When did I become the strong one?
When my father had his stroke and was admitted to intensive care, I went to pieces. My sister and I arrived at the hospital to be of support to my mother, but I was useless. I could only stay by my father’s side for ten minutes at a time. I did not know of anything that I could do for my father, who was in a coma. I did not have any words of support for my mother. I was of no comfort to her. I would sit by my father’s bed for those few minutes at a time, then I would go out into the corridor and cry and cry and cry. On the second day, I offered to stay at home to be of support to my younger brothers, rather than go to the hospital again. Seeing my father in a coma tore my heart out. I was not strong enough to be there for him and watch him go. I was not strong enough for my mother. I was nineteen years old.
My sister, on the other hand, stayed with my mother. She was there with my mother when my father passed away.
So, when was it I became the strong one?
Was it being there with my husband when my father-in-law passed away?
Was it being there alone for 24 hours with my mother-in-law after her admission to hospital, until my husband and his siblings arrived from inter-state?
Was it holding my children close, firmly, and calmly through blood tests and injections, knowing that my firm hold on them prevented more pain by my stopping them jerking?
Was it getting the diagnosis of cancer in my son and being able to bravely smile at him and say ‘you will be all right, it will be all right’, not knowing whether I was telling the truth?
Was it fronting doctors and teachers, calmly demanding the right medical treatments and the correct educational programmes for my children, time after time after time?
Was it persevering for justice through an unfair litigation process?
Was it standing up for my beliefs at an Annual General Meeting of a billion dollar company and asking embarrassing yet legitimate questions of the CEO?
Was it surviving abandonment and betrayal?
Was it eight weeks ago when I fast-tracked grief so that I came to a place of acceptance?
Was it through those tough times that I became strong?
Or did I become strong, watching my mother?
Was it watching my strong, patient mother care for her own mother and siblings through illnesses, catastrophes and crises?
Was it watching her bringing my two younger brothers up alone, after my father died?
Was it watching her remain calm and positive through every situation?
Was it sensing her helping me calmly through my own adversities?
Was it then that I became strong?
Was it her shining light that was guiding me?
Was it her reflecting enough light in my path for me to see clearly my road ahead?
Now, with her light fading, what now for me and the road ahead?
What now for the gathering darkness?
I know that it is me who needs to become that light in the darkness.
I know that in this difficult period, it is me who must be the strong one.
It is me who must be the strong one for my mother, and for my siblings.
It is me who must remain the calm, steadying force.
Because it was in all those tough times, it was in all those times that I thought were my very worst times, it was in those times that I was actually becoming my best.
And I was becoming my best for the one who taught me the most – my mother.