April is National Parkinson’s Awareness month and in honor of my mom, who was and is my hero. I am reposting this tribute to her.
Parkinson’s disease took my mother from me long before the complications of the disease claimed her life. In her final years, she became more, as my son used to call her, “the old lady we take care of” than the woman who gave me birth and guided me through life. In the months since her death, I have been going through pictures of her as a young woman, as a young mother, then as an adoring grandmother and a wife to my father. I barely recognize her in those pictures because the memory of the shell she became clouds everything else in my mind. I search the face that stares back at me from those early pictures looking for signs of what is to come. There are none. All I see is a woman with a face full of love, her confidence oozing from the film and her love of life defining the landscapes around her. This is the woman I wish to honor. The woman who taught me to be the person I am and whose memory still guides my steps each day. The woman who allowed me to be who I wanted to be rather than who she thought I should be and the woman who survived and thrived after losing the love of her life way too soon.
How did she do this you might ask. She did it because of and with God’s grace. His grace was evident in everything she did and in everyone who came into contact with her. She often asked me in those final years why God didn’t just take her home. Why she was having to endure the pain and the loss of herself that she did. She was always a woman who was used to being in charge and in control so to lose those things was for her the ultimate betrayal. I used to tell her that only God knew the reason but that we had to hold on to the verse that says “My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (MSG) And, like the apostle Paul and the handicap God gave him, God gave my Parkinson’s so that she would remember there was a greater purpose to her life. Through her disease she taught all those around her lessons that will live with them for the rest of their lives and beyond. You see, my mom lived God’s grace every day in every thing she did. That grace is what kept her fighting and coming back long after the doctors told us it was only a matter of time. She outlived that diagnosis by three years and God used her during that time to teach grace to me, my family and those who cared for her both at the nursing home and in the hospital.
Yes, Parkinson’s finally took my mom from me physically, but Parkinson’s and death can never take her from me spiritually or in my heart. I learned from her to be more patient, more caring, to live in the moment and most importantly to extend grace to everyone I encounter because it’s what God expects me to do and it’s how I honor her memory every day.
Elaine Valentine Sasser, born June 10, 1938 died on May 28, 2010 due to complications from Parkinson’s disease. And, in her death she taught me her final lesson. Caregiving doesn’t end because the person we care for passes away, caregiving changes and finds other roots in which to grow.
That is why I am supporting The National Parkinson’s Foundation. To honor the memory of the woman who cared for me and for whom I cared and to help care for all those who care for people in their lives who they love and who, whether they remember it or not, love them. Please join me during the month of April which is National Parkinson’s Awareness month in making a donation to them in order to find a cure for this crippling disease. Do it in honor of my mom or do it to honor someone you know who lives with Parkinson’s everyday. But for whatever your reason, please do it. We have to find a cure. For my mom and for the thousands of other people who live with Parkinson’s and its effects daily. Visit parkinson’s.org today. There’s a link below.
Carol Elaine Valentine Sasser
June 10, 1938 – May 28, 2010