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Be Strong

We are not here to play, to dream, to drift.
We have hard work to do and loads to lift.
Shun not the struggle.
Face it. ‘Tis God’s gift.
(Early 1920s)


Mom scrawled this on the inside of the back flap of her composition notebook from Loretta Heights College in Denver, where she was studying to be a nurse. Eventually, she left her studies to return home to the farm in Heron Lake to help her family, becoming a teacher in a local school. The little poem captures her philosophy of working hard, not complaining, seeing every struggle as an opportunity given by God, bestowed on us by Him, to carry out His will. All her life, through every household move, every child pushing inexorably toward his or her own independence and suffering inevitable setbacks and disappointments, she never wavered from this attitude.

Once when I was trying to tuck her into bed a couple of years before she died (about 70 years after this poem was written!), I was trying to get her into the middle of the bed so she would be more comfortable and not roll off. She was kind of stiff-bodied then and hard to move. It was a struggle. I got her head on the pillow but, lying on her side on the edge of the bed, she looked like she was uncomfortable and might easily role off. I was worried and asked, “Are you comfortable, Mom?” She answered, with that Irish chuckle of hers, ”I didn’t know that was the goal.”

That was a profound moment of insight for me and an object lesson in life. In an instant I got the point: embrace what is, accept it and go on…in this case, discomfort and to sleep. “Face it.” Of course, I was at that time in the middle of having to face horrific personal struggles of my own, but the lesson was there, right before my eyes. Mom was strong, stoic, accepting, uncomplaining, never shunning the struggles given to her. There it all was, lying like a lump under the covers, a spent and wracked 92 year old body, long past trying to be comfortable, just happy now to have a warm place to rest her head, and a son to tuck her in. “Good night, Mom,” I said. “I love you.” “Good night,” she said, her voice barely audible. “I love you, too.”

I walked out of her room that night, shutting the door behind me, tears welling up inside, thinking how lucky I was to be around a mother so strong, so loving, so accepting, so much at peace with herself. I was 50 years old then and living with her in the Fedora Street house in Fresno. Within a year or so I had to face the decision, with the help of the family, to put her into a 24-hour care residential facility. That was, ultimately, one of the five or six most difficult struggles of my life. I searched around for months. Found one close by, but it was eventually unacceptable to us. We looked so more, lways struggling against ourselves, until we finally got an interview with the highly regarded Armenian home. She had to interview for this “position,” not being Armenian and not having any money or inside connection. Once I realized she was going to be interviewed, I knew inside that we were in luck: How could anyone not want to take care of her once they meet her? I thought. I was right with this feeling. They accepted her on the spot!

“Be strong.” Good advice, but to feel it deep down in your bones, all the way to your toes, that takes years and years of practice. She had it…the strength…and I was still just learning about it.


This post first appeared on Inspirational Poems Of A Prairie Girl, please read the originial post: here

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