Love Is Where You Find It

By Guest Blogger Patty Shaw

About 17 years ago my Mother had a stroke that left her paralyzed from the waist down. She had succumb to an autoimmune illness that attacked her spine and broke her nervous system and nearly broke her spirit.  It was hard enough to see my mother tubed up and wired up, but what added to my fear, all of our fear, was that this illness that broke my mother was a like a phantom.  There was no definitive diagnosis, which meant, no specific treatment and outcome.  The doctors did their best to not sound mystified.  It was the nurses who kept us informed and hopeful, and I guess that is really their job.  Doctors seem to choose to stay detached, possibly out of self-preservation.  I can’t imagine being personally engaged with that many suffering people and not fall apart.  

As family and friends gathered around sharing our grief, we were rendered helpless to watch the phantom wreak havoc on my mother’s body.  Like a forest fire, all we could do is wait for it to burn out. This was our family’s first experience with a debilitating disease.  Anyone would agree it was life changing for her, what we weren’t prepared for was how life changing it was for everyone else, especially my father.  It wasn’t just about the logistics, it was also about the feelings and the beliefs and the psychological drama that played out.  Each member of the family had their own personal reaction.  Her illness and subsequent confinement to a wheel chair rocked each and every one of our worlds both collectively and individually.  When she finally came home, after 3 months in hospital and rehabilitation, we all had to learn how to relate to our mother in a new and unwelcome way.  She was now the child and we were the parent. 

Our first response was denial.  We all cleaved to what was and kept our focus and efforts on getting back there as soon as possible.  She did her physical therapy and we cheered her on and gave her hope that this nightmare was temporary.  We all did research and scoured the internet and medical books for a cure or pathway to rehabilitation.  Ultimately we got better educated, but mom stayed in her wheel chair. It was not a pretty sight and the reality of her situation just brought more darkness.  As her body fought to survive, my mother’s will to live started to dwindle.  We all felt her feelings of defeat and depression and we grieved with her.  My father, on the other hand, refused to let her give up and the quiet battles that waged between them were heart wrenching.  Over time, a long time, softness bloomed and the horror turned into compassion and gentleness that acceptance can bring.  The love they have for each other was what brought them through it.  Miracles happen in spaces filled with love.

It happened to be an Easter miracle.  That morning, I found a very different woman waiting for her family to gather around the table for brunch.  The vacant stare was replaced with a determined glint in her eyes as she wheeled around the table throwing silver ware close to the plates.  She was setting the table!  She was back to barking orders and making sure my father didn’t let the rolls burn.  I tried to help, believe me, but she’d just as soon run me over than let me take over.  So I loved her.  I loved her as she struggled to open a box of candles and I didn’t butt in once to do it for her.  I loved her as she rammed into the coveted buffet and nicked it and I didn’t tell Dad.  I loved her as she ordered me around as if I was a child; I didn’t rebel, I did what she told me to do.  It felt so good to just be with her and let her be with me.  Not as mother and child, or invalid and caretaker, but as two women, getting ready for Easter brunch.  My mother passed away many years after that Easter morning.  She had to go through many difficult trials before she left us for good. 

In all of that trauma and drama of her illness, she taught me that love is where you find it.  All I needed to do was to look with an open heart and recognize that what I was seeing was the love I was looking for.

Patty Shaw
Patty Shaw with her mother


Patty Shaw is the author of award winning book Healer’s Almanac – Journey into Health with Wisdom from the 21st Century Goddesses. She is co-owner of Coventry Creations, creators of the Original Blessed Herbal Candles, the Candle Wick Shoppe in Ferndale, and director of CWS Reiki Healing Center. She is a Reiki Master since 1999 and Pranic healing practitioner.

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