Mask of Light

When I rode in the car with my mom, I rode in the front seat next to her (one perk of being the only child of a single parent). I remember looking up at her face a lot. At night the reflection from the rear view mirror cast a reflection of light in a strip that fell over her eyes. It seemed like a mask of light. And who wears masks?


Of course, I didn’t appreciate her heroics at the time. In my selfishness, I would whine incessantly when she saw an accident on the road and would pull over to help. One time she pulled over for one accident and found a man bleeding to death so she squatted down and put pressure on that artery for about an hour while the authorities debated on whose jurisdiction this was on. She squatted for an hour, keeping pressure on gaping wound, keeping this man alive, comforting him  & trying to keep him conscious. Yet when the cop comes over to my mom and my mom starts to tell this guy’s info, the cop looks at her and says, “Mind your own business.” And I didn’t appreciate that despite that, she continued stopping at accidents to help.

I didn’t understand how amazing it was when she invited a certain girl from my class to my birthday party. This little girl had Down Syndrome and my mom accurately assumed that this little girl didn’t get invited to very many parties. When it was time for cake, she looked to her mom who looked to my mom and said, “She’s never had birthday cake before.” When my mom looked concerned (because the little girl had diabetes), the girl’s mom said with a big smile on her face, “I think we can adjust the insulin this one time.” She didn’t like the cake (too sweet) but she had the chance to try it because of my mom. I didn’t appreciate that my mom had made one day fun and exciting and “normal” for this little girl that died only a few years later.

I didn’t appreciate that she let my grandparents live with us off and on throughout my childhood. She would do anything for them. My Pawpaw drove her nuts and they (politely) argued all of the time but she still opened her door to them anytime. And it was because of her generosity that I had the chance to spend time with my Mimi & Pawpaw. I had the chance to develop wonderful memories that I hold so close to my heart now that they’re gone.

I didn’t appreciate how hard she worked as a nurse. She took care of people. She saved lives. She was hard on her body, hard on her spirit. She ruined her knees. She was underpaid and unappreciated. She came home covered in fluids that are not supposed to be on the outside of a human body. And in the latter part of her career, she did something that only a special person can do. She was a hospice nurse. She was the best hospice nurse. She has a file cabinet full of cards from clients’ families thanking my mother for the care she provided. When the mother of one of the administrators at the hospice at which my mom was working got sick, the administrator refused to let anyone but my mom care for her.

My mom has spent her life doing for others. She has given and given and given. She has asked nothing in return. She has put everyone else before herself.

I am so proud of my mother. All of the selflessness she has shown over the years has taught me so much about the person I hope to be.  But that is not what makes me proudest.

My mom, after years of taking care of everyone else, did some nice things for herself. I’ve never met anyone who deserves it more.

She has loved dolls her entire life. We always had dolls when I was growing up. We played with them together. So I wasn’t surprised when her doll collection started to grow. Those dolls brought a smile to her face. She deserves smiles.

When I was a kid, I remember looking up at her, seeing that mask, and thinking she looked like a superhero. I was right more than I knew.





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