mother’s ALS journey, rather right alongside of her, or in support of me before, during, and after she was released from her disease. The love I have for our community, both personal and professional, can never be etched properly with the intensity of gratitude I have.
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