There's Always An Upside by PJ ColandoTen years ago, days before my birthday, my mother suffered a massive stroke. An incident that brought me to church, a miraculous God-incidence that I have testified and written about. You can purchase the book on my website,

It was also a few days before my fourth chemotherapy to fight breast cancer. A fact that constrained a visit to be at her side, a plane ride away in Indiana, where the rest of my family held vigil over her coma.

My family was told to plan her funeral and, as my sisters were ordering the flowers in a local shop, my mother revived. Simultaneous to my ride through a  tube, when the chemo caused a reversal of dire proportions. It is my fervent belief that God and my mother had a chat, and she requested to return to life.

Yes, she was that powerful of an advocate and caregiver. She knew that I needed her, and He agreed.

She needed me, too. Reciprocal nurturing is best, benefits gained by both. That’s what the Golden Rule energizes as it enacts.

My mother was depressed, the rest of my family demoralized, not knowing how to cope when she wasn’t the vibrant, giving leader of the clan. Few knew how to deal with a debilitated one from whom they could not take. New terrain, unwarranted and unwanted in their sphere. It was not supposed to be the way their world worked.

303637_10151147932674424_71146015_nThey, and my mother, had no hope.

Which, I had plenty of, because I had reason to live, to thrive beyond my personal breast cancer battle – to give, as is my purpose in life. To cope for a cause higher than myself.

I am a licensed speech-language pathologist, a career that my mother and her mother urged. Now to put it to use for Mother’s benefit.

At first I cajoled, then I modeled, then I intervened in clench-teethed resolve. Guess which worked?

When I witnessed a friend of my father’s, speaking in false whispered voice – barely three feet from my mother and me! – I seethed. It was near Mother’s birthday, and the unholy jerk asked, “Does she even know if she has children?”

Thank goodness I was engrossed in polishing my mother’s nails. With my hands occupied gainfully, the man didn’t get clocked. Instead I kept my head down and firmly suggested, “Speak to Mother (who the man knew as well as my dad). She can hear you. She may even answer, too.”

Though I couldn’t see the man, I could sense his head snap back in shock. I could hear my father begin to mumble apologies on my behalf…

“Please don’t,” I said. “My mother is not deaf and dumb. Talk to her, and she may speak to you.”

Then, looking square at my father, I said, “She is not dead. She deserves help and respect,” aiming to kill off the attention he was receiving for his cross to bear due to her stroke.

My father had the grace to hang his head. The man and my dad shambled off.

And I said, looking her deep in the eye, “Mother, don’t let anyone ever speak about you again. It’s not the truth. You will be able to speak. I will help.”

And, stumbling mightily, in brief bursts of intelligible speech, Mother began. Speech therapy was added to her treatment regimen, though the focus was largely on her swallow, and I knew from the surgical insertion of the j-peg feeding tube that that wasn’t expected to return. She held steadfast to my sturdy support – every one thrives with such. She was resolute in her efforts to overcome and enjoy the days of her life, conversing with family and friends. In my presence and in phone calls when I returned home to California, she did okay.

And, on Mother’s Day, Larry and I were witness as she verbalized ‘the riot act’ to my dad: “Don’t worry about the honey!”

As she continued with the diatribe, listing monetary sources on her fingers, she likely meant “money”. The word is only a phoneme away from what she said…

But, upon ten years’ reflection, my inkling is that the undercurrent was “Honey”, as in herself: don’t worry about me. I am with God, Who listens to me, as I always have to Him.

Reciprocal relationships are best. Amen.