The woman came to see her sick mother, but lost control of herself due to just one question. Gets taught an important lesson then.
Elizabeth Larson visited her mother every other Sunday. She drove the 80-odd miles from Seattle to Port Angeles and drove back in the afternoon. She hated her Sundays.
Elizabeth had worked very hard to leave Port Angeles behind and make a success of her life in Seattle, but her love for her mother kept dragging her back to a life she wanted to forget.
Now, to make matters worse, her mother, Donna, had a mild stroke, which made her a little forgetful and repetitive. Elizabeth found herself increasingly irritated by the changes in her once dynamic and witty mother.
Elizabeth resented Donna’s illness and the feeling of guilt that overcame her every time she drove away. She hated going to Port Angeles and seeing her mother so changed, but she couldn’t evade her responsibility as Donna’s only child.
The people who lavished love and attention on us as children will one day need our care.
On Sundays, Elizabeth would pick her mother up at the assisted living facility and take Donna out for lunch. She’d watch with irritation as her mother struggled to feed herself, often dropping her food on the table.
Mother,” she once snapped, reaching for a napkin and mopping up spaghetti sauce from her mother’s sleeve, “Honestly, slow down!”.
Immediately, tears filled Donna’s eyes. “I’m sorry, darling,” she said. “I’ve become so clumsy.”
Elizabeth forced a smile. “Well finish up, and we’ll go for a walk in the park before I take you back to the home.”
The two wandered arm in arm through the lovely nearby park, enjoying the afternoon sun and the heady scent of the flowers. Suddenly Donna exclaimed, “Oh look! What’s that?”
Elizabeth followed her mother’s pointing finger and saw a butterfly opening and closing its brilliant orange wings as it fed on a large purple flower. “That looks like a Monarch butterfly, mom,” she said.
Donna smiled happily, and a few minutes later she asked again, “Oh look! What’s that?”
Elizabeth frowned. Could her mother’s mental acuity be affected? “It’s a butterfly, mom,” she replied. Donna nodded and hugged her daughter’s arm, but that wasn’t the end of it.
A little further along, Donna once again pointed at a fluttering butterfly and exclaimed, “Oh look! What’s that?”
“That’s a butterfly, mom,” answered Elizabeth with a slight edge to her voice. “I already told you!”
Once again Donna nodded. She seemed to understand, Elizabeth thought, but could it be a memory problem?
When Donna once again exclaimed, “Oh look! What’s that?” Elizabeth’s patience had worn out.
She snapped. “I’ve already told you THREE times it’s a BUTTERFLY! A B-U-T-T-E-R-F-L-Y! Stop asking me what it is!”
On the drive back to her assisted living facility, Donna was unusually quiet, and Elizabeth felt guilty for her outburst. She escorted her mother back to her room and looked around.
I see you’ve put up all the family photos! That looks so pretty mom!” Elizabeth said, then she noticed an old scrapbook of her childhood drawings. The scrapbook was open to a drawing of a butterfly. Underneath it, Donna had written:
Today Lizzy asked me ‘What’s that’ whenever she saw a butterfly. Every time she asked I told her, ‘It’s a butterfly,’ and gave her a kiss. We saw 18 butterflies, and I wish we’d seen 180.”
When Elizabeth put down the scrapbook, tears were running down her face. “Oh mom,” she sobbed, “I’m so sorry! You’ve given me so much, and asked for so little!”
Donna hugged her daughter. “Oh Lizzy, please don’t cry! I guess as time passes mothers and daughters change places. I guess I’m harder to put up with now…”
“No, mom, I love you, and I want you to come with me to the butterfly sanctuary, and for every butterfly we see, I’m going to give you a kiss!”
What can we learn from this story?
The people who lavished love and attention on us as children will one day need our care. Donna was a loving mother, and years later, she needed Elizabeth’s support.
Patience is the kindest face of love. Donna’s patience taught Elizabeth the true meaning of love and acceptance.