One of the greatest memories I have of my mother occurred just shortly before she passed away. By that time cancer had taken its toll to the point she required round-the-clock care and was confined to a nursing facility. Because we all knew her time was brief I drove to San Antonio as often as possible to be with her.
It was one of those weekends and I mostly sat in the room with her at her bedside. She napped some, but we also visited or sat quietly and read. Occasionally I would help her up to move around or go to the bathroom. But one morning a nurse came by to take her down the hall for some physical therapy. They did that to keep her strength up as long as possible, and though she was weak the nurse nonetheless made her walk to the therapy room using a walker – part of the therapy. “Come on and go with me,” my mom urged as she shuffled out of her room. “This will be fun, you’ll enjoy watching.” So I followed along and sure enough we entered a small room that looked more like a child’s playroom than something in a hospital. It was filled with all sorts of games, balls, and other toys.
I took a seat and watched as the therapist led her through some simple exercises. Mom, despite her weakened condition, seemed to enjoy the activities. Then the therapist led her to a tall table where another patient was standing, an elderly gentleman. On the table was a set of dominoes and the two were instructed to engage in a game of dominoes. It was all I could do to keep from laughing out loud, for I saw the spirit in my mother’s eyes I had seen all my life. I wanted to tell the old gentleman, “Mister, you’re in trouble.” Indeed he was. My mom not only knew how to play the game and play it well, but being the competitor she was she intended to win. The poor guy never had a chance.
I read a quote the other day that reminded me of this story about my mother and prompted me to share it with you. The quote said, “Life is an arena, not an armchair”. It was a perfect description of my mom, I thought, always a player rather than a spectator – active, involved, engaged, loved people, loved games and loved competition – even up to the very end. What a great example of an abundant life!