Following your heart

Rachel - Nashua, New Hampshire
Entered on April 30, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30
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I believe in following your heart.

I know exactly what you’re thinking; this is cliché and it probably hasn’t derived from personal experience. To someone who believes that, I would have to say that I used to feel the same. I always thought the saying was corny and stupid. It wasn’t until the most troubling event of my entire life that completely altered my perspective on the idea was completely altered.

When I was twelve years old and in the seventh grade, my mother was losing her second battle with breast cancer after what had been a very long year of struggle and treatment. Of course I was devastated to think that my mother might not be around anymore. She had taught me so much about life and everyday matters. She had educated me about everything from tying my shoes to always telling the truth. But at the age of twelve, just before I was about to go through some of the toughest years of my life, I knew that there was much more she had to teach me. If she wasn’t going to be around, I would miss out on so much she had to tell me.

In the days just prior to her death, my dad had kept telling me to go up to her room where she lay motionless, overcome with dementia, with an empty smile on her face. My dad wanted me to keep talking to her and telling her that I loved her. But I couldn’t even go into the room by myself. What would I say to her? Nothing I could think of seemed right.

One night I came home to find an empty kitchen and living room where, by that time, neighbors and family members usually flocked. I ran upstairs to find my dad, sister, and mother’s best friend sitting by her bed. My mother smiled. She looked happy, but as though she had no idea what was going on. I stood in the doorway, knowing exactly what was happening. My Dad motioned me over to the bed and I sat at the foot of it, furthest away from my mom. For the first time in days, I heard my mother whisper my name. My Dad and sister shifted so I could be closer to her, and I broke down crying as I took her hand and tried to think of something perfect to say. At that moment, her eyes connected with mine. For a split second, it was like she wasn’t sick, and that she understood perfectly what was going on. I didn’t have to say anything. At that moment, she uttered the phrase I will never forget. The last words she spoke before she closed her eyes and her breathes grew more shallow until she took one final long breath. “Follow you’re heart,” she had told me.

I try to live by these words more than any other moral or belief because my mom had chosen them over any other words the moments before she passed away. Of all the things I still had to learn and all the things she had left to teach me, that’s what she chose to say.

Needless to say, I didn’t consider the phrase cliché and trite any longer and if it is, well, I don’t care. I now look at situations in the respect of whether or not my actions will produce the outcome that I really want and are best for me in the long run. These decisions have come with situations as simple as whether I should stay in or go out on a Thursday night to as complex as what I am going to do with my life after college. I think that’s what my mom meant by saying follow your heart. She didn’t mean as a deep philosophy, but instead as an everyday idea.

Now, when I think of my mother, and the eight years I have lived my life without her, I don’t feel deprived that she isn’t around all the time to give me advice about every little thing. I feel that she has already told me everything I need, because she knew that in my heart, I already have the answers.