I have been blessed with a mother who not only inspires me - but who challenges me daily, to become a better daughter, sister, friend, lover and leader.
My mother grew up on a Midwest farm in the mid-1950's with seven siblings, living a primitive lifestyle of hand-me-downs and shared bedrooms; learning the importance of prayer, sweat-equity and leaving nothing to waste. She worked hard, and had big dreams of becoming a fashion designer once she left the farm and her small Iowa town upon high school graduation.
Her post-graduate years took her to Des Moines, Iowa, where she began working for a large insurance firm and explored her new social life in a "big" city. It was through a series of coed softball games that she met the love of her life, future husband, and father of her children. Their summer days of dating turned into talks of marriage, and in April of 1976, they joined hands in a small Catholic church to exchange vows.
My father was also in the insurance industry at the time, but following news that his father had died suddenly of a heart attack, my parents made the decision to move back to Nebraska to take on our family construction company. Although my mother knew that this business venture was a risk (the company was clearly failing), she supported my father with his decision and began managing the company alongside him. They were the perfect pair - in partnership, and in love.
Ultimately, the next several years led to a large degree of change for my parents. I was born in the early 1980's, nearly during the same time that our family business was forced to make a decision - either sell, or file for bankruptcy. I cannot imagine how my mother was feeling. As our family was growing - and more mouths were at the table to feed, our family bank account was dwindling. My sister was born in the months leading up to the sale and dividing of assets of our family company, at which point my family traveled East toward Iowa for my father's new job - and the insurance capital of the world.
Growing up, I never felt deprived. Never felt as though I missed out on anything. I thought that clipping coupons was a fun arts and crafts activity, and still recall the day that I asked my mother if we "bought" my sister with coupons.
After moving once again in our early years (for another career upgrade for my father), we landed upon a small town in Northwest Iowa - a hidden gem amongst the rural pins on our Midwest Iowa map. Moving allowed our family a fresh start, and my parents wanted their daughters to have access to experience multiple activities - without judgement, politics, here-say - or a tight private school tuition.
Although the move was difficult for all of us, I can now laugh when I recall a small argument that my parents were having about the size of our new rural metropolis. My mother quipped about how we had to "drive nearly an hour to reach a shopping mall..." Beyond this catastrophic realization, my mother again was my father's greatest champion, and knew that with each move, and each challenge, our family was becoming more stable.
The years flew by, and our family became known in this small town as a troop of volunteers, groundskeepers (our lawn was pristine nearly every season), friendly advocates, and supporters. My mother raised our family to always give back, and to never take your opportunities for granted. She worked tirelessly on Girl Scout Fundraisers, church potlucks, Fireman's stag's and served her P.E.O. Women's group with pride. She was a model wife, mother, philanthropist and community advocate, and my father adored her, all the same.
It was in the summer of 2006 that I received a call from my parents on a warm afternoon. I had recently graduated college and landed my first "big" job at an advertising agency. I can recall exactly where I was sitting, who was near me, and how I felt, the moment that I heard the words; "cancer." My father had been diagnosed with Stage III Lung Cancer, and the doctor's knew that aggressive treatment was necessary.
Our world turned upside-down.
The next six months were spent in and out of hospitals and treatment centers. Just as the shopping mall was nearly an hour away, so too were any cancer care facilities. My mother drove to and from each appointment with my father, and never questioned doing so. At the same time, our home turned into an on-site hospital, equipped with nurses stations and oxygen tanks, breathing gauges, frozen Ensure drinks and a rainbow of pills and pain patches.
The six months seemed as though they were the longest in our lives, but were swept from us all too quickly. My father passed away in January of 2007, at the young age of 60. My mother was by his bedside until the moment he took his last breath. One of my favorite photos of the two of them on one of his last days in the hospital, with my mother showing my father a photo of their wedding day. You could tell how badly my father wanted to stay and live the rest of a long and fulfilling life...but his body was overcome by illness, and his soul was welcomed home.
Here is where the butterfly quote on the magnet starts to emerge. My mother had always been the supporter and the implementer. With my father now gone, her role had changed. She was now parenting for two, supporting herself, and making decisions that normally my father would make. Truly; I was concerned for her wellbeing as she ventured on her own.
It has been five years since we lost my father, and I have never been more overwhelmed in watching the progression and transformation of my mother. She is now a forthright decision-maker, breadwinner, peace-provider (between my sister and I) and life-strategist. She is more confident and poised than I've ever seen her, and even explores new fashion with a bit of glimmer in her eyes.
There is not a doubt in my mind that she thinks of my father daily, and has moments of questioning why he is no longer with us. This said; I truly believe that my mother can handle anything. I no longer worry of her stability, as she now now become my rock more than ever before. I know that my father is looking down upon her, and that he is as proud of her as I am.
My mother's most glorious butterfly phases are yet to come, and I cannot wait to be mesmerized by her beauty, and all that she shares as she spreads her wings.