In one of my file cabinets there’s a folder labeled “Role Models” which is filled with clippings, photos, and articles about people who have continued to do physically and mentally challenging things far past an age when most of us tend to be ready for a break. A man who learned to read at age 98. A 73-year-old woman who continues to work as a pilot and flight instructor. A Nashville surgeon who still practices medicine at 80. A beautiful Broadway dancer who’s 78 and looks no older than 48. Bessie Doenges who, in 1995, was still writing and getting published at age 94, and brooking no nonsense, thank you very much. You get the idea. I’m in awe of all these people and so many more … but I don’t necessarily consider them personal heroes.
I have two real heroes in my life — my husband who kept me from dying of grief anorexia and loves me unconditionally … and my son.
John is an only child who ceased being a kid long ago. I knew he was an old soul from the first moment I laid eyes on him and in many ways it seems like he raised himself. He was always quietly settled on who he was, and the opinions of others didn’t cause him to waver much. He’s unfailingly polite, kind, and tactful, and if you need someone to really, really listen to you, he’s your guy. I can’t count the times in conversation when his spot-on discernment has gone through me like a laser.
He paid the price to get a five-year degree in Industrial Design and had a career for about a dozen years in which he was steadily moving up. Then 2003 arrived, bringing crushing loss — his dad and both grandfathers. A year of self-examination followed, and another year spent on college prerequisites for a career change. He then earned his RN degree in a grueling 18-month period instead of the usual three years, and it didn’t kill him … although the possibility existed.
He now works in the Oncology/Renal unit of an Atlanta hospital and was recently made Clinical Coordinator on the night shift. He may do hospice care someday, and if that happens the people he ministers to will have landed in a good place. He is uniquely gifted to help people leave this life with their dignity intact.
John is my flesh and blood and yet I often find myself wondering where he came from. As his mom I feel very humbled by him … proud … grateful. The way he’s lived his life to this point, and especially the way he handles adversity, along with so many other things, makes him my true hero. I could write a book …
Oh, and PS … he has a wicked sarcastic streak that will knock you off your feet.