Monday, January 25, 2010

The Unsinkable Molly Brown

My family has always enjoyed musical productions. We love to watch classic movie musicals. One of our favorites is "The Unsinkable Molly Brown," starring Debbie Reynolds. This movie is based on the life of Margaret Brown, who was known as the Unsinkable Molly Brown after her heroic efforts in helping some of her fellow passengers survive the traumatic sinking of the Titanic.

My siblings and I nicknamed our mother Molly Brown quite some time ago. To be honest, the challenges our mother has faced in her life are numerous and overwhelming. Here is a sampling:

A few months before my mother was born, her brother Jimmy died in a tragic accident at the age of seven. A passing motorcycle spooked the horses a crippled uncle was driving, and Jimmy was thrown from the milk-wagon, dying instantly when his neck snapped. My grandmother was understandably devastated and she was placed on high-powered medication to ease her through this difficult time. My grandfather was told that the baby his wife was carrying would be stillborn as a result.

No one was more shocked than my grandfather when my mother was placed in his arms a few months later. Not only was she alive and kicking, but she demanded immediate attention and a name. My grandfather dubbed her Genevieve, after his own mother.

Following her amazing start in this mortal realm, Genevieve lived a fairly normal childhood on a ranch in Star Valley, Wyoming. After graduating from high school, she went on to attend Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho. That is where she met my father who was preparing to become a pharmacist. The two were married on August 5, 1959 in the Idaho Falls Temple. They spent their honeymoon in Yellowstone Park, and were in fact camping near Hebgen Lake, washing their car in that infamous lake just a couple of days before the earthquake. Luckily for them, they had left the area before disaster claimed several lives.

They moved to Pocatello where my father attended ISU, intent on earning his degree in pharmacology. About a year later, he developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome and was paralyzed from the neck down. This was the same time my mother found out she was expecting me. What a joyous time in their lives. ;) As my maternal grandfather later stated, "What the @#%$!! else is going to go wrong?"

It would take my father a year to recover from this debilitating condition. Gradually he regained the use of his limbs. During his recovery, they moved into a tiny trailer next door to his parents who lived in Roberts, Idaho. Dad's parents wanted my mother and father to give up their dreams of college and remain there on the family farm. My mother locked horns with her father-in-law and let him know in a big-time hurry that they were going back to Pocatello to finish school. And they did just that. My father graduated from ISU in 1964 and became a full-fledged pharmacist, my mother cheering him on every step of the way.

When I was about 3 years old, my mother brought home a baby brother for me to play with. She found out a week later that she had developed blood clots in one leg as a result and she spent several days down, relying on her mother to tend my brother and me. Mom survived that scary time, and went on to have 2 more children. Her leg filled with clots again during her final pregnancy and she was bedridden for most of that challenging time.

A few years after my youngest sister arrived on earth, my mother developed lupus. She has endured years of chronic pain from rheumatoid arthritis, and other fun-filled adventures as a result. She has faced it all bravely and continued forward, setting a wonderful example of perseverance for everyone who knows her.

About a year and a half after I married, my father took his own life. This would prove to be one of the most difficult challenges that any of us would ever face. Dad had been suffering from a rare liver disease and when he died, he was not himself. This knowledge helped somewhat, but his departure from this world still left gaping heart wounds.

After Dad's death, my mother said that she was tempted to pull the covers over her head and never set foot outside of her bed. Instead, she moved to Wyoming to piece her life back together. Two of her daughters were still in high school, and her son wanted to serve a mission for the LDS Church.

Not knowing how she was going to survive the days ahead, Mom placed her faith in God that things would work out . . . and they did. Childhood friends of my father asked if they could send my brother on a mission in Dad's memory. It wasn't easy for my mother to step aside and allow this to take place, but she did. She and my two sisters learned how to repair the family car in his absence, as Tom served a mission in Montreal, Canada.

While my brother served in the mission field, my mother and sisters moved to Logan, Utah. Mom wanted to live in a college town, hoping that my brother and sisters could secure a college education. Shortly after her arrival in Logan, Mom attended a technical college with one of my sisters, graduating as the valedictorian of her class. After that, Mom worked as a dental assistant to help provide for herself and her kids who were still at home. And just as she had wished, all of her children attended college.

Mom worked hard for several years, then retired when complications from lupus surfaced. She turned 70 this past weekend, and we gathered together to celebrate her life. While her health isn't the best, she continues to take each day as it comes, pressing forward despite the obstacles that hinder her path. She is indeed a remarkable woman, and an example of fortitude. I have no doubt that she will continue to help everyone around her to survive the "Titanics" that surface without warning. Her legacy of courage and compassion will ease hearts and minds as we all strive to survive the challenging times ahead.

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