This week, I’m excited to be kicking off a new series of guest-posts called The Best Gift My Mom Gave Me. It’s a series where writers, bloggers, and other cool people share the greatest gift they got from their moms. I’m delighted to have Mike Hayes as our first guest! He’s the author of Googling God and the co-founder of BustedHalo.com, as well as a campus minister and blogger (check out his full bio below). He’s also a seriously nice guy with a really inspiring mom. Thanks, Mike, for sharing! (and Happy 61st Anniversary, Mr. and Mrs. Hayes!).
It’s 1975 and I’m a kindergarten student. I had a crush on Heather Wilson, the girl next–door, and enjoyed spending my day at school because she was there. I always told mom about her the second I got home from school and she just smiled and would always ask if anything other than Heather had caught my interest.
It was those times after-school that was just ours, Mom and I. My Dad and older sister were still at work and that gave us time to be together. We’d watch an afternoon baseball game or Casper the Friendly Ghost on TV. She taught me euchere, a card game that I eventually got good enough to beat her at.
And then, it started to happen. Mom got sick, they told me. I wasn’t sure what was wrong, but I knew it didn’t seem good. Mom was in and out of hospitals so often that people would always remark “AGAIN?” when I’d tell them she was in the hospital.
Rheumatoid arthritis can play games with your body. Coupled with severe asthma and it could be deadly. One would get horrible pains and it would bring on anxiety, coupled by the asthma. The chain reaction brought the ambulance to my house on a few occasions. Once when mom fell, she asked me to call 9-1-1 and I was brave enough to tell the operator where I lived and what had happened. Mom was proud and thankful.
Those after-school times got less frequent. So when mom was home I was always excited to head home and spend that time with her. If a teacher threatened to keep us after-school (a horrible threat!) I would begin to cry, often loudly. Teachers would try to comfort me to no avail. When asked why I was so upset (seemingly none of the other classmates thought it to be a major catastrophe), I would often reply, “Because I’ll never see my mommy again!”
To be sure it was an irrational thought. And yet, it was real to me. At any moment she could be whisked away to a hospital bed, perhaps for the last time. The ambulance came that Christmas Eve and they very nearly lost her on the way to the hospital.
Years passed, and mom’s health had its ups and downs. The hospital was a frequent stop. She spent my high school graduation there and years later when her colon ruptured, she was there on my wedding day. Until recently, I had never strayed too far from home, mostly to be close to mom, just in case anything would happen.
Mom never asked me for anything. Her persistence in simply living through pain and suffering reminds me of how strong any one of us can be. Her resilience has been her biggest gift, not merely to me but to our family. She’s the matriarch of her clan now at nearly 83 and has been my father’s Mrs. Hayes for 61 years this week (speaking of resilience!).
My college roommate, Joe, joined our family for my parents’ 60th anniversary, a milestone we never thought she’d reach. He turned to me and said, “For as long as I’ve known you, you’ve had this terrible anxiety about your mother dying. Mike, don’t hate me for saying this, but I think you can let that one go now.”
Indeed. Freedom from our fears is a great gift and the tenacity of my mother to endure has come at a great price, none greater than the loss of security. And yet, it’s also given us a mighty faith. My mom is devoted to St. Therese of Lisieux, a young girl who suffered in her own right without complaint. It is that faith that has sustained a family around their mother, who I plan to spend a good deal of time with after-school this week as we celebrate life.
Mike Hayes is the author of the GooglingGod.com blog and is currently a Campus Minister at the University of Buffalo housed at St. Joseph University Parish. He is the co-founder of BustedHalo.com and remains as the editor of the Googling God section, a catechetical outreach of the site. Mike authored the book Googling God in 2007 and is currently working on a book on career discernment called Loving Work with Orbis Books. He is married to Marion and lives in the Buffalo suburb of Amherst.