Today, I will not be able to spend this mother’s day with my mom because I am on the Cape with my friends before graduation. But don’t think I still won’t make her cry! I’ve been saving this piece especially for today. I wrote it as a chapter of my Spiritual Autobiography for my class that I took this semester. I shared it with the class and when I turned it in earlier in the semester my professor wrote “You should show this to your Mom.” I could have just sent it to only her, but I think everyone needs to know what a caring mother I have and how much love I feel from her on a daily basis. This piece is just one of the many times I have felt unconditionally loved by my mom and serves as a testament to how much I appreciate her as a person and as a mother.
Until Superbowl Sunday, 2004, I thought I was free from the clutches of my illness, that this whole life-threatening thing applied to everyone else, not me. In short, my lungs were so inflamed, infected, and scarred that they began to bleed. My mother rushed me to the Children’s Hospital Boston Emergency room where I spent hours coughing up cup-fulls of blood, went into shock, received a transfusion of A- blood rumored to be from Tom Brady (but probably just from a nice person at an American Red Cross blood drive), received the anointment of the sick, and spent the night in the Intensive Care Unit. What happened next would remain in my mind for the continuation of my life.
My mother, the nurse, the healer, asked if I wanted a back rub. She would always rub my back from the time I was little. It was something that was expected from a mother and would always make me feel better. But this time, it felt different. I felt a spiritual connection with her.
It was quiet in the room, no television, no music, just the hum of my oxygen mask and the sentimental beeping of the heart monitor. My mother found some hospital Johnson and Johnson lotion. I still remember the smell of sterile, clean, powdery warmth. Untying the back of my hospital gown, my mother rubbed my back in the deepest display of motherly affection I have experienced since that day. I remember closing my eyes and letting go of the day’s events, of the pain in my chest, the worry pounding my forehead, the weak inhalations, the soreness in every bone in my body. I let go of the harsh realization that cystic fibrosis was capable of taking my life, of the fact that 20 more years wasn’t that much in the grand scheme of a life, of the fact that I may never make it to rub my 13 year old daughter’s back one day. With her warm, soft hands making purposeful circles up and down my back, I felt at peace.
A moment that should have been filled with fear and horror, was filled instead with warmth and love. It was then that I realized that regardless of what happened in my life, I would always have love and I would always be able to find a deeper connection with the world. It was then that I began to take each moment of my life at face value, to see the beauty and blessings of every experience, to appreciate that these moments were fleeting and I could never get them back. Whether it was through breathing in the fresh air at the top of a mountain, taking in the sights and sounds during a late night walk through campus, hearing the heartbeat under my true love’s chest, touching the soft fur of a 6 week old puppy, feeling a piece of chocolate melt on my tongue…. each moment in life would always be more, because each moment would mean that I was still alive.
Beneath my mother’s hands, I began to realize how important it was to pay attention to life’s gifts, to keep my eyes open to the wonder and perfection of each day, to inhale in each second, and to exhale out gratitude for the simplicity of being alive. Beneath my mother’s hands, I realized that I had to leave my fate behind, to let the universe hold me, teach me, guide me. Beneath my mother’s hands, I realized that if I died tomorrow, I would be content in knowing I was alive, not in the sense of heart beating and breathing, but in the sense of experiencing the world for what it is: beautiful, sacred, fleeting. Beneath my mother’s hand I realized a truth that would be most important in my life from that point on: As long as you have love, you will be okay.