My Mother, My Hero
My first memory of my mother as a hero started with cinnamon candy. I’m not sure where I found this piece of candy, but like most children, I was oblivious to the dangers of running around the living room with a hard-cinnamon ball in my mouth. Until a piece went down the wrong way.
As soon as I started choking, my mother instantly appeared beside me, patting me on my back to get rid of the piece still lodged in my throat. Within seconds, I coughed it up, drank some water, and felt fine. A little shook up. But back to normal.
Whew! Although I never turned blue or fainted, the incident was still a close call in my preschooler mind, and it taught me one thing: My mom saved me. My hero saved the day.
My Mother, My Hero
My mother saved the day more times than I could count over the years through her prayers, life lessons, advice, and motherly duties. I continued to witness her heroism throughout my childhood. She worked at the same elementary school my siblings and I attended. As a special educational needs teaching assistant, she cared for severely mentally and physically handicapped students – many could not talk, walk, or feed themselves. Their grunts, noises, and behavior often scared other students in the building. I, too, initially felt apprehension whenever I stopped by her classroom or encountered her students in the hallways, until she taught me not to be afraid. To never stare or treat them differently. She spent most of her professional career working with special needs children and autistic students, only to retire early at 62 due to illness. Through her action, I learned to show compassion and respect to other people despite any differences.
My Mother. My Hero.
Whether encouraging me to pursue my dream to become an author or nursing me back to health in my adulthood after a ruptured appendix, my mother always looked out for me.
I still vividly remember the night I called her in tears after visiting a good friend who was battling multiple myeloma. My friend’s cancer had returned, and although Gigi warned me in advance about her physical change, I wasn’t prepared for the drastic transformation. My mom comforted me after that visit, and she continued to encourage me when that same friend succumbed to the disease a few months later.
I never imagined my family traveling down the dark road of cancer with my mom two years later. Without any signs, symptoms, or warning, she was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer six weeks before my wedding. And just like that, my mother – a healthy, kindhearted, faithful servant, and woman of God – suddenly became a cancer patient with a two-year maximum survival rate. The diagnosis took us all by complete surprise. It changed everything.
Life came to an abrupt pause as I hopped on the plane to support my mother and stand in faith with my family. The doctors’ reports didn’t faze her. After the first, second, and third opinion, she always stated, “God is with me. I will trust in Him.”
My Mother, My Hero.
Even when I attempted to postpone my wedding date, she protested.
“God will get me there,” she told me.
She started her first round of chemo just three weeks before my big day, and as promised, she arrived in Chicago with my dad for my wedding in good health and spirits. I felt beyond thankful for her presence. I needed her there with me. She was the first person I called on the morning of my wedding when an “unexpected friend” arrived 10 days early. I ran down to her hotel room at the crack of dawn, and she dissolved my frustrations after a much-needed pep talk.
She told me, “it’s going to be a beautiful day. Everything will turn out fine.”
Even though we had to nix the outdoor ceremony we spent months planning due to the rain, and the ceremony started late, my mother was right. October 12, 2014 turned out to be a beautiful day. The imperfections will never ruin the perfect moments I cherish from that day, such as seeing the smile on her face while watching my dad walk me down the aisle, her laughter from watching everyone bust a move on the dance floor, or the private moment my mother, sister, and I shared in my bridal suite right before the ceremony.
Everything turned out fine.
My Mother, My Hero
She asked me to take a trip with her to salon because she wanted to shave her head after losing most of her hair from chemo. I wanted to support her in every way possible and was glad she waited until I came into town to make the appointment. However, I braced myself for the salon visit. A shaved head was another reality that cancer had hit too close to home this time. But what I initially saw as a mark of cancer, my mother described as freedom. Shaving her head was a liberating experience for her, and she had no regrets. She looked beautiful, too. My sister and I picked out a wig for her, and she rocked it. “It’s just hair,” she said. “It’ll grow back.”
She was brave that way.
My Mother, My Hero.
My mother was strong. She never renounced her faith and only declared God’s goodness during her 11-month fight. She praised God for everything, from waking her up in the morning to having energy to go grocery shopping on her own. She only spoke positive of her situation and never indulged in self-pity, even during her most challenging days.
During her cancer battle, she wrote:
“I am so thankful to God for every small victory. I am still able to take care of myself. I still have a sound mind, sense of humor and spirit of expectancy. I’m not in hospice or in bed...”
While visiting my mom for Mother’s Day two years ago, I overheard her crying out in her bedroom. My father and I had prayed with her a few hours earlier, but evidently the pain had worsened. I’d never seen her in so much pain before in my entire life, and it shook me up. I wished I could pat her on her back and take it away to make it all better. I felt helpless because I couldn’t physically remove her agony.
Right before she took her pain medication, she told me, “I asked God not to let me go through this with pain, but if I must, then I will…”
Her comment floored me. This amazing woman of strength – my mother, my hero – believed with all of her heart, and her life was a testament of her faith. She reminded me of Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. The willingness to walk through the storm, regardless of the suffering. She trusted in God, as she’d always done since my childhood. I hold on to her comment today.
I climbed into bed beside her that evening, my heart heavy and full at the same time. She had unshakeable faith and fully believed she would beat it with God on her side. I knew without a doubt that she would fight cancer with courage and every ounce of strength. And she did.
She gave it her all.
And she was gone two months after Mother's Day.
Not a day goes by where I don’t think about how different life would be for my dad, my siblings, her grandchildren or myself if she was still here. If cancer never showed up on our doorstep and dropped this unwanted bomb into our lives. But in the shattered pieces, I pull on her strength and God's love to get me through.
My Mother, My hero.
I am so proud of My Mother, My Hero. My mother’s faith was evident in how she lived her life. She was one of the most kindhearted, generous, selfless people I’ve ever known. She ran her race with dignity, grace, perseverance, and honor. And even though she’s no longer here, her courageousness lives on. It gets me through hard days, especially on days like Mother’s Day when she is not physically here to celebrate. She smiles down on me today from the heavens. She lived her life to get there. She believed she would beat cancer undoubtedly. But in the end, she traded up.
No matter how much times passes, I will always miss her. When I choke back tears, and I feel like I can’t breathe, memories of my mother’s love surround me. Her words still encourage me to keep living. Keep loving. Keep dreaming. Keep writing. Keep believing. Even when it seems impossible.
My Mother, My Hero.
I thank God for you.
You continue to inspire me.
Your love lives on.
When times are hard, I think of our moments together.
I hold on to your memory.
And your love saves the day. Once again.