Back on November 1st, 2011, a Facebook friend of mine challenged all her facebook friends to name something everyday in the month of November that we were thankful for. It was a great idea and one that I decided to engage. Until you count your blessings, it is easy to get caught up and lose sight of all you have to be thankful for. Life has a way of making our days long with busyness and short in years and opportunities seized.
At first I thought the process would simply be stating the obvious — listing the blessings I have been given. Wrong. It became an epiphanal moment each day that, beyond helping me understand the obvious (and not so obvious) riches I have in my life, has caused a fair amount of guilt and shame for not realizing sooner that I should be giving back more to those who have enriched my life as well as paying it forward to those I’ve not yet even met.
There’s a quote I like which goes, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when?” (Rabbi Hillel)
All of this gelled for me this morning when I posted the following update to my Facebook wall:
- Day 9 of my daily professions of what I’m thankful for and today I am thankful for my mother’s continued good health. Back in February 1986, she had a massive stroke that left her debilitated to the extent of needing full time care and physical and speech therapies. She has lived with great limitations for the past 25 years yet she proceeds forward and faces each day with determination and perseverance. Robbed of many of the small pleasures and simple activities every day, she did not choose how she gets to live the second half of her life. Yet she rarely complains and remains a beacon of light and joy in our family. Mom, I love you with all my heart. Thank you for teaching me more about life than you could imagine.
The post received 17 “likes” and several comments within minutes, all positive and acknowledging my love for my mother. Yet, as I read those posts, what occurred to me was that while I have been present for my mother always, I’ve not been fully engaged in trying to break through her communicative limitations and work to show her how deeply I love and respect her. For those who have never dealt with a stroke victim and the aftermath of a stroke’s highly destructive effect on brain function, motor coordination and communication skills, let me explain in greater detail. A stroke generally affects one or the other side of one’s brain and can act as an eraser coated with Armor All® that is used to wipe clean a chalkboard. Essentially, it wipes away the information that existed leaving limited ability to re-write the information in the area left affected by the eraser. So for 25 years, Mom has been at the acuity of mind similar to that of a 6 year old. Much of what you say has to be repeated and switching from one train of thought to another (as is common in a basic discussion) is very, very difficult.
What has resulted from that situation is that Mom usually participates in family gatherings but conversations happen around her, not including her. That makes me sad and as I read and reread my Facebook post today, brought tears to my heart for all of the time she’s missed life’s moments that are going on all around her. I can’t help but wonder if her mind does indeed process more than the outward manifestation her stroke betrays and it pains me to think that she has been a prisoner of her mind’s disability for so many years.
So, with authentic love and reverence for a woman who has given so much of herself to everyone around her for so many years, I now know that I need to not just count my blessings, but act upon them. Mom, as I’ve said a million times before, I love you. Now, please prepare to see me live it.