Sunday, May 5, 2019
As a young child wrapped in my mother’s arms, I’d hear her ask me, “What am I going to do with you?”
I’d answer in tempo with the script we’d created, “Hug me, and kiss me and love me forever.” She’d squeeze me harder while kissing the top of my head, and I knew she would.
She died suddenly at the age of 47, and she never knew I had Multiple Sclerosis. This was 15 years before I was diagnosed with MS, yet she’s been a constant companion as I’ve navigated my life in general and the challenges I face living with MS.
Throughout the past 25 years, I’ve drawn upon her strength and quiet grace when I’m feeling fearful and untethered. She wasn’t without her own challenges, and seeing her life through an adult lens has helped me appreciate how amazing she was. I was lucky. I had that special relationship of a mother and child where I felt completely loved and supported. It was so pure, it could embarrass me to have her gush about me to her friends. Yet I held an arrogant confidence that if ever my life fell apart, my mom would be there to help me and she’d be glad she could.
When she died, it was a glaring realization to me that the one person I felt completely at ease asking for help was gone. After my MS diagnosis, I felt like the one person I needed most and who would have been the most helpful to me wasn’t there. I didn’t realize at either time that in my 23 years with her she’d become someone who would continue to inspire and guide me throughout my life. Her physical absence was real, but her strong presence in my thoughts gave comfort and pushed me to continue learning, living and connecting when so much was uncertain.
I have a lot of wonderfully kind, compassionate and supportive people in my life, and they help me through so much. At times they treat me in a way that resembles the unconditional love and compassion I felt from my mother. I’ve had people make suggestions and show concern while worrying they’re overstepping the boundaries of our relationship. These instances warm my heart profoundly. They’ve shown me the capacity for kindness and generosity people have even when they aren’t responsible for my wellbeing. I could dismiss my mother’s influence as required maternal behavior. I’ve learned though that not all people are hardwired to give selflessly.
The act of supporting and comforting others is truly a thing to nurture and cherish. It lives beyond the moments we share and shapes our ability to persevere. My mother’s influence many years after her passing is proof for me. She continues to guide my actions, she inspires me to be someone who gives love and support, and she encourages me to live a life of contribution where I’m able. Her love endures as a fact of my existence and influences all I do.