When I finally arrived at the farm, I was immediately disheartened by Mom’s appearance. She had lost even more weight and her skin was a ghastly gray. And, it was clear that she was in untold amounts of pain. I knew that she was nervous about her appointment the next day – and then she made a simple request: “Do you think we could stop at the Waffle House on the way?”
I wasn’t about to say no.
The next day, I bundled her up in the car and we drove up to Joplin to the Waffle House. She could barely walk in but she made it and we got her settled in a booth. With a big smile for the waitress, she ordered her waffles. I think the waitress could tell how sick mom was because she just looked at me with a smile full of compassion.
The waffles didn’t take long to arrive, but by the time they did, Mom was once again in agony. She had a few bites and then pushed the plate away.
I paid the check and started to help her out to the car. She could barely support her own weight and two construction workers got up from their table and gently helped us. Another one held the door for us.
Then we drove to her doctor appointment. We had a bit of a wait and as we were sitting in the waiting room, she turned to me and said, “Can you tell me more about what you do in your career? I really don’t understand it, but I’d like too.”
Her request surprised me because my thoughts were all about what was going to happen next. But it touched me.
Then the doctor came and we went back to the examination room. It was there that he told us that he thought it was pretty clear that she had advanced leukemia but we needed still more tests.
It wasn’t the news we were hoping for.
Once again, I bundled mom back into the car. As I was getting ready to start the car, she put her hand over my hand and stopped me. In a quiet, yet steady voice, she asked, “Did I hear him right? Did he say that I had leukemia?”
With all my heart, I wanted to say, “Oh no, Mom, you heard him wrong.” Instead, I looked at her and said, “Yes mom. That’s what he said.”
We sat there for a moment. Holding hands. Neither of us moving. Then I saw ONE single tear slide down her cheek and she said, “Well, at least we know what we are dealing with.”
I still remember that moment. I remember thinking that it was a moment of tremendous courage on her part. She knew what she was facing. And it hurt. But she also had courage and strength in facing it. She fought for another five months but we lost her on April 5th 2008.
I sometimes think about that moment in the car with her and that moment of quiet determination on her part.
I try to tease it apart. What was it? Was it determination? Strength? Courage? Optimism? Acceptance?
What I know is that that moment has stayed with me. When I face a challenge or difficulty, I think, “Well, at least I know what I’m dealing with.”
And I think about her courage and I draw inspiration from that.
As I’ve reflected on this experience, it strikes me that the lessons that stick the most with us are not necessarily the lessons that we are taught but rather the lessons that we observe or experience.
It’s why role modeling is so important. I once read a book by Tony Dungy called, Uncommon’ and in it he said that everyone is a role model; but not everyone is a good role model.
It makes me ponder, how am I showing up a role model?
Here’s a simple example: About 10 years ago, my niece Nicki and her family came out for a visit. We decided to go whitewater rafting and it was a blast! Our guide’s name was also Rick and he had gotten to know us a bit. My two great nieces, Izzy and Bailey, were having great fun every time we got hit with a new splash of water. We were approaching something called Last Chance Falls, which as I later learned meant this is the last time on the trip where you can have a giant wave of water hit you in the face! But, as we approached this our guide, Rick, said to me, “Well Aunt Bobbi, your great nieces are watching! Why don’t you sit up front and be the hood ornament while we go over Last Chance Falls?”
Secretly, I thought: What? You want me to do what?
But my great nieces seemed very keen on this idea, so I sat on the edge of the raft – like a hood ornament – and I got absolutely drenched. All I could hear during this time were the squeals of delight coming from Nicki, Izzy and Bailey.
But, even though this is a simple and fun example, in that moment I wanted to role model choosing adventure, not fear. Because again what do others learn from my behavior?
I think that we have many opportunities in our every day lives to choose what sort of role model will I be? And we choose it by living how we live and choosing how we live.
Many years ago, there was a country song about a dad who was horrified at the behavior of his son and when he asked his son who he learned it from the son said, “You Daddy.”
What are the roles that are important to you in your life?
What are the lessons and values that you would want to instill in those around you?
How do you – or could you – live those lessons and values in such a way that you never had to speak them because your actions would speak them for you?
Emerson once said that: What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.
What is the legacy that you are creating with the mere actions of how you live your life?
And is that the legacy you wish to leave?