I was twelve years old when I first understood that my mother would do anything for  her children, without hesitation.

In fact, she would drown.

The creek, which was often completely dry, sometimes offered a gentle current into which we could dip our toes…

But on this day, it was raging.

I had never seen it that way before, nor have I ever since.

I remember rounding the corner to the place where my younger brother, Ryan, and our friend, Sarah, were playing. Ryan, with the recklessly foolish courage of a seven year old boy, was attempting to cross the rushing water. He placed his foot on a partially submerged rock, slipped, and went under.

It wasn’t as if I saw him float away.

There were no flailing arms reaching up…there was no possible hope of grabbing ahold of him…he was just…gone.

I ran as fast as I could up the hill to our house. I burst into the bathroom where my mother was in the shower, and I screamed at her –

“Ryan was swept into the creek!”

“What?!” she yelled, not comprehending my words.

“RYAN! THE CREEK!”

I remember running after her down the hill. She was partially naked, throwing clothes on as she ran…

“Where?!” she yelled, looking frantically at the water for any sign of him. The sound of the rushing water was deafening.

“There!” I yelled, pointing helplessly to the spot where I last saw him. There was no sign of him, but if he was in there, she was going in too.

I watched as she jumped into the rushing water. She immediately disappeared beneath the water’s surface, just as he had.

I stood there, frozen.

What we didn’t know was that by the time my mother had jumped into the water, Ryan had already come out. Downstream and out of sight, the creek widened and the current lessened. Ryan was able to stand up and walk right out. He was dazed and had a gash on his head, but otherwise, he was fine.

In shock, he had wandered out into the road, soaking wet and bleeding.

When my mother emerged from the water downstream in the same place, Ryan was already gone. Devastated, she was certain he had drowned.

You can imagine the hysterically tearful reunion moments later.

I remember looking at my mother, soaking wet, sobbing and clutching her youngest son as an EMT examined the cut on his head. Looking at the raging creek, no one could believe they had both survived.

I understood then that she would willingly give her life for any one of us.

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I have thought of this story often during my mother’s battle with cancer.

There really is no way to thank someone for loving you more than anyone else ever could. There is no way to properly express gratitude to someone who would jump into the rapids for you.

Except maybe…

If there comes a time when she is being pulled under…

We can show her that we are willing to jump in after her, too.

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