20: As Long as I’m Living…

20: As Long as I’m Living…

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom

As Long as I’m Living…

I love my mother as the trees love water and sunshine—she helps me grow, prosper, and reach great heights.

~Terri Guillemets

I remember picking up the phone and calling my mom, telling her I wanted to quit my job and move to a new city to be closer to my fiancée Laura and pursue my dream of one day being a firefighter. My mom’s overwhelming support was second nature. When others thought I was crazy and asked why I was leaving a “great gig,” she never once questioned my decision. My mom didn’t ask why I was leaving a high-paying job, taking a pay cut and pursuing my dream. Her response was, “You’re going to make a great firefighter someday and I am glad you are following your heart.”

It was the summer of 2013, and Laura and I had finished unpacking the U-Haul at my new apartment. After bringing in the final load of boxes, we slowly began digging through them all to figure out where to start. This was the first time aside from when I went away to college that I would not be in the same city as my parents. As a result, I took all of my belongings from my parents’ house, including all of the knickknacks from the basement.

As I unpacked some of my rubber totes and boxes in the spare bedroom, I began filling my shelves with marketing books from college, EMT books from a night class I took, and my many Chicken Soup for the Soul books. As I reached into the bottom of one tote, I pulled out a book that brought me to tears. It made me flash back to my childhood and think about my mom and everything we had faced, the struggles we shared and how we had persevered. The book was a hardcover copy of Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. I opened the book and read the four lines that were so familiar:

I’ll love you forever,

I’ll like you for always,

As long as I’m living

my baby you’ll be.

The book was very meaningful for my mom and me. I remember many nights having that story read to me while we shared a spot on the couch or armchair. I almost always ended up falling asleep. Growing up, my dad’s job took us to quite a few new cities, and often times he would move there before us. My mom and I would stay back until the house sold and then pack up to move where my dad was. My brother and sister were quite a bit older than me and were on their own, so they didn’t make some of the later moves. I sometimes joke that I grew up as an only child because of the age difference. Because of these special circumstances, my mom and I were able to forge a special bond. That bond has been tested a lot over the past eight years. But because of everything that has happened, our connection is stronger and tighter than ever.

The past eight years I’ve withstood a number of life-changing events and gone through a lot of rough patches. As I met each obstacle, one thing was constant: my mom was by my side. Through an arrest, two ACL surgeries, completely switching careers and five facial reconstructive surgeries stemming from an assault, my mom never gave up on me and she never stopped praying.

Through all of the trials I have endured, my mom silently fought a battle of her own, never complaining, and never letting it intrude or affect how she cared for others. When I was a senior in high school, my mom went in for some tests, which I thought were routine. I came home from school one day, and to my surprise my mom wasn’t home. There was a message on the answering machine—it was my dad saying that my mom needed to have open-heart surgery.

My mom never once let her surgery sideline her from watching a single one of my soccer games, or from asking me how my day was. My mom has been an inspiration and I attribute a lot of my own success to her strength.

So this story is to my mom, a woman with a heart the size of the earth. Thank you. Thank you for believing in me and praying for me when no one else would. Thank you for supporting me and telling me to pursue my dreams. Every time I pull into the fire station after a call, I think about how I got where I am today and what I had to go through. Without her, none of this would have been possible. To a selfless and humble woman, and my best friend:

I’ll love you forever,

I’ll like you for always,

As long as I’m living

my Mommy you’ll be.

~Thomas Schonhardt

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