Thursday, July 30, 2015

Flowers to my Mama

I served an LDS mission.  My 2nd Mission President, Monte Brough, was a wonderful man.  (So was my first but this story is not about him).  I had the privilege of serving as his secretary when he first arrived.  He had a habit that I thought was marvelous.  Every year on his birthday he would send his Mother flowers to thank her for giving him life, and then teaching him how to live it.

From that time forward, no matter how far away I was from Mama I would arrange some how, some way, to send her flowers.  Sometimes it was by the hand of a dear friend that lived close to her, sometimes it was when we lived in the same town.  It was ever so important to me that every single year I gave her flowers on MY birthday.

Mama was one of the most remarkable women I have ever met.  After she lost a precious baby, (she was in labor for 24 hours, and the cord was wrapped around his neck) she went into shock.  She was told that she must never again have a child.  The traumatic birth left her with all types of health issues.  She was also told that she could never even get pregnant.

Imagine her surprise, and delight when four years later she discovered that she was pregnant.  That was me, her 8th pregnancy, and 3rd child to live.  I was born a bonny, bouncing, baby at 8 pounds.

When it was time for my delivery, her doctor was stuck in snarling LA traffic.  So she was delivered by two residents who were total strangers to her.  The doctor arrived simultaneously with me.  Standing in the back of the delivery room (he hadn't time to prepare to assist) he announced, "I want everyone here to understand that this is a miracle.  Birth is always a miracle but this birth is many types of miracles.  Sarah was sterile, unable to conceive.  When we discovered that she was pregnant that was miracle enough.  Sarah could not carry a child.  She had too many health problems to carry a pregnancy to full-term.  She could certainly never deliver a child safely.  Yet here is this beautiful baby.  These events are all miracles!"

Mama often reminded me that I was a miracle baby.  It gave me a strong sense of identity and worth from my earliest memories.  (On the other hand, my daughters may have gotten a little tired of the story when they could quote it word for word from memory).

Mama and Papa brought me home to my two adoring siblings, 10 years, and 6 years old.  All was blissful night I began to "bark like a dog," as my Mother colorfully described.  She called a doctor and asked for advice.  He said that I probably had the croup.  She held the phone up to my mouth and said, "Does this sound like croup?"  I was not only croup coughing, but wheezing like crazy.

Mama, and Papa went to the doctor's office with me.  They discovered to their horror that I had virtually no immune system.  I was also severely allergic to pretty much every item of earth life, from food, to plants, and lets not even get started on the pollution in the 1950's worsening air in California.

On another visit the doctor wrapped me up in a blanket and I started to turn blue.  He quickly released me and said, "If you put her down to sleep in a crib she could suffocate in minutes.  You must hold her round the clock."

Fortunately, our church group was very loving and supportive.  Volunteers came to take turns holding me so that Mama and Papa could get some much needed rest.  I can't remember those tender times. 

Back to Mama.  Can you imagine the stress and worry of having a severely medically fragile child?  The Mayo brothers came to Los Angeles and Mama and Papa took me to them.  They tested me for a long, long time.  Finally they called Mama and Papa in and said, "Your daughter is the most highly allergic child that we have ever seen."  They gave my parents a three page, single spaced, list of must dos and must do nots.  Little things like running the vacuum three times a day throughout the house.  Keeping me away from all animals, and the list went on and on and on.

Mama said of that time, "We lived in prayer.  We never knew when you would have your next attack or if you would survive the next attack!"

This was the late 1950's.  There was only two treatments for asthma.  One was oxygen.  The other one was a painful pounding on my back to loosen the mucus secretions that my body insisted on making thicker than necessary.

I grew up hearing the story of irritation, inflammation, and infection.  My body would become irritated or inflamed due to allergy, this would lead to infection, which would worsen the irritation and inflammation and around and around I went.

Papa was working full-time during all of this.  He often would need to give me a blessing or run me to the hospital in the middle of the night.  Mama was doing her best to raise her other two lovely children, and keep a house.

Mama was ferociously independent.  The idea of constantly receiving help from others was just not acceptable to Mama.  One of her church friends said, "That's right Sarah.  You just keep insisting on keeping all the blessings to yourself.  You and I know that you can't serve without receiving blessings.  So you won't let me serve, and you keep all those lovely blessings to yourself!"  Mama let Mary help.

Mama and Papa would often drop everything and we would drive to Mt. Baldy.  My Brother and Sister also had to drop everything and come with us.  As we would rise above the pollution my asthma attack would lessen and finally subside.

I also remember being carried to our neighbors.  Mr. Bench had emphysema and they had an oxygen tank in the house.  Lovingly the Bench's had offered me use of their tank.  Oxygen was very expensive to have at home.  My parents couldn't afford it.  Going to the Bench's was quicker, and there was no Emergency Room expense.

Think for a moment what it would be like to live this way, day in and day out.  You never know when your precious child might die suddenly.  You are constantly guarding this child from illness and yet attempting to give the child as normal a life as possible.

Doctor's told my parents that it would be quite likely that I would not live to be two years old.  One day after a hospitalization, a resident came up to my Mama and said, "Mrs. Cheney, if you do not get this child out of Western Medicine, she will simply not survive."  He then added, "If you tell anyone that I said this I will deny it."  It took courage for him to make such a radical suggestion.

Mama listened and off we went.  I think we went almost from A to Z of what alternative medicines were available at the time.  Allergists (non Western allergists), Chiropractors,  Dietitians, Herbologists, and Naturopaths,   Some helped a great deal, others made things worse, and some did nothing at all.

Through all of it, Mama was endlessly optimistic to me.  She never complained about all the stress I brought into her life.  I was a MIRACLE!  What an enormous blessing it was and is to a child with such significant health challenges to have such a CHAMPION for a Mother, never giving up, always looking for ways and means to improve my life.

She kept watching out and over for me for the rest of her life.  I can only imagine how hard it was for her to let me go...leave the nest...and trust in my own ability to manage my health.  I know that her faith was not an inactive belief.  Mama's faith was an enormous power.

Mama passed away at the age of 95.  I will do my best for the rest of my life to send her flowers on my birthday  I thought of delivering them to her grave but decided against it because her soul is not there!  The soul of my Mother is just as busy and loving on the other side of the veil as it was here.  I know that she is still lovingly watching over me.  So, I will find ways and means to celebrate Mama, to bring her flowers for as long as I live.

I love you Mama...beyond death.  I cherish your influence in my entire life.  I'm so grateful that I got to keep you for 57 years!  I never want you to forget how grateful I am for all of your sacrifice and love. 

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