Cherish Motherhood – A Tribute
The concept of “motherhood at all costs”…what one friend taught me about cherishing motherhood.
Autumn grew up as the only child of a stay-at-home mom and father with a successful law practice. As kids I thought of her as lucky, since she lived in a beautiful mansion-like house (to me, anyways) and always wore the prettiest clothes. Each week she had her nails done and never had a hair out of place. As we got older, she drove new, fun cars and always seemed to have it all together. Even more interesting is that the stuff in her life seemed to affect her less than some people. She was pretty, smart, and driven, yet humble and kind.
Autumn worked hard in school, but she played hard too. Although she was beautiful and popular, able to attract the attention of any guy she wanted, she always seemed to fall for the good-looking, but self-centered boys. Although she held a Christian faith from a young age, back then church wasn’t high on her list, or an important focus in her life.
As time went on, Autumn finished college with honors and went on to graduate from medical school with honors too. She was on the fast-track to following her father in a successful career. At times I envied her, and at times I stood in awe of her—her strength, her intelligence, her ability to keep everything in order around her.
But if I looked close enough, there were signs the stress was getting to her—too much alcohol and smoking. There was also a sense of isolation with her. She kept most people at a distance. Part of that made her a great doctor and confidant—any secret told to Autumn would never be revealed. But at the same time, she was lonely.
Something radical changed when she met a young man at the hospital where she worked. Perhaps it wasn’t love at first sight for her, but it was for him. Once he finally won her over, I still remember the way the two of them would look at each other. It was a bit sickening (because at the time I was still single) but in a sweet-love-story kind of way. He was genuinely a nice man and treated her like a princess. We all celebrated when they decided to marry.
The marriage was a catalyst for change in her life. Though she was a strong, intelligent career-minded woman with a lucrative job, she followed her husband through job transfers. Instead of living the high-end lifestyle her job could afford them, she suggested they save her income in the hopes that she could one day have children and be a stay-at-home mom like her own mother had been. With this plan in mind, she also decided it was time for some other big changes in her life. As they settled down, she took steps to quit drinking and smoking. This was probably one of the biggest battles she’d faced in her life so far, although it would prove to just be the beginning of difficult situations she would soon face.
She successfully quit smoking and gave up alcohol entirely, but pregnancy turned out to be an even bigger obstacle. It was a long, hard battle for her to become pregnant and stay pregnant. Maybe it was her age, perhaps it was something else. Who knows, but her pregnancies were hard—a lot of pain and suffering came with the back-to-back births of a daughter and a son. But she never once complained. Not one time.
She’d had almost everything the world could offer—travel, money, jewelry, success, expensive cars and more, but she felt the most precious gift she’d ever been given were those two babies. As soon as the first one was born, she made the decision to leave her medical practice to stay home.
This might be surprising to some people—why give up a successful medical practice? And did she think everyone should give up working to stay home with their children? No. She never once made a negative remark about anyone who made choices different than hers. She wasn’t making a statement by her decision. It was just what she wanted to do and felt led to do. Motherhood was the best job she’d ever had and she wanted to experience every moment of it.
Within a couple years, she would face an even bigger obstacle. Her second child was diagnosed with high-functioning autism and required hours of therapy. He also needed constant guidance to navigate the confusing world of social interaction. She stayed right by his side, signing him up for activities and helping him understand how people worked. She was both mom and therapist. Within a few years, because of her help, he had improved to the point that people never would have guessed about his diagnosis.
As the kids started school, she volunteered in their classes and spent hours of her life at soccer practice, karate lessons, gymnastics and more.
And then she was hit with the biggest obstacle of her life: cancer. She approached the diagnosis the same way she did every other difficulty in her life—preparation, prayer, and a willingness to work hard. Because she had a rare and aggressive form of cancer, she researched doctors all over the country and procedures that would give her the best chance at long-term survival. She gathered a team of specialists and endured some pretty horrific forms of treatment. And never once did she lose her faith or complain. In all her texts to me asking for prayer, she maintained that she trusted God in this and that he was in control. She trusted God that He could heal her. In emails sent throughout her illness, she stated that she had complete faith that God could heal her in a moment’s time. She also stated that if God chose to take her home to Heaven, she knew she’d be ultimately healed.
During this time she planned some trips with her family and spent every moment with her kids she could. Several of the treatments were so harsh that they nearly killed her and she often was hospitalized for weeks at a time. But she kept fighting because she just wanted a bit more time to be a mom. Maybe others wouldn’t make the same choices she did, but it was her life and she had her reasons.
Sadly, cancer was the one obstacle she wasn’t able to overcome, at least not in this life. But she left an amazing legacy. At her funeral many of the other moms who’d know her through the kids’ school stood up and told about how much she’d inspired them. How her faithful and loving attitude as a wife and mother had impacted their lives. How her quiet devotion to Jesus and being kind inspired them to want to be better people. How she took every opportunity to gently and respectfully speak of her faith in the Lord and all He had done in her life. To know Autumn was a privilege, and to know her heart was to see a glimpse of the heart of Christ. She left a legacy of love, kindness, and mercy.
At the conclusion of her funeral service, the family was invited back into the sanctuary for one last moment before they took her body to its final resting place. Her two children gathered with their dad next to the coffin and said their goodbyes. They walked away, but the youngest glanced back. As the funeral director closed the lid, her little boy ran back and reached for her. After a quiet word with Dad, they opened the lid one last time while her son kissed the top of her head.
He stood for a long moment, soaking up the face of the woman who had taught him so much, who had loved him so well. How different his life would have been if not for all his mom had done for him and with him.
I miss her terribly. Her family misses her more than I can imagine. But as the days and weeks and months stretched out after her funeral, I have often thought back on the lessons her life taught me and the legacy she left behind.
Motherhood is worth sacrifice. There are days life gets difficult. Money is tight, kids have minds of their own, messes get huge, autism is a constant challenge here in my house too. But when those moments and obstacles try to get in front of me, I think of Autumn and the way she fought for each moment with her kids. How she fought to be a mom and stay a mom and that she considered suffering worth it to gain even a little more time with her precious children. How she loved her family and the people around her well. How she took every opportunity to respectfully and gently tell people why she had hope.
The legacy she leaves is one of faith and faithfulness. I might not be the same kind of mom she was, but her life and death always reminds me to cherish each moment, and that motherhood is the best job I’ve ever had.