The Journal | Top Stories | Photo Collections | News | Subscriptions | Contact Us

Subscriptions to
The Journal
start at only
$20 per year.
For details
click here.
What Was The Point?
Click here
for more
opinion columns
by Richard Harris

From the December 9, 2020 issue of The Journal
   We said goodbye to my Mom, Arlen Harris, on Monday after a long battle with cancer, etc.
   The end came all too suddenly, as I suppose is almost always the case.
   Mom had lung cancer and underwent an aggressive treatment period that included radiation and chemotherapy. She did so while living with my sister, Charlotte, in a Houston suburb.
   As her cancer treatment was winding down, she developed pneumonia – twice. That resulted in her being on a ventilator and fighting for her life in the hospital, in and out of ICU so often that when she was awake she never knew exactly where she was.
   By the time she was deemed okay to be discharged, her body was extremely week, her vocal chords partially paralyzed, she was on a feeding tube, and she had a wicked cough and junk still lingering in her lungs. Her body was beaten. Her spirit, however, was unbowed. She wanted to get better and to do whatever was possible to make that happen.
   For it to happen, she would have to have extensive help. We felt her best shot was to go back to my sister's house, where she and I would look after her. So, I loaded up my office and set up shop in her dining room, where this newspaper has been produced for the last month.
   My sister, having cared for her through the cancer treatments, knew what to expect. I did not. I expected to be there for maybe two weeks and then hit the road for South Georgia.
   Those expectations proved to be naive, as Mom didn't even have the strength to get out of her wheelchair.
   Over the next month my sister communicated with doctors and various healthcare professionals, administered all of the medications through her tube, helped her with hygiene, and was her No. 1 motivator. I led her through the daily physical therapy and speech lessons, split feeding tube duties, strolled her around the neighborhood, and tried to make her laugh.
   I was initially not optimistic, but Mom was. She got a little stronger every single day. Her progress was nothing short of awe inspiring.
   We eventually got to the point where she was resuming some regular eating and she could walk across a room without even using a walker. Her speech was perfect, if a tad weak.
   We planned for her triumphant return to Buena Vista and had a tentative date set. 2020 had kicked our butts for 11+ months, but we saw a grand Christmas in our future.
   Then, suddenly, Mom's heart gave out.
   It left me wondering: What was the point of all that hard work and the hardships and pain she had endured?
   The answer didn't come easily or quickly, as the grieving kept me blind for a while. However, I finally realized that "the point" had been right in front of my face for a solid month.
   I thought of a Mother showing her children how to respond to the worse adversity one could imagine.
   I thought of a sister and brother coming together to imperfectly form a perfect team to give their mother a fighting chance.
   I thought of how even during those difficult final weeks, the three of us shared many laughs and moments of pure joy.
   I thought of my Dad calling to check in and giving his wife upbeat words of encouragement.
   I thought of how my wife looked after my Dad back on the home front, and how my son made weekly treks from Atlanta to Buena Vista to help keep my business going in my absence.
   I thought of how her grandsons in Texas visited often and did what they could to offer comfort.
   When we watched Mom fighting the good fight and making progress, we mistakenly thought the point of it was that she was going to get better. We thought the point was that she was going to live.
   However, in her final months, as she willed her battered 82-year-old body to keep going, she was in fact dying.
   And in her dying moments, she taught the rest of us how to live. With Determination. With Spirit. With Grit. With Grace. With Faith. With Tears. With Laughter. With Joy. With Hope. And most importantly, with Love.

   That was the reason. That was the point.