A Son’s Admiration

A Son’s Admiration

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Mom

A Son’s Admiration

There are two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots. The other is wings.
~Hodding Carter, Jr.

I admire my mother for committing herself to a career as a nurse and, subsequently, a nurse practitioner. It is the perfect expression of her caring nature and her passion for service and healing. Through her work, she set an extraordinary example for her three children.

On a more practical level, I am grateful for the convenience that her career choice provided for my brother and me as we figuratively and literally stumbled through our childhoods. More often than not, my mother happened to be employed by the hospital where my brother or I were deposited when we required medical attention for something stupid/brave/athletic that one or both of us had done. Our sister has always approached life with a certain dignity and reserve that was absent from her brothers. She herself is a distinguished healthcare professional due, in large part, to my mother’s influence, and she never made use of the one-stop-shopping ER visits afforded so frequently to my brother and me.

My brother (fearless athlete until college) and I (aspiring concert pianist until college) calculated that we accumulated 105 stitches, six broken bones, four pairs of crutches, and innumerable sprains and strains as minors. This was spread across at least fifteen visits to the emergency room. Of course, most of those visits happened when both my mother and father were at work. My mother needed only to walk calmly to the emergency room to meet her ailing son—convenient for the whole family.

Though my brother can boast five sets of stitches in his face alone, I hold the record in that department. When I was ten years old, I fell through a rusted iron grate and was badly cut. I was taken to the hospital where my mother was working at the time. I was really frightened. It was a nasty, gory cut requiring fifty-seven stitches to close.

Through it all, my mother maintained her calm, nurturing way, reassuring me through a long day of needles and stitches that I would be fine, that she loved me. I still have an impressive train-track of a scar, and memories of that day that are oddly positive. It is not just the rosy glow of youth that colors those memories; it is a clear picture of my mother holding my hand and making me feel better.

A decade or so later, when my mother was working as a homecare hospice nurse, we were invited to Christmas Eve dinner at the home of one of my mother’s patients. He had been living with multiple myeloma for a long time, and my mother gave him chemotherapy treatments at his home. By virtue of being my mother’s son, I was welcomed as family into the home of a man living with a terminal illness on Christmas Eve. That alone would have been extraordinary, but what really stands out in my memory is the joy that permeated the entire evening, and the way that our host family seemed to love and be loved by my mother. At that moment, her quiet strength seemed boundless.

I have always struggled with understanding how my mother does the work she does, especially when we were growing up. She and my father managed to coordinate their demanding careers, the education and activities of their children, and my mother’s own education as a nurse. It is not that her work doesn’t affect her; it certainly does. I remember her coming home tired, angry, sad, energized, happy—sometimes all at once. Now she works as a nurse practitioner in palliative care, focusing on pain and symptom management, often treating people at the end of their lives.

My mother’s mantra is “hope.” She has studied it, written about it, and she lives it. She sees the pain in her patients’ eyes, but she also sees the potential for healing (whether physical, spiritual, or both), and the extraordinary and unique value of the journey of each human being she encounters. My mother allows herself to be touched by each life that she, in turn, touches. She draws her quiet strength and resolve from that process. That is how she is able to approach her work, and her entire life, with what seems to be limitless compassion, boundless hope.

My sister, brother and I all followed in my mother’s footsteps and chose careers in healthcare. My sister is an advance practice nurse, and my brother is an administrator in community health, as was I for close to ten years. Two years ago, at the age of thirty-two, I returned to music, my first love, and am now the Executive Director of a community music school in Brooklyn, New York. I love my job. It is the source of incredible joy in my life, and, I hope, in the lives of the thousands of students that the school reaches.

Still, there are times when I face a task (or a multitude of tasks) and I think, “I have no idea how I am going to approach this.” I never doubt, however, that I will figure it out, whatever “it” might happen to be. At the end of the day, I might go home tired, angry, sad, energized, happy—sometimes all at once, like my mother, but also like my mother (in fact thanks to my mother), I draw my own quiet strength from my work and from those around me.

I thank my mother for instilling in me so much hope, so much quiet strength, and so much love.

~Aaron Felder

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