During the six-and-half years she cared for my dad following his debilitating stroke, my mother wrote letters to me in which she expressed everything she was experiencing and exactly how she felt about it. She always told a story that revealed the resilience of the human spirit in the midst of suffering. She was a strong woman.
She was 70 when she became Dad’s full time caregiver. Her eyesight was going, her back was hunched and she was scarred from open heart surgery. She rarely slept due to leg pain and she had nearly lost her hearing. Yet she cared for him with gentle soft hands.
Earlier in life she had found a quote that became her life motto: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” She hated the farm, but she loved my father, so she recognized that adopting this philosophy would help her come to a place of mental and spiritual strength. Her determination to control her attitude and to view every experience, good or bad, as an opportunity for growth gave her the strength she needed to care for my dad.
After Dad died she told me, “I would have never dreamed at the beginning that I would have the mental, physical or emotional strength to care for your Dad for more than six years. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. But I’m so glad I did it, because if I hadn’t, I would have never had the opportunity to grow and learn so much.”
Today, I share her letters with others in similar situations. I know she would be thrilled to know that her experience is providing inspiration and strength to others. She was a strong woman with soft, gentle hands who raised me, another strong woman.