It was the summer of 1995. I was just shy of 16 years old, and naturally, looking forward to hanging out with friends, learning to drive and having fun. My brother was only 14. Little did we know that one hot summer day, our lives were about to change…
My mother was a stay at home mom. A rather quiet and very shy woman, she kept to herself. If she wasn’t home obsessively cleaning the house, she could be found at the mall window shopping or eating out at the local restaurants around town.
It was a Saturday, an extremely hot and humid summer day…one that would leave anyone feeling exhausted and having no energy. We had made plans to go shopping with mom, but because of her ill state, we ended up staying home, making plans to go the following day with dad. We figured it was the heat that was making her sick. That next day came and mom still wasn’t feeling well. It was still relatively warm outdoors, but not nearly as warm as the day before. It seemed as though mom was still having a hard time dealing with the heat, sweating profusely and feeling completely drained. She was grey in color and if you touched her skin, it was ice cold. Obviously, something was wrong. Off to the hospital mom and dad went to soon find out that mom would end up becoming a life long cardiac patient.
…To put it in terms that others would understand, mom’s heart was enlarged and very damaged. She was immediately placed on the list for a heart transplant and for ten years, she lived and dealt with a heart condition that progressively got worse, leaving her to slowly weaken. Countless doctors appointments and hospital visits and a multitude of different medications and diet changes became the lifestyle she had to deal with. By March 2004, she had received a heart but unfortunately passed a month later, just days before her 47th birthday.
By the time the children of my mom, aunt, and uncle were growing up, I think the family began to realize there was a serious problem that ran in the genes of our family. Of the 7 children born between them, 4 of us would encounter our own heart problems; some at birth, others as young adults. While we could be upset with the hand we were dealt, having to deal with life long health problems, we all have remained optimistic and strong, continuing to wear a smile on our faces. We also learned the importance of knowing our families health history in hopes to catch any potential health crisis that may come our ways.
It was 2007 and grandma was in her early 70’s when she finally passed away. She had lived a relatively long life and had faced the heart break of loosing not only her husband but both of her daughters as well. Her grandchildren were becoming riddled with heart problems and although she never showed it, this bothered her terribly. But she remained strong and accepted that perhaps it was all God’s plan. She was an extremely strong willed and very outspoken woman who managed being a single mother raising three children on her own. She loved her grandchildren and great-grandchildren – they were her life. She finally suffered a massive heart attack that took her life….but perhaps as heart broken those of us were when it happened, it was simply her time to be with her maker and with the rest of her family that were no longer with us. There was one prayer that she had hanging up on the walls in her apartment…the serenity prayer…
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference. Amen.
Perhaps God gave her the will to be strong and so accepting for all of those years; she had learned to accept what was happening with her family rather than asking the question “Why?”. Perhaps her faith in God and her family was what gave her the will to live the life she lived.