When I was young, I used to roll my eyes and shake my head at them – not really heeding their words.
Or so I thought.
They’ve since passed, and not a day goes by that I don’t miss them.
Most importantly, their words – often colourful and humorous, but always spot-on – resonate deeply with me today.
I now share them with you.
My mother used to say:
“I may be small, but I’m strong.”
My mother was 4’11” tall. She was “petite” but fierce. Her hands, though small, were strong. As wayward children, we knew her vice grip well. She could beat a 6′ tall burly man in an arm wrestling match. But her eyes, oh those eyes. When she was angry, her eyes were like steel and ice. And if that gaze was directed at one of us, we knew we were in deep trouble. She didn’t have to utter a word. Just one look.
Throughout her life, she suffered a series of debilitating illnesses – from brain clots, osteoporosis, and heart problems to multiple cancers. She was always in pain, but rarely showed it. She whistled through it. She laughed at it. She refused to succumb to it. She despised weakness and was damned if she was going to let anyone see her vulnerable.
When she experienced a life challenge – physical, emotional, family related or economic – she bore it defiantly… almost like daring it to bring her down. Except that it never did.
Even at the very end of her life, with cancer festering rapidly throughout her small body, she looked at me – smiling and loving eyes penetrating my soul – and she said “My darling girl, don’t cry for me. I’ll be fine.” She was 79. I was 45. I was not fine. I was losing the most precious person in my life.
In the years since, I’ve experienced some interesting life challenges. Friends and family have expressed their amazement at how stoically I’ve handled myself, how strong and resilient I am.
I’ve had a good teacher.
“The strength of a woman is not measured by the impact that all her hardships in life have had on her; but the strength of a woman is measured by the extent of her refusal to allow those hardships to dictate her and who she becomes.”