I realize that last week was Thanksgiving, but I needed to complete Part II of the story of Annie Holand Miller, McAllen’s 2016 Woman of the Year. I could have postponed Part II, but let’s face it--we should talk about our blessings every day, not just on Thanksgiving.
When I think of my blessings, my mom is at the top of my list. Of course I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for her. And I wouldn’t have had eight siblings if it weren’t for her. Yes, my mom had nine children. And she considers each one of us a blessing. At least that’s what she tells us. (I am also grateful for the blessing of a sense of humor. I got that from her, too.)
Growing up, I often heard the saying that someone was “as patient as a saint.” My mom had the first five of us five years in a row. Now that’s patience. In fact, I think the saints could learn a thing or two from her.
My mom and dad taught us the importance of respect. We were not allowed to say words like “shut up” and “stupid.” We could not say “God!” when we were angry or exasperated. We couldn’t even say the word “butt.” (My siblings and I still laugh about how we had to say “bottom.”) “Please” and “thank you” were expected, as was “yes” not “yeah.”
I learned kindness from my mom, though I have so much more to learn before I will even come close to her level of kindness. From weekly visits to former neighbors and friends who were ill or lonely to volunteering at a nursing home in Peoria, my mom has shown us what true kindness is. She has never done it for accolades or any kind of recognition. She has done it because it is who she is.
Throughout my life, I have witnessed my mom’s incredible faith and the depth of her love, but never were either more evident than the period from July of 2002 until August of 2008. In that six-year span, we lost my brother, Tim, to suicide, my dad to a brain hemorrhage, my paternal grandmother to an age-related illness, and my oldest sibling, Ann, to cancer. I don’t have the words to describe the grief, the sorrow, or the intensity of the loss my family felt. And yet, through it all, my mom remained faithful. I can’t imagine her pain. But instead of curling up in a ball and choosing not to live—like she must have felt like doing at times—she got up each morning and went to mass and tried to discern how she could help all of us.
When my mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s several years ago, I was devastated. I was also angry. Yes, I know it’s part of life. Yes, I know good people are diagnosed with all kinds of diseases and disorders every day. Nevertheless, I was angry. My sweet, kind, loving mom was facing a progressive neurological disorder, and I was devastated. But my favorite pragmatist accepted her fate and said she would deal with the disorder day by day.
The past year has been difficult. First, she gave up driving. My heart hurt for her as she made this decision. “Miss Independence” was rarely home, between going to daily mass, going to visit friends, going to my nieces’ and nephews’ games and events… She was my favorite social butterfly. Finally, she said one day she knew it was time. I cried. She might have, too, but if she did, she never told me. She told me it was part of life and that it could be worse. She also said what she has told us throughout our lives when we have struggled---This, too, shall pass.
She has also endured a number of falls this year. (Thankfully, she has really strong bones.) Parkinson’s has done a number on her balance. I have watched her when she has to stop and will herself to turn in another direction or when she is standing still and walking forward is no longer a perfectly natural action. And I have talked to her about the times when she has fallen in front of others and how difficult that can be to the ego, even to a person who is anything but an egotist. Through every difficult decision and every fall, she has shown me strength , acceptance, and, as always, faith.
I am convinced that Proverbs 31:25-30 was written with my mom in mind:
5 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
On Thanksgiving and every day of my life, I am grateful for my mom’s lessons and for her incredible love.
Chris Ardis retired in May of 2013 following a 29-year teaching career. She now helps companies with business communications and social media and works as a sales coordinator for Tony Roma’s and Macaroni Grill. Chris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.