Hello from 38,000 feet. I’m writing on a flight from Nashville where I just spoke for Baxter. I was part of their National Training Meeting. My content: Inspiring (S)heroes™. I certainly was inspired by the many (S)heroes that I met. Thanks to Donna Calabrese, Robyn Pobozny, Monika Callen and all of the others who worked so hard to make this meeting come to life.
Often we equate being a Shero with bigness. Big title. Big position. Major power player. But that’s not what being a Shero means. A Shero is not about bigness…it’s about being. It’s a calling to each of us. We make the choice about whether or not we’ll respond to the call.
Today is the birthday of my most significant Shero, Helen Vernal. She would’ve been 93 today. Mom joined the angels in September, just two months after I was learned I was in remission from Stage IV Lymphoma. Always watchful of the needs of her kids, I believe Mom hung around until she knew I’d be okay. She taught me how to be strong, courageous, tough, and kind. I weep as I write this (so awkward on a plane). I miss her so very much.
My Mom suffered from dementia the last years of her life, but I want to share with you a story that exemplifies how she was a Shero to so many. My siblings and I knew my Mom and Dad were in trouble. They were living in Florida. None of we four kids lived in Florida. In fact, we lived in four different states. My Dad had Parkinson’s Disease and Mom was his caregiver. It was impossible to navigate their health issues from states away, so we decided to move them closer to at least one of us. We all investigated long term living near our homes. We finally agreed to move them to Wauwatosa, WI, close to my sister Karen’s home.
All four of us participated in the move and were present when they moved into their new space. They were not happy about the move. They believed it was one more step in rescinding their independence.
My parents had not been in their new apartment for 24 hours when Mom tripped over Dad’s walker and broke her left arm and left hip. She needed to be transferred to a hospital for surgery, and then to a rehabilitation center for six weeks. Imagine what this must have been like for someone with dementia. So many changes in such a short period of time.
After Mom had her surgery, I went to see her on her first day at the new rehab center. She was in a wheel chair and I told her I’d go with her to the dining center so that she wouldn’t have to go alone. When we entered the dining room I asked her where she wanted to sit. She looked around the room and noticed a woman who was struggling to eat soup. This woman also must have suffered from Parkinson’s. Every time she took a spoonful, very little actually made it to her mouth. Mom said she wanted me to put her beside this women.
When we arrived, Mom, with her own arm in a sling, said to the woman, “Is it alright if I help you?”
The woman shook her head yes. And there was my Mom battling her own health issues, arm in a sling, but knowing she was capable of using her other arm to help someone else. She fed this woman her dinner.
This is what a Shero looks like. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things. People with a knowingness that we are each called…and we make the choice.
Thank you, Mom. I love you. I miss you terribly. I am grateful that I had the privilege of calling you Mom.