I have five brothers and sisters. Our mother had a massive stroke on Friday. While it was terrifying, I was in crisis-response mode in the first moments and hours; listening and learning, answering doctors’ questions, providing comfort, contacting family members and friends. Thankfully, we were at the hospital when it happened, waiting for our mom to come around after a successful procedure.
The stroke team leapt into action and was laser focused for the next few hours. They kept me informed every step of the way and I kept in close contact with every doctor I knew, working to process and communicate with my siblings in real time. We’re a close-knit group and we’ve needed to share thinking a lot over the past 72 hours. Ironically, any one of us would typically be calling our mom to help make the decisions we’ve been making on her behalf. My hand is still reflexively going to the phone for her wisdom and feedback.
Once things were relatively stable and we were through the initial response phase, waves of emotion began to wash over me. Family and friends were good to have around for this. I’ve lived long enough to understand a bit about grief, and there it was. Relieved with that assurance — that our mom wasn’t going anywhere — I began to grieve the initial deficit picture. Some loss of movement, questions about expressive and receptive language, even wonderings about chewing and swallowing.
My mom is a life coach. She has a PhD. She’s an expert in human development. She’s a problem solver and she has helped a multitude of people find pathways to progress through challenging situations.
She’s strong and she’s stubborn. She’s a fighter. In the preface of her book, I Don’t Want To Be Anyone But Me, she points to her own transformation, connecting the ideas that “the first step to positive change begins with self awareness” and “only you can empower yourself to choose your own destiny.”
So, a massive stroke. It was shocking and surreal. You can’t be talking about my mom. This can’t have happened to the life of the party. This is the same woman who wakes up to thirty minutes on the elliptical every morning — the one who does the New Your Times crossword every day (the Sunday puzzle too). The scrabble champion who can’t be beat. This is an international speaker who has inspired crowds all over the world. She’s the mother of six and the grandmother of twelve. Every person who meets my mom, from grocery store clerks to United States Congressmen, becomes her friend. Moreover, she doesn’t distinguish between them with regard to her outpouring of kindness and compassion. My mom gives tirelessly and loves without limit.
She had a stroke, but when I think of my mom, I think of a different kind of stroke — the kind of stroke that an artist takes to create a masterpiece. I think of lines and colors on a canvas that I could stand and stare at for days. I think of beauty and imagination. I think of creativity and innovation. I think of eloquence. I think of determination and I think of grit.
During the past three days, we’ve seen so much to be thankful for. After spending the weekend with my mom in this way, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that her recovery is going to be a stroke of genius. No, a massive stroke of genius. My mom is using this opportunity to once again show us all what it means to take hold of life and control your own destiny. She’s already doing it. Every minute we’re seeing more engagement, with smiles and laughter, hand holding — and connected, knowing looks that might say “This is frustrating,” but also say “Give me a minute to work this out … we both know I can.”
Yesterday I asked her if she was ready to talk. We’re a teasing family so I told her, “O.K. mom, let’s give it try … say, banana pancakes.” Her beautiful smile stretched into her cheeks and traveled up to her eyes, which she was simultaneously rolling at me. She’s here. She’s working. She’s resting. She’s problem solving. She is figuring this out. I have no doubt that my mom is already on the path to a full recovery so that she can get back to that elliptical, the crossword, Scrabble, her 12 doting grandkids, the 6 of us who need her so much, the sister she’s joined at the hip with, her extensive network of friends and family — and a world of people being washed over by waves of trauma that needs Dr. Micki Berg’s comforting presence and sage wisdom.
If you're a person who knows and loves my mom (two inseparable things), you can rest easy in the knowledge that she’s doing great. It looks like we have a journey ahead of us; over the past 3 days she has shown us in no uncertain terms that she’s ready, and already carving a path. As always, she’s an inspiration. I cannot fully express how much my siblings and I are moved by the outpouring of love that’s come our way, and how important it has been as motivation for my mom. I know this goes without saying, but keep it coming.
I rewatched my mom’s TEDx talk today. Take a look for yourself:
This is a woman who can’t be held back. She’s got this. Those of us who are with her are seeing my mom do what needs to be done to figure it out. Again, I am supremely confident that her recovery will be nothing short of another massive stroke of genius.
With my deepest love for my incredible mom. We got this, mom.
Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead.