Finding Mom’s Pearls
It’s no secret that one of the most important jobs for a mom is to impart ‘pearls of wisdom’ for her children, passing them from one generation to another. My mom was no different, but her wisdom came more often in the form of her actions rather than her words.
Mom’s Pearl #1 - Do what you have to do.
For my mom, life changed a few months after her 65th birthday when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of lymphoma. In spite of equally aggressive treatments, her cancer kept coming back stronger and more destructive each time. Mom was told that her only hope was a clinical trial that involved a stem cell transplant. This last chance treatment required high-dose chemotherapy and there was a good chance that the treatment would damage other healthy cells and organs. She was weak and exhausted, but didn’t hesitate when she told the doctor to sign her up.
Mom’s Pearl #2 - Celebrate everything (preferably with cake and ice cream).
The transplant process lived up to the doctor’s prediction – it was grueling, painful, and the cure almost took her out a couple of times. But, cure it did. A few months later the transplant was deemed a success and killed all the cancer cells. We celebrated big with friends and we had cake and ice cream.
Mom’s Pearl #3 – When life happens, deal with it.
Unfortunately, the cure continued to wreak havoc over the next decade - heart, lungs, and kidney damage, and a mini-stroke were just a few of the adverse effects. Mom’s body struggled to find balance and her brain grappled with the gravity of her body’s limitations. At one point, she was plagued with heart failure so severe that her cardiologist called in the family and urged us to get her affairs in order. We did. She fought. She recovered.
Mom’s Pearl #4 - Change direction when the road dead-ends.
As if all of that was not enough, we were stopped in our tracks by another devastating diagnosis. We weren’t expecting this. Hadn’t she been through enough? Her new challenge: mixed dementia (vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease). We knew she was having memory issues and repeating things, but then she began mixing up her meds and burning food, so we knew something was very wrong. We prepared ourselves and she found humor.
Mom’s Final Pearl #5
Mom’s last big struggle was a year ago after a bout with pneumonia… her lungs were no longer working and the medication to help her lungs caused her kidneys to fail. Her brain no longer processed signals from her body about what it needed. She went home, this time with hospice care. Over the next three months, we celebrated my parents 60th Anniversary, enjoyed another Christmas, and had cake and ice cream for Mom’s 80th birthday. She passed away a few weeks after that last celebration.
I needed to write something to inform my fb friends and family of mom’s death. These were people who had filled our virtual waiting rooms with prayers more times that I could count. My sister and nieces wrote elegant heartfelt posts and I struggled. Later in the evening on the day of her death, I searched for a photo to help me find the words. Mom’s most recent photos did not do her justice – she had made it clear that she did not like that her wrinkles doubled and tripled as she lost weight, did not like that her hair was now straight and wiry, and even though she always managed to smile for pictures, her smile looked forced and weak.
Then I saw it… a photo of mom from high school that was taken while she was in her prime… young, happy, and carefree. It was then I that I found them in her jewelry box. All the pearls. Enough strands for each of us to have one. I finally knew what to write.
So, while we wear Mom’s pearls around our necks to remember her, we honor her most with the pearls we carry in our hearts. We do what we have to do; we celebrate everything; when life happens, we deal; when the road dead-ends, we change direction; and most of all, we live every day with grace.