A Tale of Two Women

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I know two women. They are great and strong in their own ways, but they both need my help. I help them up the stairs. I help them into and out of cars. I help them to the bathroom. I help them eat. I help keep them motivated.

They have a lot of pain: Aching joints, bloated stomachs, back problems, nausea, bouts of depression. What they have, they wish they could be done with it.

They get emotional. They cry and they say mean things. They apologize and can’t shake feelings of guilt. Sometimes they sit despondent. Sometimes they feel happy — peaks of happiness taller than the lowliest of their many valleys.

They crack jokes at their own expense. They laugh off silly comments that actually hurt their feelings. They know we don’t mean it. They bury the small things.

They are scared of what comes next, but they’re also curious. The pain will end, and when it ends the next step is what they make of it. They wonder what the future holds.

They grow angry. They get angry at me, at everyone, at the world. They often feel alone, and they doubt anyone can understand their feelings. Sometimes they curse the stars.

They explore their faith. In God, in nature, in their doctors, in their family, in themselves. They question their worth, and because of this they feel guilty.

They feel like a burden, that they could be more and do more. They feel bad. They want to do more for the ones they love. To them love is action, love is truth, and love is unconditional. Love is helping out, love is pitching in. They can’t love in this way, but they find new ways to love.

They love by putting on a brave face. They protect us from feeling sad. They assure us everything is okay and change the topic if it grows too grim. They smile through discomfort.

I know two women. One, my mother, fought and passed from cancer. The other, my wife, gave birth to our beautiful baby boy. These are the best and strongest women I know.

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