The years have flown by. It seems only yesterday I was a little girl living in the back bedroom. Days spent helping my mom with laundry or gardening. Or at least pretending to be helpful--you would have to ask her the truth.
My mom has always worked tirelessly -- from early morning to evening. Not only did she manage our household and create delicious meals from the produce she grew from their enormous garden, she also was an entrepreneur and business owner.
You see my mom didn't have the opportunities she and my dad provided for our family. Her father made her quit school after 8th grade to help support her brothers and sisters (all 14 of them). What should have been her high school years, were spent working at a Catholic hospital in the laundry room and assisting the nuns with whatever they needed.
Hard work, unwavering determination and persistence has marked her life. Around her 40th birthday my mom enrolled in cosmetology school. Each Evening I watched her study everything thing from human anatomy to the latest techniques for doing hair. Her study time came after longs hours of mom duties.
I remember the special Saturday's where I would tag along to beauty school. I set up shop in the break room, spending most of my time peeking out watching my mom's talents emerge. Often a customer would request my mom! She took this challenge and finished as quickly as possible so she could begin her new career. She passed her exams and practicum, soon designing and opening her own beauty shop located attached to our home. The little wooden sign proudly displayed the reality of her dream and announced you were about to enter "Susie's Beauty Shop".
For years, I watched my mom love on her clients. She listened to their stories. She celebrated their triumphs. She offered compassion and comfort they so often recounted the difficulties they were facing. These women and men -- young and old -- came faithfully for her talent as a hair stylist but more importantly for the friendship she offered. Some of her customers became her closest friends and our extended family. After school, I would stop in the beauty shop to say hello and catch up. Each time I walked in I knew I would be welcomed with open arms and find a deep sense of belonging.
Days filled with cutting, curling and coloring hair comprised much of my mom's life. She was in her element. A confident, a consoling touch, and counselor -- she has the perfect personality and God-given talents for her chosen profession.
Today, the beauty shop has been converted to living quarters for my mom's caregiver. The hydraulic chair and large mirror have been replaced.
The distant echoes of conversation and laughter that once filled this room are faint and only accessible through our memories. Life changes. Parents age and disease attempts to steal our past, present and future.
I refuse to allow the challenges my folks face today to define who they have been or who they are. Maybe part of my role is to remind them of who God created them to be and who they are... beautifully created in His image, offering hope and healing to those they encounter because He lives in them.
I do not discount the daily challenges they face. These challenges are enormous requiring additional hands and feet to support my dad.
I no longer live in the back bedroom. I now live a few hours away with my family.
I am grateful for the example my mom has been. I know much of who I am today is because of my mom. She has been my biggest cheerleader. She has listened well. She has loved me when frankly I wasn't very lovable. She has shown me what it looks like to work hard, to love others, and to be a friend.
Even though her physical capabilities are diminished, I pray she remembers who she is. She has so much to contribute to our world and offer -- loving and listening as she finds strength and endurance to face her days leaning on on God. I also pray much of what she has offered others would return to her as others gently care for her needs.
For those of you with aging parents -- may you pause to remember and hear the distant echoes from the past.