I have some strong women in my family. Unfortunately, we seem to have become that way by trial by fire. Sometimes I wonder if that’s the only way women become strong, or if there’s some other way to forge that strength without difficulty and suffering.
The strongest woman I’ve known was my aunt. She recently died after her fourth battle with cancer. During her life, she raised three children by herself while going to school to get her CPA license. It took her 10 years to accomplish. During that time, she battled depression, loneliness and financial difficulty. While her children were young, she suffered her first bout with breast cancer. When she went into remission, we all celebrated her success. Unfortunately, the cancer would return one more time as breast cancer, later as stomach cancer, and even later as lung cancer. The last time around she was given only three years to live. She made it past that time and was able to see two of her children married and two grandchildren born. Despite her difficulties, she stayed positive and hopeful. She was my hero.
Only two months after she died, her son died unexpectedly. He left behind a wife and two little boys. He was only 39. He had been the glue that held together his own family and our extended family. His death left a huge hole in a lot of people’s lives. His sister, my cousin, has had to pick up the slack. She helped with the funeral arrangements for both her mother and brother. She is helping her sister-in-law with childcare while she tries to pick up the pieces. And she has stepped into the place her brother occupied as the family anchor. She has done all this while to trying to deal with her own grief. She has been amazing.
And lastly there is my cousin’s wife. I don’t know what the future holds for her and her sons. I know this wasn’t the life she had planned. She was a stay-at-home mom who depended on her husband to take care of everything. Now he’s gone, and she is finding her way along an unforeseen path. Whether or not she feels strong, she will have to be so for her boys.
But women seem to have an amazing ability to rise from the ashes of daily life. All humans have a strong will to survive and to rise above their struggles. But women have so many people depending upon them that they keep going even when they have no desire to do so. Somehow I think my cousin’s wife will manage to hang on and will eventually succeed. And as her boys witness her strength and spirit, they will develop a heroine of their own – their mom.