As a child, I did not have the love of my biological mother. Everything in life seemed dark and indifferent to me. I allowed hatred and bitterness to dictate my actions. For fifteen years, my life was a fight to survive, and I was a product of these dark emotions that tormented me daily. My life was in chaos, and I was a player in what seemed to be a demented dream that would never end.
After fifteen years of violence, abuse, and poor decisions, I surrendered my independence to the civil authorities who were in charge of keeping abused children. My hopes were that they could make my life better. But I was not placing my hopes in the right source, because it would take more than regulations and discipline to save my life. It would take the kind of love that only a real mother can give a child.
I met the mother who would show me a real mother’s love in the county orphanage for abused and neglected children. She walked up to me and only asked if I wanted to leave the orphanage and live with her family. Although I could see love in her face and actions, my only thought at the moment was getting out of that place and isolating myself from others. After the hurt that I had experienced, I did not trust anyone. I had no concerns for the thoughts, feelings, or emotions of others. My world and life were consumed with the walls I had built around my heart. I was determined to hold on to the anger and resentment that I believed to be my strength.
Later, I would discover that my new mother’s decision to take me into her home was more than a physical act of compassion. She called it a spiritual duty. Her actions proved that claim, and my hardened exterior began to soften. She lived her life before me with power. On many occasions I witnessed her prepare food for people who lost loved ones. She also prepared and took food to people who had no food. I have never forgotten these acts of kindness. Although her duties never seemed to cease, she relentlessly set before me an example of love that changed my life forever.
My mother never acknowledged any difference between her daughters and me, her foster son. I can remember many evenings when she would come home tired from working as a registered nurse at the local hospital. She never failed to cook our supper or get us ready for school the next morning. When we were sick, she never abandoned us. She worked every day to make our lives better. I never witnessed such love and compassion in a person. The way she lived her life before me allowed me to turn away from the bitterness and grudges that made my world so dark.
I know that many mothers have contributed to influencing their children in a positive manner, but my foster mother had a tougher task, and precious little time to accomplish it. She had to strip away the darkness that fifteen years of hatred had produced. She had to teach me how to love myself before I could love others. She accomplished her task, and my life today is a testimony to her devotion, faith, and character.
I believe a mother’s love has no boundaries. I know firsthand that it has the power to change lives. A mother’s love can overcome hatred, animosity, and selfishness. It has the power to heal an abused heart and body. I believe that it takes a mother’s love to heal the wounds encountered at the expense of living life. I can attest this to be true, because it was a mother’s hatred that made me bitter, but another mother’s love that saved me from self-annihilation.
Bruce Rankin currently resides in southern Ohio. He wrote this essay to honor his foster mother on her birthday, although it took him four years to actually read it to her.
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