I like to share stories like this one because we hear so many which are hopeless and sad and life-denying. It’s important to celebrate family strength, loyalty and devotion when we see it because God knows we need inspiration these days.
My friend Deepa’s mother has cancer. She is an amazing woman and I have always known it. It was evident – always – in her constant cheerfulness, her inability to dwell on the negative and her constant desire to focus on the good. This was, of course, before terrible things began to happen to her, but, looking back, I can see that she was practicing even then.
She was practicing fortitude and courage and the gift of finding happiness in even the most unlikely corners. I saw it first when she lost her husband to his own cancer – a long and painful battle which he too dealt with courageously and without self-pity. After his death, she picked up the pieces and rebuilt her life, becoming even more essential and precious to her children, grandchildren and friends than she already was.
She was dependable in the most astonishing way: you just knew that she would always have a kind word, a smile, an encouraging presence. She radiated acceptance and welcome.
When her cancer was diagnosed a few short months ago, a lifetime of giving suddenly turned back on itself to embrace her. Her children, her grandchildren, her daughter and son-in-law, her lifelong friends – they all leaped forward at the chance to do something – at last! – for her.
Nothing is too much. Everything is a joy. If it helps her get through this ordeal, it is worth it. I am awestruck at the tightness of this family, at their kindness and tender regard, at the lengths to which they will go to hold her up and share her suffering. They have all put their own lives on hold, given up their plans, changed their stories – all for her.
When I point it out to them, though, their answer is always the same: It’s nothing compared to what she has done for all of us.
What she has done. What she has done is to bring up three amazing people in their own right, to inspire their partners and their children, to delight her friends and to offer the world an example of selfless love.
It has come right back to her in an endless flow of devotion and care and compassion. We don’t see justice often enough. This is justice. This is what fair looks like; this is how a good life should be rewarded.
Other families can aspire to this kind of devotion. I’m watching it play out in front of my eyes and I still can scarcely believe it. But I know in my bones that this love didn’t come out of nothing. This is a love which has grown and been nurtured for nearly eighty years. I am paying close attention. We will all come to this – or something like it – eventually.
The only thing that will save us is love.