Column: Always there, always teaching by example

Mom’s lessons seen clearly through strong, selfless actions

Walk+through+a+series+of+a+student%27s+memories+with+her+mom+in+honor+of+Mother%27s+Day.

Courtesy of Hannah Ortega

Walk through a series of a student’s memories with her mom in honor of Mother’s Day.

The shops crafted from adobe were a foreign sight to me, as was the dry, desert landscape and jagged, powerful mountains that lined the horizon and pierced the sky. I was in a Santa Fe square with my family, and while we walked I tried to drink in every detail from the quirky mall selling beaded and indigenous-looking merchandise to the eccentric people walking by.

But even though there were plenty of interesting items and buildings around me, one thing in particular caught my eye- a man sitting against a wall.

The man was shaking and rocking, his eyes fixed forward on nothing, and he held a cardboard sign in his hand. I asked my mom why he was trembling, and she told me he probably had a mental illness.

I was caught off guard when tears welled in my eyes as I watched her. My mom has always had this ability to instantly connect with a person, to light up their day with her radiant smile, and to look at them with soft, compassionate eyes that makes them feel like, though everything may be crumbling around them, it was going to be alright.”

From what I can remember, I wanted to give the man money but I was too scared to do it myself, so my mom did it instead. But that’s not the important part.

The important part and what still sticks out in my mind to this day was the tenderness in her voice as she handed the money and said, “God bless you.” It was the compassion on her face as she smiled at him as if he wasn’t a stranger. It was the fragile and broken eyes of the man that became focused again and were tinged with hope and gratefulness.

I was caught off guard when tears welled in my eyes as I watched her. My mom has always had this ability to instantly connect with a person, to light up their day with her radiant smile, and to look at them with soft, compassionate eyes that makes them feel like, though everything may be crumbling around them, it was going to be alright.

She always puts others before herself and runs herself rampant doing everything she can to help someone. She makes everyone she meets feel special and loved, and that’s what she’d just done for this man.

As we walked away, I looked up at the sky to see it was crowded with somber, gray clouds. It would surely rain soon, and I worried about where this poor man would seek shelter. But at least now he had some money in his pocket.

At least now he knew there was someone in the world who still cared about people like him.


 

The smell of chlorine and sunscreen wafted through air dripping with humidity at the Caribbean Beach Resort in Disney World. My mom and I laid on striped reclining chairs by the pool as my brother swam and splashed around in the cool water along with many other giggling, swimsuit-clad kids.

After a while, my mom rose from her chair and then bent over to pick up her water bottle. As soon as her back was folded and she reached her arm down, her body became stiff and as rigid as a marble statue. She gasped, her breath taken away. I asked her what was wrong, and she said she couldn’t move.

She’d thrown her back out.

It took a while to get her to stand upright again. She was in incredible pain, but she didn’t shed a tear. I walked with her to the hot tub in hopes that the warm water would soothe her locked muscles- she needed to be able to move in order to go to the park with us the next day. Unfortunately, the hot tub didn’t do much to alleviate her pain.

So my brother, father, and I called a taxi and went to the closest CVS. We bought some ibuprofen and some heating pads, and the next day she swallowed one of the pills, slapped a heating pad on her back, and went to the park.

My mom walked around the 107-acre park of Magic Kingdom with a thrown out back, all because she knew how much it meant to us for her to be there and because she didn’t want to miss spending time with us.

My mom is a fighter, and she doesn’t let obstacles block her path or curve balls throw her off. She puts family first, and she wouldn’t miss a magical day with us at Disney for the world, or an injured back for that matter.


 

My mom hadn’t been feeling well for a week or so.

She laid in bed all day and slept for most of it, and she wouldn’t let my brother and me anywhere near her in fear that we would catch whatever she had.

My father, brother, and I had told her numerous times to go to the hospital, but she refused. She said she was fine.

Until one night when the pain was too much and she gave in and drove to the hospital.

Pneumonia.

This illness might not seem like a big deal to most people, but to my family and I, it was a huge deal because my mom never got sick. She’s always in the best health. She works out every morning and eats nutritious meals, never fast food, and she uses her Essential Oils all the time. But, somehow, pneumonia had slipped into her system like a sly, slithering snake.

My dad took me and my brother to see her in the hospital the next morning. I passed by a room where a nurse was helping an elderly lady, and the room after that was dark and half-closed as someone rested. Nurses shuffled around in their scrubs and the building was stark and cold.

While my family and I fretted over her and even shed a few tears of concern and worry, she played it off and assured us that everything would be alright, like she always does.”

I didn’t like it there. There seemed to be angst and fear and impending doom floating right above our heads in a transparent cloud, close enough to feel but not to touch and make a reality. It was just there, just a possibility.

We entered my mom’s room, and she was laying on a stark hospital bed covered with crisp white sheets. She wore an identification band around her wrist and a thin hospital gown.

Shark Week was on the television, and it stayed on that program the whole time, even when I cuddled up with a blanket on the window seat and fell asleep. Even when my dad brought us Chipotle and we ate together in that chilly room.

A needle dug under the skin in the fold of her elbow and poured some kind of clear, antibiotic liquid into her body from a fluid bag hanging from a rolling IV pole. Whenever she had to go to the restroom, she had to drag the pole with her.

It was strange to see her like that, sick and bed-bound.

But she wasn’t weak by any means.

She never is.

While my family and I fretted over her and even shed a few tears of concern and worry, she played it off and assured us that everything would be alright, like she always does.

And she was right, like she always is.


 

My mom is my best friend, number one confidant, biggest supporter, and greatest mentor. She’s done so much for me, like driving six hours from Lafayette to make my Leopard Leadership Award ceremony in sixth grade to riding a roller coaster with me when I was 10 so I could conquer my fear, even though roller coasters make her sick.

My mom is everything I aspire to be, and she has taught me to be strong in hard times and to never give up, even when things look bleak. She’s taught me to always do what is right, even when the world is trying to tell me I’m wrong.

She’s helped me on my walk with God and has taught me to stand firmly in my faith. She has taught me the importance of family, respect, honesty, and responsibility. She has given me incredible advice, and she’s given me sympathy when I’m filled with sorrow. She’s even given me tough love at times, which isn’t always what I want to hear but what I need to hear. She has taught me to love everyone and help everyone I can.

My mom has a treasure trove of experience and wisdom tucked inside of her, and she has shared it all with me so that I may learn and grow and be the best person I can be.

She always tells me that’s her job- to make me the best person that I can be- and I certainly wouldn’t be the person I am today without her guidance and love.

So to my mom: thank you, and I love you more than you’ll ever know.

And to all mothers around the world: thank you for everything you do, and happy Mother’s Day.