50: The Boxes in the Basement

50: The Boxes in the Basement

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Mom Ever!

The Boxes in the Basement

If the whole world were put into one scale, and my mother in the other, the whole world would kick the beam.

~Henry Bickersteth

We all have heroes, mentors, and people who have influenced us, encouraged us, and motivated us to reach new heights. Some of my personal heroes include political figures like Sir Winston Churchill, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Ronald Reagan. Some are sports stars like Peyton Manning, Walter Payton, Michael Jordan, and Pat Tillman. My other heroes and mentors are mostly people you do not know. One of them is named Gwen. She was my mother.

My journey began during an afternoon of spring-cleaning in my basement. It was late April, the week before Mother’s Day 2015, when I was surveying the treasure trove of stuff that had collected over the years. As I began sorting through various artifacts and relics I had been hoarding, I encountered two tattered cardboard boxes. I suddenly recalled that I had inherited them from my late father four years before. I had never looked inside them.

My curiosity and anticipation were childlike as I rummaged through each box, realizing at some point that this “stuff” had belonged to my mom. The actual cardboard boxes themselves are not relevant. It was the small miracle that I found in one of them that changed my life. It reconnected me with my mom, who had died twenty years earlier.

There were pieces of costume jewelry, stuffed animals, old photographs, miscellaneous personal belongings, and a red spiral notebook in those boxes. I did not open the little red notebook at first and tossed it to the side as I continued to reflect upon my mom. Each item I found in these cardboard boxes brought back several memories of her. However, it was that little red notebook that kept speaking to me, so I finally opened it.

My mom had always been active and healthy. However, on Mother’s Day in 1994 she appeared pale, fatigued, and very fragile. After a few weeks of doctor visits and tests, we got the bad news.

As I thumbed through the yellowing, discolored pages of that little red notebook, I realized I was reading Mom’s cancer journal. She was reaching out to me, knowing that someday I would read her journal. She was still giving me advice, encouragement, strength, and motivation through her words.

Mom was an integral part of her patient groups and would often give support and advice to other patients who had little hope or faith in recovery. Mom always said you should not underestimate your power to influence others.

Mom reflected in her journal that the time you have to impact others and influence their lives is limited by the time you have here on earth. Mom was leading and influencing others even during a time when she was fighting for her own life.

Through all of the pain and mental anguish of chemotherapy, Mom wrote in her journal about the importance of keeping the faith and having confidence so that others would not lose hope. My mom found inspiration in the saying, “When you allow your confidence to shine, you unconsciously permit others to do the same.”

Although Mom knew what she was up against with her future chemo treatments, she never lost her sense of humor or her positive outlook. She never stopped planning for the future and setting goals for herself, and that was evident in the pages of her journal, even though she got sicker and sicker as the year went on.

Unfortunately, I was on a business trip when my mother lost her battle. I had seen her two days before, at least, but I didn’t get to say my official “goodbye” and tell her how much she meant to me on her final day. Her lessons have stuck with me, and I try to be as positive as she was and not let anyone’s negativity define me. Mom would always say, “Someone else’s perception of you does not have to become your reality.”

That was my mom — a real role model.

~Skip Myers

More stories from our partners