This is one of my favorite pictures of my mom when she was young and healthy with her vibrant red hair and peaceful green eyes. She was a beautiful human being inside and out. A woman of a few words, she was always humble, fair and kind and her teachings were simple without long winded lessons but rather teaching by example with a few unforgettable wisdom words as needed. She seldom had to raise her tone, it was just enough when she lifted an eyebrow for my brother and me to know that we had reached our limits. Despite any hardships that life threw at her, she had an inner strength and positive outlook in life. Her deep sense of spirituality gave her comfort and refuge. She was an avid reader and extremely creative from music to painting or crafts, she always seemed to make the time to create something new and beautiful.
She started writing a diary (journal) since the day she began dating my dad, so she has left me a priceless legacy. All the years of our lives documented as seen through her eyes. I have been waiting to have the time to finally dive into the treasure of her diaries that I keep in a beautiful chest. I wonder if this is one of the reasons why the idea of starting a blog was appealing to me. Propelled perhaps by an inner desire to want to share with others a bit of the essence of what we learned through our life journeys, some of the difficult lessons as well as the beauty and mystery we discovered along the way.
Some of her silent teachings that come to my mind today are when she was diagnosed with cancer. We were told that she needed to have a complex surgery called the Whipple procedure and then have some rounds of chemotherapy. The surgery was long, difficult and very painful but according to the surgeon it was “successful”. The unfortunate thing was that after all that she got metastasis while going through her chemotherapy treatments. As weak as she was she never lost her sense of humor and always managed to find something to say that would make us feel better. She was so aware and in tune with others’ feelings and always found a way to show that she cared.
I remember while waiting for her chemotherapy treatment, there was a little boy without hair quietly sitting next to his mom. His eyes seemed so sad and tired. I had not even noticed him because I was so caught up with my own inner feelings of sadness but my mom did. She took some paper out of her purse and started making a paper boat like a kind of origami. When she finished it she offered it to the boy and he gave us the most beautiful smile. His face lighted up while he started to play with it on the coffee table.
Another day we went to see her oncologist for a follow up and after a long and tiring wait instead of her oncologist, a new female resident walked into the room. Without looking at us she sat down at her desk, opened my mom’s file and started to read the notes. She briefly stated her name and asked a couple of questions without even looking at us while she started to take some notes. I could not believe the indifference and detached cold demeanor from this resident. I can understand that perhaps a certain degree of detachment in the medical profession maybe necessary to keep working with very ill patients without having an impact on their lives but somehow I feel that a little bit of compassion would have been such a solace at that point. However, the compassion came from my mom with another silent lesson on kindness. While the doctor was immersed in her fast writing her paper kept sliding and almost falling out of her desk. My mom, who was sitting next to her desk, gently moved forward and held the paper steady in place for her to be able to write. This was the first time that the resident doctor lifted her eyes from the paper and actually looked at my mom while she said “thank you”. This is one of the many little lessons on compassion that touched me deeply. Of course the doctor was a human being and she had feelings too. She was busy, tired, stressed, anxious and perhaps even afraid of facing her own mortality someday. She was coping by hiding behind her desk and papers behind the demeanor of her professional detachment.
After we left her office my mom stopped in the lobby of the hospital where she saw a little girl riding on an electric horse (like the kind you see in a carousel) except that her ride was imaginary because she had not paid the coin to actually get the electric horse to rock. Mom got close to her and asked the little girl if she wanted to get the horse to move and she shyly said “yes” acknowledging that she did not have a coin. Mom found some spare change in her purse and quickly put the coin in the machine. I am not sure at this point who was the happier the little girl from the pleasure and joy of riding that horsy or my mom with the satisfaction of making someone else happy.
These memories will stay with me always and many times have inspired me to follow her teachings on random acts of kindness. Sometimes it’s those little acts that can have such a huge impact. We don’t need to have much to help someone, to give a warm smile or to spread some joy around and touch someone’s heart. All we need is the desire to do it and when you do, you feel so deeply blessed and enriched.