My mother and I always had our differences; she would always begrudge me for my slovenly ways, and slacker attitude. I was a teenager, defiant and a borderline asshole when my mother was diagnosed with cancer for the second time. She had breast cancer before, when I was a child. She was a strong, proud survivor. This second bout would be nothing. I guess that is why, when again she got sick, I sloughed it off in typical teenage fashion, and thought of it more as a nuisance than something terribly serious. However, my mother’s cancer didn’t get better, it got worse.
When we moved her from the second floor bedroom to a makeshift bedroom in the dining room on the first floor, the seriousness of the situation had start to set in. It must have been hard for her, she loved her bedroom; it was a sort of sanctuary where she could meditate, relax and read books. It was there in that makeshift bedroom where I would find my one guiding principle of life.
With my sister away at college (my mom would have it no other way), it was my father and I that had to help with my mom’s daily tasks. Things started to get worse for her and she needed more care. I will never forget the first time she asked me to help her use a bedpan. I could tell she dreaded to ask me. I was taken aback by how vulnerable this once strong, prominent woman was. It was then that I realized she was asking me out of love, that she needed me. This was also when I really started to grasp how bleak the situation was.
I know in my heart I was a shitty nurse; I really did not enjoy the job. Nevertheless, whether I was helping her with intimate tasks, reading books to her, or going to buy her favorite chocolate malts, I realized that I believe in love. Without my mother and father’s love, my sister and I would not be here. Without the love of hundreds of my mom’s friends and family that would come to visit with her on a daily basis, she may not have survived as long as she did. Without the love I had for my mother, I would not have been able put aside my teenage bullshit and help to make her last days be as pleasurable as possible.
Almost seven years have past since my mother died and we all moved on. I went on to college, my father since has a cool new fiancé, and my sister is married and has 2 adorable children. But I won’t forget the lesson I learned in that makeshift bedroom. When someone is in a position of such vulnerability, her love of others and people’s love of her can make all the difference in the world, not only to the person who is sick, but also to the people who care for her.
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