When I was a child, my mother would invite over some thirty people and cook for fifty. Five minutes before the guests' arrival, panic would set in, and she would instruct me not to eat any food until they left, lest the feast come short. After the grand departure, she would over stuff me with the leftovers of the next two weeks, while apologizing out of guilt.
Throughout my higher education, medical school, cardiology fellowship, not once did she praise me in front of others. She always seemed in awe of much lesser accomplishments of other kids, while explaining to me later and in private that although I meant the world to her, she never wanted others to feel lesser because of me. As if...
Once, my brother had an accident in front of our house. My mother, awakened from her sleep by the loud noise, ran outside to make sure he was alright, and then quickly became the witness to the other driver. "I saw everything. It was my son's fault," she said. After we came inside and settled down, she explained that she felt the other woman was frightened and just wanted her to feel better, but knew in her heart that my brother would have never caused the accident.
There are numerous such stories of my traumatic upbringing. Growing up, raised by such a mother, I cannot help but always think of those less fortunate, first. You see, here are some real patients from my practice:
• The barren women in her fifties whose body denied her children but whose heart was large enough to overcome by loving other children as her own;
• The rape victim who became pregnant, had an abortion, and now struggles with having a child again;
• The daughter who lost her mother at a young age and is frightened of becoming a mother, in case she, too, might also abandon her child;
• The boy who desperately wants to relive his childhood memories with his mother who has lost their history to Alzheimer’s;
• The young woman ridden with guilt of being unable to give her only child a sibling because of a hysterectomy, her womb lost to cancer;
• The mother who carries the breast cancer gene and is afraid of having a daughter and transmitting the disease to her loved one;
• The mother who lost time with her child because of alcohol, drugs, or even work.
In the height of celebration, we should never forget the angels who walk among us.
Mother Teresa said "May God break my heart so completely that the whole world falls in." Starting in teens, a woman’s womb pulsates in anticipation of new life, then bleeds each month, until it creates enough room to one day carry our future. God worked hard for six days to prepare this earth, but rested only after creating Eve, our mother. He knew this world would only be safe in her hands.
So my dear mom, on this wonderful day, as we celebrate your blessings, and you see a little heaviness on my face, I hope you understand, it’s not my fault. It’s what you’ve taught me.
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