I have memories linked with Mother’s Day that are filled with expectations. Expectations based on how my dad treated my mom on Mother’s Day. She was a queen in our home every year, but no expense was spared on Mother’s Day. My dad loved to buy flowers for every occasion, and this was a prominent occasion. One huge bouquet for the center of the dining room table, where we would gather with my family ~ a given. A beautiful corsage that would match the new outfit my dad had purchased for my mom. Then there would be a separate gift perhaps. She was honored and revered by my dad every day, but this holiday was one of the pinnacles of the year.
I share this as an illustration of how unrealistic many of my own expectations of MS would go. Mother’s Day came the 2nd year we were married. May 10, 1987. As is typical of most marriages, I carried these traditions in my head with an expectation that this is how every mother was celebrated. It was definitely not how my husband was raise, however. The result? Conflict. Were you expecting a different answer?
I actually became a mother on Mother’s Day. I was, like most pregnant women, highly emotional near the end. It was our first go at this holiday. I was a week late with my pregnancy. Several times my husband would try to buy me a gift, and I assured him that if I was not holding a baby in my arms on May 10th, 1987, I was not a mother. Hence, no gift for Mother’s Day. I had a successful, joyous delivery that evening, just past 9:30 p.m. Well past the time when this poor man had any chance of recovering from my sudden expectation to have that most-important gift in hand. . . besides the baby, of course. This was before 24-hr WalMart’s, the gift shop downstairs would be closed. He was left with a poor option: buy something the next day. He promptly arrived with something appropriate, also representative of the fact that we were still practically newlyweds. A lime-green bathrobe for me to wear in the hospital. I had visions of flowers and pampering; he had visions of practicality. I was quite unhappy at a time when I should have been ecstatic. We struggle with the gift-giving; it is a work in progress.
I relate this story because of our many expectations that came through the years with my diagnosis. I expected the neurologist to be wrong about this information he would give me just ten years later. I would go through extensive testing by my primary care physician in his vain attempts to prove the diagnosis incorrect by finding something less debilitating and permanent. During one of these attempts, I agreed to be blood tests for anything ~ I think they must have thrown in another pregnancy test for good measure, I had so many vials of blood taken. I find pride in odd things. My ability to not get sick by a needle back a great source of pride. However, as they began to take about vial #14 that day, I caved. I had to lay down. Oh the embarrassment! I am not kidding. Soon, 3 vials later, I was overcome by nausea. Just shoot me, I’m a wimp. I can still feel the emotions of hanging my head low, ashamed by my behavior. I had very high expectations of others, and I had them for myself.
I expected several other things once it was determined that the diagnosis was correct. For example, I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, process the information correctly. When I was told this was a degenerating disease with no known cure (still true today so far), I heard this just fine. However, I expected it to be more like cancer. There is a start ~ the diagnosis. There is the treatment ~ I had weekly to bi-weekly steroid injections by i.v. of solu-medrol, among other things initially. There is the resolution ~ you get better, or you do not survive. This is not the case with MS, and I didn’t care for it one bit. I couldn’t control this disease; it ran my life every chance it had.
I looked at the entire medical situation as though it were a math formula: Put in one strong dose of medical treatment, throw in some great physicians, stir with a heaping amount of optimism & perseverance, and out comes someone cured. Me! This was great for awhile. Then the inevitable occured. An exacerbation. Failure again! I was not used to this. I didn’t fail at a lot of things. I had gotten right back to my life (except for the new medications and the now-regular doctor visits), and I was ready to put this behind me. Back to playing tennis in the league I was on, hiking on Sunday afternoons in the beautiful backdrop of the Eau Claire River in Wisconsin. Back to training for my marathon.
I attempted all of these. Today I cannot do any of them, for a variety of reasons. I have learned to have different expectations. I expect today, as I write this, for the day to be a challenge. The temperature spiked yesterday as we returned from visiting my mom for Mother’s Day. I was in minor peril by the time we approached Springfield. We turned on the air conditioning, and went out for contrived errands while the house cooled down. I was going to buy some plants for the front yard, pick up some items at Target, and more. As the heat pressed down on me for hours, my legs became like wilted lettuce. I skipped the first store to conserve energy while my husband made the purchase for me. We arrived at Lowe’s, where he dropped me off at the garden center so I didn’t have so far to walk. I was soon getting sick to my stomach, walking like Lurch, experiencing dizziness as though I were talking on a tilt-a-whirl. Where is the ground, and will someone make it stand still please? Soon, the expectations of a great evening were collapsing and stress took over. I could not concentrate on why I was at Lowe’s, and I just wanted OUT. Just get me home to my safe territory where I have a controlled climate, surroundings that are safe when my balance is not intact, and no one staring at me. If only this last symptom were in my head, but it only takes a sideways glance to see the stares and gawking. My thoughts? Escape with paid plants in hand, and the symptoms and memories will disappear. They have not.
This Mother’s Day, I did make progress. I was thankful for what I had instead of hoping for more. A gift certificate and a candle. Cards. I like cards more than anything. They are an opportunity to show that you get the recipient’s personality. I had some expectations that weren’t met. Those emotions were discarded and replaced by a decision to celebrate what I did have.
One last significant thing occurred. I actually had two friends in the days leading up to Mother’s Day who would spend their first few days ever without their mom. One classmate from high school buried his mom on Mother’s Day. The day before, May 7th, a friend of mine, a former neighbor of 10 years, had died unexpectedly from complications following a knee surgery. She was just a few years older than me, in excellent health. She & her husband planned a large family from the time they got married. They were given charge of eight children. They homeschooled each of their children completely through high school. Well, Jill did. And her role was only half-completed. She still had three children at home. One daughter was a newlywed of just a few months. Another daughter? Engaged, and her mom will not be at a wedding already being planned. Grandchildren brought about by older children who are married. We had lived just houses away from each other; my children grew up with several of hers; we attended the same church for many years. She left behind children, grandchildren, a husband who adored her, and countless friends. The day before Mother’s Day, 2011. Talk about gaining perspective.
One of her children posted their response on facebook just hours after their mom had passed away. She wrote:
No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From a life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
As is said, I don’t know what the future holds for this precious family. I do know Who holds the future.
I no longer look at walking, long conversations, outward freedom to do what I want with my life as rights, but as privileges. I walk when I can, appreciate every time someone drives me anywhere, I embrace solitude like a long-lost friend. I know that this body is a temporary shell, a storehouse, a temple for God. There is eternal life far beyond this. Jill is there in heaven, rejoicing amongst thunderous praise while the rest of us try to make sense of this. Who am I to count this life I have as anything but joy?
2 Cor. 4:16 – 18 (The Message) So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us.There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.
Tagged: Death, Expectations, Faith, Family, Friends, God, holiday, Home, Joy, Marriage, Medical Tests, Mother, Mother's Day, Neurologist, Parenting, Primary Care Physician, Thankful, Traditions, Wisconsin