It’s funny how death is something that many try to avoid—talking about or thinking about. Avoiding acknowledging our mortality is a common theme for most. As a child, I never wanted to consider the fact that myself and those closest to me would one day pass on, especially when it came to my mother. I guess this is why initially, I refused to accept my mother’s diagnoses of Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a chronic disease that would eventually take away what many of us take for granted—her independence.
My mother was diagnosed with MS in her early 20’s, during a time when doctors really didn’t understand the disease, and during a time when her health insurance wasn’t the greatest. This resulted in her receiving a diagnoses but no treatment. The first thing to go was her vision in one of her eyes completely, and partially in the other. Legally, she was blind, but you’d never know it unless she told you—a testament to her ability to overcome some of the most difficult of challenges.
One thing my mother has always been good at is persevering through adversities. As a teenager my relationship with my mother was extremely strained. I took for granted the life that I had, and the struggles that my mother dealt with on top of having MS in order to provide me and my siblings with the best life possible. We weren’t rich, but my siblings and I were blessed. We vacationed in Disney on several occasions, we never went without, and most of all we received her love in abundance. I attribute many of my own successes to the examples she set for me.
I never truly understood my mother’s sacrifices until I became a mother myself. Shortly after giving birth to my first child, I realized I had become the woman I spent my entire teenage years trying to run away from; the woman I tried my hardest to be nothing like. Interestingly, a lot of my life choices replicated hers almost exactly.
As I reflect on her life and mine, I’ve come to the conclusion that ultimately, the transitions we experience in life are meant to prepare us for the next phase—all the way up until our final phase on this plane of existence; death. Caterpillars are unique to many animals in the sense that they have the opportunity to experience “death” on two occasions while on earth. After their first death, they awake into a state of beauty unmatched by many other creatures on earth—in the form of a butterfly. Catepillars have the unique ability to literally shed the old and live an entirely new life vastly different than the prior—and thrive—like my mother.
As I sit here in the ICU, gazing upon my mother as she lay in a hospital bed; a machine providing the air she needs to thrive, it’s hard not to be angry. I’m angry that this beast of a disease is attempting to strip my mother of her ability to thrive. A disease that thus far has been unsuccessful in stripping her of her will to exist, so in a jealous rage it does its best to cause her pain, in an effort to make her succumb to its will. Through it all she has continues to fly, however, even if at times her flight is a bit limited.
9 ½ years ago, when MS stripped away my mother’s ability to walk, a part of her died. Afterwards, she escaped from the cocoon called “grief” of her old self, and bloomed into a beautiful butterfly in her new form. The beauty of my mother lie in the fact that she didn’t let her immobility stop her from accomplishing her goals. She returned back to school to get her degree in Psychology, and so far has maintained a 3.9 GPA. She has advocated for other differently abled individuals, and she continues to motivate others through her spirit of humanity, as well as a kindness unfound in many, but abundant within her. SO, as I gaze at her, fighting against this disease with all her might, I realize in this quiet moment that aside from observing courage, I’m admiring a butterfly.