Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remember Glory

Her name was Gloria, and she was like no other. As a youth, she was a red-haired, freckled firecracker, those who knew her would say—gorgeous, a total knockout and full of life. Not long after marriage and having her first baby, her whole life was turned tragically upside down because of a missed stoplight. As she drove to pick up some milk from the store, a semi-truck flattened her car, and it is said, that since she wasn’t wearing her seatbelt, she flew into the backseat as a result of the impact. She sustained terrible head and upper body injuries, and her legs were pinned under the driver’s seat. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Unbelievably so, she was revived and rushed to a nearby emergency room in the St. Louis area. After seeing the damage to her brain and internal organs, many predictions were made of her situation---she would not make it through the trauma, and if she did, she would be in a vegetative state, or at the very least severely handicapped with very little use of her legs or arms. So much for predictions.

After being in a coma for three months and in the ICU for months after that--with excruciating determination, intense physical therapy and tremendous prayer and support from family and friends—she re-learned how to crawl and talk, cope and walk. After a few years, she even had a second child—“A Miracle Baby,” the newspaper would call her.

If the story ended there for Gloria, one could read it with a cheerful and inspirational feeling in the heart, but it did not---not by far. Every day was a struggle for her. She fought to the very core of her being to do the things that most of us take for granted. Her voice box had extensive damage, which gave her a low, loud raspy voice that sometimes scared little children and made strangers stare her way. One of her arms was permanently bent, as well as her spine. This crippled her as she walked, and the damage to her legs would make her unsteady on her feet for the rest of her life. She had brain damage, which affected her mental state and her emotional maturity.

Her husband struggled to know and love her in this new way, and alcohol became the crutch that he used for his own handicaps. Drinking exaggerated the demons that already existed inside of him, and he began to abuse Gloria physically and emotionally, as if she wasn’t damaged enough already. After years of living in this oppression, along with some new realizations of the same abuses toward her daughters, she filed for divorce. Now the financial support was gone, too, and she would have to learn to function as a single mother.

As Gloria tried to raise two young children on disability and public aid, her mom, her sisters and her local church helped her to do what was physically needed to get her daughters through school and life in as normal fashion as possible. Even with the extra support, she was plagued with severe headaches, physical pain and emotional insecurity each and every day. She coped as best she could, though, and the same tenaciousness and ornery spirit from her youth remained alive in her to keep her going in spite of it all. Hating to ask for help or charity motivated her to be as independent and “normal” as possible. She would drive her kids to school and extra curricular activities most days (yes, she passed her driving test) and made pot roasts and sheet cakes for her kids and others when they came for a visit. Many times, she would exercise on a stationery bike just to keep in shape and to keep her muscles as strong as possible.

In the small town that she lived, many people enjoyed her sense of humor and her dramatic perspective on life. What made her so interesting was that she lived in the middle of being an adult and being a kid. She could communicate like a grown-up (learned behavior), but she thought and looked at situations more like a nine- or ten-year old would. While this made her fascinating to some, it made her life that much more of a challenge personally. After her car wreck, she lost the ability to cry. She could sob emotionally, but she could not produce actual tears. Imagine being a ten-year-old female, or any aged female for that matter, and not being able to cry. Her mental stability didn’t have a chance!

She spent the rest of her adult years being in and out of the hospital with various illnesses, surviving a series of car accidents, weaving in and out of delusional and paranoid behavior and coping with an empty house when her daughters went off to college. Numerous medications were part of her daily swallowing regimen, each one fixing a different symptom or problem diagnosed by one of her several doctors. Her choice was to live alone and “take care of herself,” and the consequences were incredible loneliness and fear wrapped up with the satisfaction of making it on her own. Her sister Carolyn, her Pastor Steve, and her other sisters and church friends helped make her strong preferences a reality by sacrificially taking care of her needs, while allowing her to maintain her dignity as much as possible. Though her daughters tried to persuade her to live with either of them, she felt comfortable with her life the way it was—no one ever totally understood this about her, but most suspected it was that same strong will and determination that got her through her hardships combined with the security from living life in the routine she had always known.

On September 11th, 2006, Gloria finally lost her fight to keep living after a month of struggling to recover from a colostomy in the ICU. The list of lessons one could learn from her life is long. It is for me.

She was my mother, and I was her miracle baby.


I know the story between the lines of circumstances, and that is what I hold on to in the pockets of my memory. As a child, I saw her as abnormal and somewhat embarrassing. As a young adult, I saw her as an obligation and a nuisance sometimes. Now as her daughter looking back on her life after it is gone----well, I have a whole other perspective.

Somehow the memories of her crinkled up forehead while whining about her pain and discomfort are replaced with the memory of seeing her on her knees praying by her bed at night. The distasteful impression in my senses of her smoking cigarette after cigarette is butted out by the incredible admiration I have for her deciding to quit one day and never smoking again. The recollection of all the embarrassing comments she made along with the neediness that would drain me dry at times are secondary to the example of her sitting at the table reading the wrinkled, coffee-stained pages of her Bible. When I’m tempted to focus on the picture of her fits of paranoia, the Lord is faithful to remind me of the verses of Scripture she quoted during the last days of her life in the ICU. These are just some of the contrasts that have helped me to alter my thoughts and behaviors when my own life story is not so picturesque, and I am changed for the better because of it.

I’ve often wished I could ask God face to face why He allowed my mom to suffer so long, so hard and so deeply, but I know that my futile mind wouldn’t understand even if He told me. I’m thankful for this nugget from 1st Corinthians 1: 27-29 to remind me of what made her life valuable to all who knew her:

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. He chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the things of this world that are common and looked down on. He chose what is not considered to be important to do away with what is considered to be important. So no one can brag to God.”

Here are some of the important lessons I learned from reflecting from 36 years of life with her:

I learned that each day is a gift, and I should not take it for granted.
I learned that a childlike sense of humor is useful as a grown-up.
I learned that laughter truly is good medicine.
I learned that I really shouldn’t EVER judge a book by its cover.
I learned that opening & reading my Bible is as necessary as breathing in and out.
I learned that true strength comes from God, and it is magnified when I’m weak.
I learned that having a close friendship with my sister is a priceless treasure.
I learned that I am blessed to have a Godly husband who leads and provides for his family.
I learned that the church and the people in it are the hands and feet of Jesus.
I learned that the “wrecks” in life are inevitable, & I should not give up when they come.
I learned that my aches and pains are never as bad as they could be.
I learned that good discussions can happen over a good cup of coffee.
I learned that the best way to tell others about Jesus is just to do it.
I learned that I can overcome my strongholds if I fight them with Christ’s strength.

Some people say that everything they ever needed to know in life they learned in Kindergarten; however, I know a good number of people who would say that everything important they ever needed to know in life, they learned from the life of Gloria,

my mom—God-strong

now dancing before the Lord in Glory with her new legs on…

Amen.


Mom (far right) had lots of support from her family after her wreck. Her mom (not pictured) and five sisters (two pictured here, Carolyn & Kathy) who spent a great deal of their time helping Mom in various ways. My big sister and I are the two toeheads front row left.


Despite how rough things could be, mom, sis and I would have fun now and then and put on a good show for the rest of the family. Mom had a VERY hilarious side to her and could make even the most stiff person laugh.


My mother never looked more beautiful than she did on my wedding day, and my sister and I chose to bury her in this dress in remembrance.


Mom was so happy when I came home to IL for my 5-year class reunion. Her greatest deterioration in health began after my sister and I left home.


I can't remember what year this was taken, but she had begun to fall a lot more consistently, and the fall here had led her to a wheelchair for a time. And boy, did she HATE it! We had her in Texas and took her to a rodeo and state fair with us, and it was a VERY bumpy ride for her. (She liked the fresh-squeezed lemonade and the funnel cakes, I remember well, however.)


This picture was taken in May of 2002. It is obvious how much she enjoyed my kids...at least when she felt well.



I'll never forget my mom's first visit to see me AFTER she had quit smoking cold turkey. I used to only have visions of her on my patio smoking. After that, she liked to sit out on the patio and watch the kids play in the backyard. I'm so glad I have a picture to remind me of her victory in quitting smoking.


And once again, I'm so very thankful for this picture my sister and I took with mom. It was our last trip together to see her in Illinois before our next visit there to her in the hospital. I can attest to the fact that sis and I are so glad we have that memory with her, and in our childhood home as well.


In the Key of HE,

42 friends shared a comment:

Debra said...

Laura Lee,

I'll try and get through this while typing with a hand full of Kleenex! My brother was in a horrific car crash 3 years ago that left him with a traumatic brain injury and a lot of the same symptoms your Mom experienced.

He was in a coma for months and well, now, he is childlike, too. My mom takes care of him full time.

This is a beautiful tribute to your Mother. I don't know what else to say but God bless you and your sister. This was just beautiful. Thank you for sharing it.

Shane said...

What a beautiful remembrance. Well written with from a full heart. Thank you for sharing.

elaine said...

What a great reminder how even in the bad God is good. I loved reading your story. Thank you for sharing it.

KJ Schiffman said...

LauraLee,

How can I tell you the feeling in my heart after reading this? You've not only just blown me away but on a very sad day...have made me look up...again.


Thank you for sharing a piece of your story and the legacy of your Mom.

You are a miracle baby, now aren't you?

Much Love, Kristen

Gigi said...

A miracle baby from a miracle Mom...how fitting! What a lovely tribute to your precious Mom on her birthday. And how proud of your life lessons she must be...May the Lord bless you, a little extra, today.

Kathryn said...

Laura Lee, what a beautiful tribute to a courageous life on this day of remembrance!

Laurie Ann said...

May God bless you for this lovely tribute to your sweet mother. This was beautifully written and I would imagine hard for you to write. *Hugs*

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

This, my friend, is worthy of publication for everyone to read. I know that's not what you had in mind when you wrote it, but it's a story worth telling again and again and again.

God has seeded your desert with much eternal gain via your mother.

It's bloomed here; it needs to bloom further.

Do what you gotta do to give it wings.

peace~elaine

Blessed One said...

Oh LauraLee, this is such a beautiful and moving tribute. Thank you for sharing a bit of the life of your mother, who sounds like she was an amazing woman. I'm so sorry for the extreme difficulties she faced here on this earth. How wonderful though to think that she is now with Jesus in perfect form, without pain and suffering. Many hugs and blessings to you on this special day.

Blessed One said...

By the way, in case you weren't sure how much I love your blog, stop by mine and see! :)

Stoogelover said...

I saw your comment on Bill Williams' blog and came over here to read your "different" take on 9/11 ... what a wonderful story of love and determination and grace! It blessed my day.

Greg England
Temecula, CA

Patty Wysong said...

I cannot hear of your mom without tears and without seeing just how easy and good I have it. Beauty has come from the tears and ashes...I can't wait to see her dancing with Jesus.
Huggles, by the boat load.

Joanne Sher said...

Oh, my dear Laura. What a beautiful, beautiful tribute you have painted to your dear mother. What wisdom you have gained - and passed on to me - from this woman. This is absolutely beautiful.

Lynette said...

oh Laura! Thank you for opening your heart and letting us in! What a beautiful way to heal from all you have been through these past two years. I am sorry for your pain but the scars have made you so beautiful! There's no one I would rather grab a cup of coffee with and just hear more. Looking forward to more of your life lessons! Lynette

Homesteader in Training said...

Oh girl if I could squeeze you through this computer I would. I don't even know what to say. What a wonderful wonderful tribute to your Mom! I can't tell you how much this has touched me this morning. The more I know about you the more I love you sister!

Momma Roar said...

What a beautiful tribute to your mother. Thank you for sharing it with us - I am touched that I was able to read it this morning!

Blessings,
Leigh Ann

The Surrendered Scribe said...

Thank you for sharing your beautiful family tribute. Just when I think I've read the very best from you, I read again and there it is.

Thinking of you and wondering about Ike? I'm praying.

Thanks also for the lovely comments you always give, with the political round up I'm finding how much I enjoy that, I'm glad you do too!

Betsy Markman said...

This was beautiful beyond words. I can't thank you enough for sharing it. Next time I wimp out on my problems (soon, no doubt) I hope I remember Glory and the God who helped her through! Thanks too for the reminder that God can heal our children's memories of our failures. It gives me hope!

Chelsey said...

Thank you for sharing your mom with us. I know the hurt of losing a mom - I went through it four years ago.

"Her children will rise up and call her blessed".

Becoming Me said...

Oh Laura Lee, I am almost sobbing. I never knew this about you. What a beautiful story and tribute.

JesusRulzMe said...

Precious sister LauraLee,

First, I love your name...very southern...reminds me of southern hospitality!

Second and BEST...WOW!!! Your mom Gloria, truly shone the glory of our awesome Lord God in her simple life.

I always say that I think like a 5 year old. When I grow up, I want to be like your mom and be a 9 year old some day!

Thank you for sharing the God's story of Christ's strength in your mom that left such an incredible legacy.

Much love sweet sister,
Sunny

Debra said...

Laura Lee,

Will you please stop by to see me today ... I have an award for you!

Blessings to you today!

Gigi said...

Good afternoon Laura Lee...Hope you're up for a little fun! I was "tagged" by my friend, Tracy, for a little blog game and I'm passing it on to 8 of my friends - you included! Here's how to play:

The Rules: 1) Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves. 2) People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules. 3) At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names. 4) Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged and to read your blog.

I hope you'll have fun with it...I did!

Peggy said...

Blessings Laura Lee...in the Name of the Lord...I am moved beyond words.
What a tribute your words have been to honor your mother! Truly you are a Miracle Baby~just look at the love shining through you! I cam to see who was this Laura Lee, who someone chose to pass on 2 awards (I think it might have been more than one) Anyway, how glorious you have written this as a remembrance...I had a difficult time many years after loosing my family members but within 2 years, you are already seeing the incredible impact through what you learned! Though I'm sure this was difficult to write this all...you have written it so well to testify
to Our Lord and it will & should bring Him the glory through you!
May Our Lord hold you and your sister as you continue to bring
Him Glory as you share this worthy
story with many!!! Praise God who brings healing and joy in the mourning/morning! May His joy be your strength! Congratulations!

Kathy C. said...

Oh Laura Lee, what a story, what a testimony. Wow. This was a fantastic way to remember your Mom, the photos are beautiful and you can see her face so full of love. God has ways that we don't always understand, but in reading what you have learned about Him and how important your relationship with Him is, it is clear to see that His plans never fail. Amen.

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

Laura Lee,
Just so you know, I referenced this piece of writing at the end of my most recent blog post.

It's late. I'm tired. Hope this is OK.

peace~elaine

Pamela (MrsJoeB) said...

What a beautiful daughter you are!! You have a special story here...a special life. You have been blessed!! I have been blessed to have been here...

In His Graces~Pamela

lori said...

OH my goodness Laura Lee...I'm up early and sitting alone here in the sunroom trying to catch up with some blog buddies and yours is the first that I've come to..and I have to tell you...I'm sobbing...(the people are going to WONDER what is going on:)) What an incredible tribute and what a life, "in spite of."

God used her and you are right, we likely won't UNDERSTAND until we meet Him there and it will all reveal itself...
to know that YOU were that miracle baby makes YOU an amazing creation of God...meant to be born for "SUCH A TIME AS THIS."

It's not for us to understand..but look at what you have learned...and are now teaching us...
thank you for sharing the gift that was your mom...

*sigh..a good sigh:)
What a beautiful way to begin my Saturday...
thanks girl and hugs!
peace,
lori

Joyful said...

I have travelled over from Elaine's blog and it has been a precious journey. Thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute and remembrance of your Mother. What an incredible story - a beautiful life. Through the pain and heartache, there is still such hope and joy and laughter.

My Mom is going through some temporary set-backs right now, not even close to the magnitude of what your Mom experienced, and yet my reactions at time haven't been as patient and kind as they should be. Thank you for being used to open my eyes to the treasure I still have, and the gift of time still before me.

Blessing to you today. Your story has touched my life,
Joy

Terri Tiffany said...

This was a wonderful story about your mother! I never suspected you were the miracle baby-- and the lessons you learned from her touched me deeply. Thank you so much for sharing about her!Blessings!

skoots1mom said...

Life...sometimes full of valleys...then they become the top of the moutain, where you're able to see "the truth", see the "beauty"," see perseverance and love...
may your memories become even more golden for you and your children...maybe your mom is "shagging" wiith my daddy...he liked to dance, too!

Stonefox (otherwise known as Heidi) said...

I found your site from Elaine's post. How beautiful and bittersweet. So many thoughts that I can't put into words right now, except to say thank you for this post. It makes me think of the cross...both the pain and the power.

Amrita said...

My dear sister Laura Lee, I don 't have words to express my feelings after reading this.

My friend Sita sent me a link to this post. I am truly shaken, touched, moved and challenged by your story thatis putting it very mildly.

I thank God for you Mom and you.

I am a physically challenged woman a care giving to my Mother and other old relatives.

Your Mom 's life will help me keep on track.

I will follow your blog too.

I can only write very little of what I actually feel.

I read this story out to my Mother.

Sita said...

Found your link via Elaine. This testimony blessed me beyond words. I have shared this link with several people. Out of ashes rises His beauty. Thank you.

Stacy said...

What a beautiful tribute to your Mom. Your testimony has left me speechless........

Dee Yoder said...

You are never more eloquent than when you write of your mom, dear Laura. Such a loving and heartflet tribute to her...I just can't wait to be introduced to her when we all get to Heaven...and what a marvelous vision she'll be with her whole self mended and waiting to wrap her girls in her arms!
Lovely. Lovely. Lovely.

Tracy said...

Laura Lee,
I came via Elaine's link to read this post about your Mom. This was truly one of the most beautiful tributes I've ever seen. What an incredible soul she was! No doubt she and Jesus smile when they look upon the heart of her miracle baby. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

Blessings,
Tracy

Josh said...

Wow. What a tribute. I did not know your mother, but I do know that she had to be one tough woman to endure so much and still manage to raise her girls to know Jesus like she did. Her legacy lives on in you, and I can't wait to meet her someday in Heaven. So glad she had that miracle baby :)

I'm also glad that you shared this, because it makes me want to slap myself in the head and ask myself "What are you thinking?" every time that I think I have had a rough life. I haven't endured even a fraction of what Gloria endured, and I'm guessing that I probably complain more than she ever did. Shame on me. You are right. Every day is a blessing, and I should never forget that.

Does your blog come with tissue? :)

Jackie Mosley said...

Laura Lee, Thank you for sharing. It is a blessing to get to know your heart.

Lisa Mikitarian said...

What a story, Laura--an overwhelmingly beautiful one, to me.

Connie Arnold said...

Thank you for sharing the beautiful story about your mom, the miracle, love and memories of your life, and the lessons you've learned. God bless you, and have a happy Mother's Day!

Pat Guy said...

I remember this well, experiencing the essence of your Mom. What a blessing to us, what difficult memories for you all. But one thing all the disabilities couldn't do was destroy her love for her kids. (and grandkids)

What an inspiring tribute, Laura.

It's so hard on children when the roles are reversed, I'm not sure we ever outgrow that learned responsibilty to help and 'mother.' And maybe that finally becomes a good thing because God can tweak that gift into something beautiful for so many others.

It's been beautiful to watch how God has 'tweaked' your gifts down through these years while blessing so many along the way.

Maybe we'll get a hug one day. <3

Cyber hugs for now . . .