Vision New England Blog

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The general blog of Vision New England dedicated to equipping and encouraging New England Christ followers to do justice, love mercy, walk humbly and make disciples.


Joanne

Joanne

In honor of Mother’s Day, I find it suiting to write about my mom, Joanne. I should initially note that I’m pretty fortunate to have a mother that I’m able to talk about in the context of the topics of this blog; sadly I’m sure that some mothers fail to exhibit the qualities of mercy, humility and justice – or even just general love – to their children. My mother, however, has been exemplary in these regards, and I believe (and hope) that I have adopted these traits in part to her credit.

Joanne is something of an unsung hero in my family, and I admittedly contribute to this most of the time, myself. One reason is that my dad has a very unique personality, and there’s a lot of psychological mirroring, so to speak, between us. As a result, we have a weird and close relationship that I don’t have with my mom, even though I don’t love or respect her any less. Nevertheless, I understand how it could be easy for her to feel like she is taken for granted, particularly by my sister and me, who she has consistently sacrificed and fought for. In honesty, though, the paradox is that the very fact that she is the kind of person that can silently be taken for granted is exactly what makes her so special and beloved by her family. If she asked for appreciation and gratitude, not only would we be unable to repay her appropriately, but it would somehow take away from what she does, too. This said, the fact that she simply plays her role quietly is both incredible and important.

There is much to admire in the person who refuses to turn away when others need help, even if helping and supporting someone takes away from their own happiness, and even if they can’t fully understand what the other person is going through. This is the heart of altruism, which I think could probably be best defined as mercy, justice, and humility coming together through love, and Joanne has personified this countless times throughout my life, both towards me, specifically, and also towards others. Her family is everything to her, and no one exemplifies what it means to fiercely love your family more.

Joanne has advocated for my sister and me over and over, and she has supported us through all of our activities. She attended every one of our sporting events, rain or shine, even if the temperature was in the single digits. She even carted me around 6+ hours round trip, when needed, so that I could play AAU basketball in Bangor, and then get to Hampton to play field hockey team. She went to every basketball game one year, even though I only played 45 seconds the whole season, just in case I got in the game. She would rebound for me when I would go into the driveway to shoot baskets, and she built me a regulation field hockey goal so that I could practice at home. She would even throw me balls to practice catching and fielding for lacrosse, even though she knew little about the sport.

My mom remained resilient through my dad’s constant health struggles, first his battle with cancer when I was six and my sister was four, and later the vascular complications that arose as a result of the chemo and radiation. Perhaps even more demonstrative of her strength and love, though, was her treatment of me, during a particularly difficult period of my life.

When I was suffering from severe mental health crisis, and was periodically in and out of the hospital during 2012, Joanne would visit me in Portland every day, usually bringing me snacks to cheer me up. When I was home she would read me Dr. Seuss’s “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” every night, to remind me how much she believed in me, and because I’d become illiterate and couldn’t read myself. She had no idea how to relate to me, or help me, but she kept trying every single day, and I know that watching me, and being helpless, made her suffer. I don’t know how many times I broke down into a hysterical, incoherent mess of agony, tears, and snot that she simply sat with, unable to do anything more. I can’t truly comprehend how she felt, but I imagine that having to go through the stress and pain that I put her through – with all the uncertainty of not knowing if I’d make it – had to be one of the hardest things for a parent to go through. Yet she did it with so much strength that she didn’t even know she was helping me just by enduring and being there with me, not giving up on me, or treating me like a menace, no matter how menacing I was. You may think that any decent mother would have done the same, but I truly don’t think this is the case, knowing exactly the sheer living Hell that I created for my family over that time. Yet Joanne endured, regardless of the pain. This was justice and mercy that I can’t fully fathom, but have benefited from more than I can explain; it helped keep me alive, and she didn’t even realize what she was doing. She just did it, because that’s who she is.

On the night of my 20th birthday, I had my first major mental breakdown. I went out of my room, over to my dad, and fell at his feet in panic. After a few minutes of making a huge commotion, and my dad being unable to calm me down or understand me, he decided to take me for a drive until I could articulate. Awoken by the fuss, my mom came into the room, confused, and wanting to help. My dad essentially told her to go back to bed and that he would handle it, and Joanne was left standing there, perplexed, knowing only that something was terribly wrong and that I hadn’t involved her. You see, even with as strong as my mom has always been with me, and as much as she has fought tirelessly to support and understand me, anytime I chose to seek direct help, or talk about my struggles, I would run to my dad. It was always Dad that I leaned on, even though all my mom wanted was to help me. Which she was (and is.) Still, she receives little credit. But, she never stops.

Today when I talk to my mom, fully conscious, and cognitive functions (relatively) intact, I sense a sadness and a feeling that her family doesn’t appreciate her (even though she doesn’t tell me outright.) I think she feels like she’s been penalized for the fact that she’s never had to surmount some sort of insurmountable challenge – such as my dad did in overcoming alcoholism or cancer, or I have in growing past my severe mental illness – because she can’t connect to or understand us as well, or maybe she thinks we don’t respect her because of it. I think she sometimes feels like a martyr, because so many people in her life have suffered, and have required her to be the source of strength; to be the proverbial “rock” without recognition. The sad thing is that she doesn’t realize her altruism is the most valuable gift she can give others; she should feel accomplished, rather than taken advantage of, for the fact that she gives us something we can never repay. This is a truth about justice, and mercy: in many cases, they can’t be repaid. I can never repay my mother for all she has done for me; she has just done it because she loves me, and because it’s the right thing to do as my mother. We should all hope to give such gifts to others with true humility – expecting nothing in return, and finding the true satisfaction of our actions in knowing that we have given people something they desperately needed, which they could find nowhere else.