When I was four-years-old, my sweet mother, age thirty-six, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. It made her so ill, she withered away to a frail sixty pounds. The tumor sat on her optic nerve and caused her to go completely blind. The doctors gave her six weeks to live and told my parents that if they tried to remove the tumor, it would either kill her or leave her a vegetable the rest of her life. They decided not to operate and arranged funeral plans instead.
We had many friends and family who supported us through this difficult time. Grandparents helped care for us. Most importantly, prayers, fasting, and priesthood blessings through our faith were given. She slowly began to regain her health and found a doctor who was able to successfully remove the tumor.
It was a miracle. SHE LIVED. A most loving Heavenly Father answered our prayers for her survival. He had other plans for her to fulfill in this life.
When I was eight years old, we moved to St. George, Utah. Soon after our move, my mom gathered us in my grandparents’ bedroom and told us that my parents were getting a divorce. She then starting raising four out of her five children as a blind, single parent. We lived off of $12,000 per year with the help of welfare and disability from the state.
As small children, we began to take on responsibilities most children never have to worry about. We helped with cooking, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, guiding my mother, and reading to her. We helped her with Braille, and endless paperwork from the state. People used to ask my mom if she’d ever get a seeing eye dog and she used to say, “Why would I need one? I have my children for that!” The tumor may have taken her eyesight, but her sense of humor was still there—one of my favorite qualities she possessed. She was devoted to her children and taught us to love God and our Savior, Jesus Christ. She depended on Them for strength to get her through each day.
The hardest, but most strengthening time as a child while watching my mom go through this trial were those moments I’d find her kneeling in pray in the middle of the night. Her quiet sobs and pleas to our Father in Heaven. These are sacred and humbling memories for me. We also had loving family and church members who helped with the necessities our family needed to survive. I am grateful for Christ like people in my life who have served us willingly. This has blessed my life tremendously and set an example I want to live up to.
When I was 18 years old, my mom started having post-operative seizures and small strokes. After my youngest sister, Erin, got married we moved my mom to Oregon to live with my sister, Ciara, although she would travel back and forth from my sister’s house and mine, still in Utah. However, then my mother’s health started to decline. She began to lose function of the left side of her body and eventually lost the ability to walk or use her left arm. She is now confined to a wheel chair and her short-term memory is also gone.
Not only was I trying to care for my own children, but my mother soon needed the same kind of care they required. It was on a much more difficult scale however. She needed help with diapering, dressing, lifting, bathing, feeding.
As a family we had to make one of the hardest decisions. We could no longer care for my mother in our home. It wasn’t safe. We moved her permanently to Utah and I placed her into a care facility close to my home.
This was a heart wrenching process. We had taken care of her our entire lives. I felt I was abandoning her. I felt the agony of her loneliness. She belonged in our home with our children. She was confused and scared and couldn’t understand why the change was happening. Shortly after, my sister and I both received an answer to our prayers from a talk given by Henry B. Eyring titled “The Caregiver.” This brought peace and clarity to the pain and guilt we continued to bear. These wise words continue to echo in my mind:
“Our choice to best help someone through hard trials then becomes, “What course should I follow that will best help the person I love to ‘endure well’?”
I believe I am fulfilling the last purpose Heavenly Father has for my mom. I know that through works of service our testimonies and love for God and our Savior grow deeper. Our hearts grow softer and fill with more compassion. Service binds the broken and uplifts the fallen. So many people have taken time out of their lives to serve my mother and our family over the years, but yet I always saw my mother finding ways to serve others even when I felt we had nothing left to give.
I am grateful to my mom for continually showing me humility and faith by coming unto Christ. She’s had the burden of poor health placed upon her, but she has found an undeniable strength by placing her trust in God. He has made her burden lighter. She was able to raise her children with laughter, unconditional love, and kindness. As an adult, I recognize that I need to face my obstacles in my life with faith like hers. She is my ultimate example.
It is difficult now seeing my mother in a wheel chair, somewhat lifeless. Who I remember her to be has long faded away. Her physical body is still here. I can hug, kiss, and hold her but what made her so unique and special—her laughter, jokes, smile, charm, and whit - are now dear and distant memories.
Even though we are still in the midst of the trial, I don’t see loving and caring for my mother as a burden. I have been honored to serve my mother, and I will cherish these last years I have with her living nearby I more than anything. They are priceless. Serving my mother has strengthened my compassion for others. It is teaching my children by example how to serve and love those who need special care. This kind of selflessness is definitely not glamorous. It’s hard. But it’s beautiful in a real way. I’ve seen my mother in the darkest of hours, and yet caught many glimpses of joy from the sacrifice she made for her children. She is selfless and kind and unconditionally loving to all. These are qualities I feel have been rooted deep inside me because of her and what we experienced together. That’s the ironic beauty inside of every trial. When we conquer, there is peace, strength, love, and forgiveness that spring forth from the very depths of our soul. We find God and become closer to our Savior Jesus Christ.