One of the blogs I follow, posted a nice story about "blue roses." The story tells of a man who encounters a special needs child in a store and takes some time out of their schedule to simply have a conversation with this child. I commented on this post, having remembered a similar experience I had in Paris this past summer. This post about roses reminded me of my own rose...my mom.
My mom was bipolar. I can't tell you how much I cringe when people misuse this word...because it's a very hard condition to deal with. It really does have to be one of the hardest crosses to bear if you either have this condition or have someone close to you who suffers from it. You really have no idea how hard it is to deal with otherwise.
Even with this disorder, my mom was one of the most beautiful women that ever walked this world. She had one of the gentlest and friendliest hearts anyone could ever encounter. Anyone who met her was touched by her in some way whether it was one of my friends, teachers, neighbors, coworkers... even the bank tellers loved her and still talk about her. She made friends wherever she went and had the knack of bringing a smile to someone's face. She never hesitated to take pity on others and was an extremely charitable woman who would, without hesitation, spend time with those who needed a friendly face, a shoulder to cry on, or simply someone to listen. She tended to shovel our elderly neighbors’ walkways on top of cooking, cleaning, working full time, AND raising 3 kids. She was never selfish with her time and did all within her power to help others....often putting others before herself. These, I believe, were her greatest gifts and the reason why so many individuals still talk of her to this day. Whenever anyone mentions her, it is with sadness that she is gone and sadness about how much she suffered....but also happiness for having known her and joy due to the certainty that she is now in heaven.
One example of how my mom changed those she met for the better came after her funeral. My mother spent some time in a mental rehabilitation center before she passed away due to a breakdown. You see, even though my mom brought smile to other's faces, there were a lot of people who took advantage of her compassionate heart. There were people who envied her for the immense love others felt for her as well as our family. I mean, we are far from the "Leave it to Beaver" family....but we have always supported one another and respected each other. Well, I guess you can also say that my family is one of those few where all the kids are geeky, good at school, and never disrespectful. There were also people who hated my mom because she was such a hard-working and selfless woman. They did what they could to bring my mom down...and given how empathetic my mom was, it was only a matter of time before it got to her. I know it's hard to imagine that adults could be this cruel to someone with such a good heart. However, when you consider what Jesus was put through before he was crucified...well, it's not too hard to imagine.
In any event, after the funeral, we found a letter among the dozens of prayer cards....it was from someone my mom must have met at the rehabilitation center. You can imagine just how great my mom was from this letter alone. I mean, when you go to a mental rehabilitation place, you go there for yourself. You are supposed to go to a place like this to put yourself first and worry about yourself and your own rehabilitation. And yet, there she was….doing what she did best….putting the needs of others and the pains of others before her own. The person thanked my mom for her all of her help and wanted to stay in touch with her. Even in her troubled times, my mother never ceased to help others and support them. We did not have the heart at the time to reply to this letter…and I don’t think we ever did given how difficult the news would be on this other person who would have just recovered from their own issues. However, this letter gave us some comfort because it demonstrated just how much of an impact my mom had had in this world.
If there’s one thing I got out of my mother’s illness, it was the need for compassion. Seeing my mom in her sick states, helped me see just how desperately people need compassion. Yet, these people do not always get our compassion. They get ridiculed, marginalized, threatened, hurt, or just ignored by others. We, as a society, tend to be very unkind to those we don’t consider “normal.” Some of the saddest memories I have are of my mom apologizing to us about her illness. She would apologize for a state she had no control over and she tell us how much she wished she was “normal.” It hurt seeing how sorrowful she was and it hurts me even now to remember the times where I became impatient with my mom’s condition when it did get bad.
Yet, in my mind, my mom was never “abnormal” or “sick.” She was my mom. She was the amazing person who always cared for her children and defended them. She was the woman who made friends everywhere. Her condition was pretty much forgotten by my family whenever it didn’t manifest itself….as difficult as it was when my mom had an episode. I never accepted that my mom was “abnormal” or “sick”….not even when she was experiencing her worst episodes. This was good in one way because it made it easier to accept the diseases, disorders, difficulties of other people in the future (students with Asperger’s, friends with OCD, disabled strangers). In another sense it was hard, because I would sometimes find myself refusing to accept that my mom needed medical attention. It was extremely difficult accepting the fact that I had to call 911 to have someone get my mom help. This was my mom…not some “patient.”
I really hope that there are few children out there who had to experience this type of situation. Yet, I cannot say that there weren’t any blessings in disguise. As I mentioned, I have a great deal of compassion for the disabled, special needs, etc. when our paths cross be they stranger or friend. Another thing was I got a chance to see just how beautiful these people were. I mean, even when my mom was recovering and not quite in her right mind, she continued to do the sweetest things. As a child, I remember visiting her in one of these places. There were doctors everywhere and the place was scary because it seemed very much like a hospital. Yet, when we got there, my mom had already drawn a bunch of pictures for us to color. She also used to save us some tiny cereal boxes from her breakfast…just because she knew we loved those tiny boxes of cereal. Even though she had this terrible disorder, she was still a loving mother and she still did what she could for her children. This is something I've always remembered and cherished....even to this day.
I reserved a ticket for my mom for undergraduate graduation
and gave her a shout out for my masters graduation (check out my cap)
....tune in later for how I commemorate my mom when it comes to PhD graduation
Ever since my mom passed away, I have taken apart every memory I ever had of her and fit everything into the bigger picture. My mom was and is a saint in every sense of the word even though she had bipolar disorder. Even though we, as a society, tend to look down upon people like my mom due to some medical disorder or other issue….these people are still every bit as lovable and amazing as we are. The simple fact that God created them as they are is enough of a reason to love them, appreciate them, respect them, and accept them as equals. As a result, I strive to be one of those people that do what they can to ensure that these people see a little bit of this love, appreciation, and acceptance.
Therefore, I do not scorn the old man who feels the need to pass out crumpled pieces of paper with gibberish written all over them to every person on the street in order to save them….my mom could have been the one passing these leaflets out. I’ve done what I could do to be as patient and understanding as possible whenever one of my students had a learning disability….my mom could have been one of these students at some point. I do not hate or treat the homeless like they are beneath me because any one of them could have been my mom…because so many of them have a disability of some sort.
In so many ways, my mom taught me the true meaning as well as significance of “Love one another as I have loved you.” I can’t thank her enough for this lesson…and I cannot thank God enough for helping me through this tough lesson.