Typically, as the holiday season approaches, many people’s first thought is “oh crap, relatives.” Aunts and Uncles fill your home as well as distant relatives whose name you can’t quite remember. You cook, eat, clean, sleep, repeat until your pants fit a little bit tighter and your nerves wear thin of Uncle Rob’s political opinions.
And then the day comes. Santa and his reindeer have come and gone leaving gifts behind for good girls and boys. Before you know it, in the midst of all the Christmas cheer, time gets away from you and the holiday is over bringing in the new year. And with the new year comes new resolutions.
People say they are going to go to the gym more, eat healthier, be smarter with money, and a whole lot of other things that they hope they can accomplish to improve their lives. This year, I have a one resolution I hope to stick to moving into 2017. That resolution is to remember the people who impacted me the most, and one person in particular comes to mind.
This person is someone I have known for a very long time. Someone who helped raise me, loved me as her own. Someone who lived a hard life but never let the challenges defeat her.
Let’s start out with her story. I remember the day she told me how she came to live in America. I was on the playset in her backyard on the swings, my favorite. I loved how it felt when I flew through the hair, weightless, seeing how high I could go if I just swung my legs a little harder. She walked into the backyard and started swinging with me. We talked about random things for a little bit until I asked her about her childhood.
She came from a place filled with civil unrest. Her childhood was not easy. I remember her telling me one time as a little girl she was at school playing outside for recess. She was with her friends running and laughing, until she fell down a hill beside the playground. She got up, brushed herself off, and walked back up the hill. What she found when she got to the top of the hill shocked me. Her school had been blown up. She never told me if there were survivors, or what happened after that.
She then began to tell me there was a point in time in her life where she had to leave her home to find safety. She would travel from different locations, stopping at houses looking for food. Kind strangers would give her something to eat, but would tell her she could not take anything with her. This was because soldiers would attack the homes of the people that helped this innocent girl just try to survive. She then told me they would dig holes to sleep for just a moment when traveling, because if they stayed too long, soldiers would throw bombs in their burrows to kill them.
What I mentioned are just a few of the things she went through. Yet she is still one of the kindest people I have ever known. She didn’t let the struggles she faced harden her heart.
She has four children, three of which she adopted. She took these children in because their parents were killed or they didn’t have a home. I can remember her telling me should would tell her husband not to go into the back bedroom because she had found and taken in another child. Through all of her own pain and suffering, she had so much love to give. She wanted to help these children escape a life on the run as she once had. Give them something more than shelter, give them a home.
I can remember her or her husband picking me up from school every day when I was a little girl. And every day I was just as excited as the day before to go over and play. I walked out the back of my elementary school across the playground and walked up smiling to great either of them. Then one day she became very sick. So sick they had to put a halo on her.
Imagine a back brace with two metal rods that stick up straight into the air in the front and in the back. Those four rods are then screwed into the skill and secured with a metal circle around the top. I know this sounds confusing, painful, and scary, and it was. It pained me so much to see her like that, someone I loved so much suffering when she’s been nothing but kind and loving.
There was a period of time where she thought she may not live. When my mom sat me down to tell me the news I was heartbroken. I couldn’t imagine not seeing her almost every day. I remembered she let my sister and I, who she also babysat, pick out jewelry in case she did pass. She wanted us to have something to remember her by. I have a necklace that I still wear to this day and cherish. It is a simple gold necklace with a single jade bead. Whenever I wear it I feel as though I’m taken back through time. That same little girl sitting with her having tea parties, playing board games, and swinging on that swing set.
Thank God she survived and is still with us today. I cannot imagine having grown up without her influence. She is someone who never got angry in times would most people would become upset. She always carried herself with grace. She is someone who has survived more than I ever have or most likely will. In times when I am quick to anger or think life is unfair, I try to remember that things can always be worse, and people go through the same struggles or much worse every day and still choose to be kind, loving, and hopeful. That is what she always is.
I always find it ironic when she got sick that she had to wear a halo. She never complained about the pain or the fact she may not live. She still played with me, just a little girl, not understanding the magnitude of the situation. She still made time for me in her life when her time could have been short. She loved me as her own and that is something I will always treasure. She suffered so much, but never let is phase her. As they say, James Russell Lowell once said, “all angels come to us disguised” and I truly believe she is an angel to this day.