I have been numb for the past 2 days. Words failed me. We came close to death. Cancer’s sting is painful. Helpless too. To see someone you love slowly slipping away kept me speechless for once. We tried everything. We had to be everything Cancer stole from her. I kept saying how sorry I was. No mother should bear the loss of their child. And so we have been crying. Tears that keep flowing with no end in sight. The heartache was unbearable. The questions too of how long we knew, was difficult to hear that all I could do was cry as I kept saying we tried everything. We did. We got the best of doctors. They flew just for her. We did all Science said we should do and still no result. She was not fighting enough and it’s a fight after all. We were prepared to fight. We needed her to do the same. This life truly exists in a delicate balance. We are all connected. Watching her take breaths that were difficult was painful to see. We are all connected still. Her shallow breaths were ours too. We have been understanding life. We have been respecting what each day brings. We have been holding on to things that connect us all. For once, I truly understood how tomorrow is a gift. We only have today. This week has been a great teacher of this lesson. Which is why we have been numb. Seeing as though we came close to death. We are learning how to come home to ourselves. Come home to the one for whom impossible does not exist. We have been learning how we are part of things way bigger. How our God is way bigger than anything even death. We have been listening to the spirit teaching. We have been fighting too. We are prepared to keep trying everything too, including hope. For we are all connected. Life is a set of choices. Be hopeful or hopeless. We choose hope. We also choose connection and so we have been connecting to the source of hope. And we will keep connecting. We will keep trying everything too, including hope from this sting called Cancer. We are no longer afraid. We know whose we are afterall!
We didn’t go to church last year. We didn’t celebrate with other mothers or listen to the special Mother’s Day prayers from our Jesuit Priest. We didn’t even get the flowers we normally receive at the end of mass, a symbol of our Church’s reverence for today. The pandemic with all its adversities was to blame. Today we are prepared to radiate in full bloom, in brilliant colors that highlights the beauty of the day. And there is something about Azaleas in full bloom at the entrance of my home, that gives me radical hope, one year later, as a mother, today.
For starters, azaleas are a a symbol of womanhood, of softness with their deep luscious purplish pink colors that are dependable as blue skies on a very sunny day. Azaleas beauty transforms any space becoming a dramatic focal point of any landscape, in the same way mothers transform life. Then there is the supercooling tendencies of Azaleas which makes these flower a symbol of hardiness. During the winter months, Azaleas hardy stems super cool to low temperature to avoid any freezing injury, enabling them to tolerate the presence of ice and survive. So too is motherhood. How we bear the pains of childbirth, particularly the illustrious ring of fire, the moment a baby makes its appearance, personifies the hardiness of Azaleas.
That one plant can personify both soft and hard, with grace and beauty, even in times of stress is the reason why azaleas give radical hope to motherhood, radical hope for my journey as a mother. By being both soft and hard, at its core Azaleas provide a sense of agency for change, a sense of agency for fight. Adversities will come, as with freezing cold temperatures of winter nights, and finding ways, supercooling ones, to fight through the ice, is crucial for survival. But in the Spring, there will be beauty, brilliant colors in full bloom, that radiates the moment you see Azaleas, the moment your eyes meet to greet these plants, such that the fight through the ice, is never futile, the fight through adversities is never futile. Azaleas commitment and courage to survive winter and achieve this flourishing vision for Spring, is the radical hope I keep for mothers today. The pandemic has been one great adversity. Testing our endurance and abilities to both juggle home and work at the same time. For some of us that meant, there were no separation. Work came home and home became work, not just for ourselves but with the children we homeschooled and the family members we nursed. The pandemic was like Azaleas during winter months. Yet we fought, through the ice, supercooled where we could, to survive this adversity of a life time.
But on this day, a year later, we celebrate you. On this Mother’s Day, may your beauty dazzle. Be as vibrant as you can be and wear those vivid colors that make you radiate like Azaleas. Become a dramatic focal point today and let every eye direct attention to you. This significant Mother’s Day, this one past the adversities of a pandemic, highlights the need to never forget our collective past (though still ongoing) of survival as we envision a collective future full of possibilities, where flourishing will always be at our core like Azaleas in Spring, as we embrace the meaning and purpose of motherhood. My prayer for you also is that you explode with colors so breathtaking that the memories of you beauty lingers on past the ongoing pandemic, throughout today and into forever. It’s what Azaleas do for themselves, a radical hope through life, a collective commitment to heal and transform the adversities of winter, to achieve new forms of flourishing in the Spring. I keep Azaleas here for you today and always.
Yesterday, I told a friend that I got vaccinated. He said he will not be getting vaccinated. I stopped, looked him in the eye and asked why. He said he has been using ivermectin prescribed by his veterinarian and from all he has been reading about it, including what he found on YouTube it protects from the virus. I was shocked. I thought I had heard it all with the pandemic. So I did my own research, found the article below and shared with him. Ivermectin is useless against my Covid19, I said. The vaccine however, can give the hope you need against the virus. Only time will tell if my public health approach worked with him but I can’t help but ponder a bit more on the word Hope and what it means during a pandemic of a lifetime.
Hope is a four letter word, often difficult to imagine. Many evoke it in times of trouble. Some say it helps to maintain a sense of self, a reason for being. Others suggest it pertains to nothing. Still to have hope in times of uncertainties, to grab it by the next and use it to control your circumstances is something many dream of. Yesterday, for the first time in a year since the pandemic started, hope was on full display with President Biden’s speech. In contrast to excessive negation and downplaying of the pandemic, President Biden gave us hope. Echoes of the mindless frenzy of his predecessor’s own reporting of the states of affairs seem to pale in comparison to brutal honesty and genuine care for the unnecessary loss and pain brought on by the pandemic. But to ask for hope, to make us all believe that it is within our reach if only we do our part was startling to me. This need for hope is not new. We have all been here before. Even when the right and wrongs of the pandemic were debated endlessly in the beginning, the World Health Organization Director reminded us all of how ‘vulnerable we are, how connected we are, and how dependent we are to each other.’
Hope isn’t a four letter word reserved for one person, but for all of us. Hope projects an image of optimism that all of us can aspire too. A place where life as we know it, can somehow return to order. The symbol of July 4th gatherings that he referred to towards the end of his speech is one such symbol of hope. The lurking hint of control, of semblance of life as we once knew it, albeit for a gathering over barbecue is something we can all achieve if only we do our part. Something that I pray those inclined to individuality can overcome for the greater good of the collective. But let me zero in to those who still think this virus is a hoax. Your life now is in your hands. That the simple truth of hope even in a vaccine is something you too can aspire towards. Even the one some of you look up saw hope in the vaccine against all odds. Hope belongs to us all, even you if you do your part. Though his heart of darkness may plague you still, all I want to say is give hope a try. It can literally save your life.