Tears barreled down my face; I stumbled from my seat into the aisle of the school bus and hurriedly disembarked. My heart stung like a piece of its flesh had been torn off and left on the bus with the other fourth graders. Some shouted and laughed with treacherous glee, while others stood aghast at the horrible words just spoken. The only thing I knew how to do in that situation was run away. “At least my sister’s not retarded,” the boy yelled at me in response to some childish remark I made just prior. The entire school, my whole community, knew of my family’s situation. The ignorance of the statement fueled a rage inside me once the tears subsided. My twelve-year-old sister was ripped from our home and clung to life as a series of mysterious machines and chemicals kept her heart beating. I did not know what the next day would bring as a cancer raged within her all too frail body.
I remember calling my mom when I got home from school. She was at the hospital nearly one hundred miles away, making sure my sister would never spend a night alone. My mom told me to keep my chin up and to turn the other cheek. She said she knew how tough it can be to stand resilient in the face of such awful words, but that the next day I should share a smile with the boy who cut me down. She said that true strength lies with those who don’t strike back in anger, but walk tall in the face of adversity. My mom encouraged me to be strong for my sister. She called me our family’s cheerleader, and it was a duty that I tried my best to uphold every day. Our conversation closed as she shared every ounce of her love with me, and I could feel her warm embrace even through the telephone. Her words always have, and always will, squash my feelings of loneliness, despair, and agony.
As Mother’s Day draws near, and consumers are pressured to show our love materially, I am reminded of the greatest gift I have had the pleasure of receiving; my mother’s unequivocal love and strength have taught me how to live my life. My mother is the glue that has held my family together through times of both extraordinary struggle and bliss. She raised three children and ensured that we knew we were safe in her arms, even when the world seemed clouded and dark. During that miserable experience when my sister was suffering, she showed me how to find the beauty in even the most desolate of situations. She would plan “head-painting” parties during rounds of chemo and IV stand races in the lulls of the afternoons. My mother is the reason my family was able to not just survive the experience of my sister’s sickness, but to grow stronger as a result of it. I was scared; we all were. But my mom taught me how to vanquish the fear that holds me back and how to use the rest as fuel to accomplish my life’s goals.
Anthony Carli is a creative writer, political junkie, and YP4 Alumnus.