You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand. – Woodrow Wilson
My late mother was infected with polio when she was 8 years old. She was living in a very small Virginia town far away from the big city of Richmond. My grandmother wanted to send her to Richmond to see if the doctors could help her, but my grandfather said, “Over my dead body will that child be taken to Richmond!” A few months later, he came down with an infection and died. My grandmother took my mother to the Children’s Hospital in Richmond where she had to leave her there.
It was a difficult decision and I’m sure pained my grandmother a great deal; however, my mother received the care she needed. Though she lost use of both of her legs, she was able to save the use of her left arm. Later, when the family all moved to Richmond, she was home-schooled and received her GED. She went on to attend a business school where she learned to type and do accounting. Once she graduated she found a job at the Medical College of Virginia as a medical transcriptionist.
She had no car, could not drive and had to take a taxi each day to and from work, all the while saving money to buy herself a car. My grandmother started taking driving lessons because as she put it, “I didn’t think she’d be able to drive a car, so I’d better learn.” My mother bought the car and had it fitted with special controls so she could drive it and she did.
Over the years, she maintained a confident, positive attitude about herself and life in general. Eventually she became the Supervisor of the entire Medical Transcription Department at MCV, one of the largest hospitals on the east coast. One day she received notice that she had won the Handicapped Woman of Year award in Virginia. We were all very proud.
My entire life, no matter what happened, my mother remained a beautiful, happy and positive person. Her main goal in life was to have a family of her own. She met my father when she was driving a friend to the hospital to visit a family member (in the same car she had saved for and purchased). My father was sitting under a tree at the hospital and remarked what a nice car she had. They married a short while later and had me a year later. Everyone called me a “miracle baby” because no one thought my mother could have a child.
Later in life, she had kidney failure and was put on dialysis. Her cheerful spirit never dampened. She lost her fight agains this disease 9 years ago this month. When she died, many, many people called to to tell me how fortunate they felt to have known my mother and what an inspiration she had been to them. Even the nurses who had worked at the dialysis center called to let me know how positively she had influenced their lives.
She was a tremendous influence on me, and I count myself fortunate to have called her “Mama”.