This I Believe

Cynthia - St. Louis, Missouri
Entered on July 3, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: death, gratitude

Make up your mind, before a major even happens, so you can trust your decision over your gut instinct or primal fear. I first decided this after learning of a friend who scared off gun wielding teens rather than relinquish her wallet and car. My partner and I asked her what she was thinking, why she didn’t just give them the keys and money. She said, “Something snapped in me. I just couldn’t give them my car.” The police later caught the teens, and my friend went to the station to identify them. It turned out that they had a criminal history that included gun violence. I decided in the slim chance that ever happened to me, I would definitely give up the car and whatever else was demanded.

That slim chance happened two years later. I was sitting in my car, in front of my house, ‘finishing’ a story on NPR, and completely engrossed. Suddenly, the driver side door was opened and a gun was pointed in my face. The kid told me to get the”F” out. Now, I wasn’t really scared. I was shocked. And I wasn’t sure the gun wasn’t an ornamental antique. And I’d already had my identity stolen. My instinct was to give him the car but hold firmly to my purse and identity. But, I remembered my decision. I got out of the car and watched him squeal away in my Honda Accord.

Every time I’ve shared this story, I’ve been asked if I hadn’t been terrified. Every time, I told whoever asked, “I thought I would be, but I was more afraid of having to replace everything in my purse again.” I had a well thought out decision about what to do in such a circumstance and I was able to trust that over my feelings at the time.

Three months ago, I again trusted a well considered decision over fear and grief. My mother was on a respirator, something she agreed to only if it meant giving her time to get better and return home. When my brother, sister and I were informed by her doctors that my mom would never leave the hospital, we chose to honor her living will. The ICU doctor talked with us before asking us to leave so they could remove life support. He asked, “Are you ready?” My response was, “I’ll never be ready to lose my mom.” And then we all stepped out of door, waiting to go back in and be with her in her final minutes.

My mom had made her decision, and it freed us to rise about our grief and fear and instead simply follow her wishes. We kissed and held her and sang her favorite songs, and we were with her. We never had to second guess. I will always be grateful for the example she set and the protection she afforded us.