Is Anybody Dead?

Is Anybody Dead?

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Mom

Is Anybody Dead?

You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.
~Walt Disney

My mother will tell you that she’s had a blessed life. From one perspective, this is true. She has three healthy children and eight grandchildren who adore her, she has been very successful in her job, she has a nice home and friends who love her.

In another sense, this is an illusion. She was raised in a broken home. At age twenty-nine, she became a widow with three young children. She lost her second husband to a brain tumor. She broke her back when I was in college and it still gives her pain. She has diabetes, partially brought on by the stress of caring for her second husband during his illness.

But my mother doesn’t focus on the negative. It’s not that she doesn’t feel the pain. She does feel the pain, very deeply. But it has never prevented her from living her life. Her greatest gift was teaching me to never give up, to keep moving forward, to know that while life is full of tragedy, it is also full of joy.

Only three years after my father died, my mother planned a trip for the four of us to Disney World. She was a widow with three kids, ages twelve, eleven and eight. She was only thirty-two herself. She made all the arrangements and got us ready to go without showing a single worry. We had a blast.

Even a broken rental car was something she could handle. We’d spent the day at Disney World and were very late leaving. By the time we reached our car, the parking lot was emptying out and we were exhausted and cranky.

And the car would not start.

So there we were, years before cell phone service; my mom was in a big, empty parking lot with three exhausted children and a car that would not work. And it was getting darker fast.

Not a problem.

She’d paid attention to the announcement on the trams about car trouble and how to request help from Disney staff. The staff acted quickly, reported the problem for us to the rental car company, and said to wait until they brought a replacement.

So we waited. And we waited. It was hours.

I remember being a little worried that it was very dark outside. It was also quiet, as the place was shut down for the night, and that seemed ominous. There was nowhere to sit but the car.

If my mother was scared, she never showed it. I don’t remember exactly what she did to keep us occupied during that wait. I think she told stories. Or we played some guessing games. Or said what we liked most about the vacation so far.

I do remember that she kept saying, “No big deal... patience... this will get fixed.” And when the car showed up, finally, we cheered.

The rest of the vacation, the broken car became a running joke, something we laughed about. She approaches every obstacle in her life this way. If it’s a small thing that will eventually get fixed with patience, no big deal. If it’s more menacing and looks insurmountable, she’ll say, “Is anybody sick? Is anybody dead?” And, if not, well, then there are options, even if we can’t see them yet.

I remember the day I announced that I would be a writer. I was a little kid and she probably heard her kids say this kind of stuff all the time. But she instantly said, “I think you’d be great.” And she meant it. Sure, there were obstacles. We had little money. My parents were from families where no one had ever gotten a college degree. And I wanted to go into journalism, which paid badly then and pays less now.

But she never saw the problems as problems. I never heard one negative word from her about it. What I heard was, “You’re a great writer, you’re talented, you keep working, and you’ll be great.”

All she emphasized was that if I wanted to do something, I had to work hard; I had to never give up. I had to know that I would make mistakes, that practice was important and nothing would come easily. But the most important part is to keep going, to keep learning.

Even if the odds are against you, even if tragedies happen.

I have four kids now, and one of them has “special needs.” We’ve had some serious issues over the years paying for medical expenses. But I think of what my mother handled and still deals with, and I ask myself: “Is anybody seriously ill? Is anybody dead?” And if not, I move forward.

People ask me sometimes how I deal with the things in my life.

And I say, “I learned from my mom.”

~Corrina Lawson

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