by Martha King
Guiding Hearts with Hope
I was in South America in my senior year, preparing for finals and heading to college to be a surgeon. My mother was 37, and I was seventeen. My father was a pharmacist at the time, but working on a plan for all of us to visit North America after I graduated. My mother was very devastated with the idea. She questioned my father, “How can I be in two places at once (the North and the South)?” God had a plan from the beginning. She was pregnant at that time, and the baby was not due for another month. All the paperwork was completed a year in advance for our trip.
Saturday, May 28, 1977, 9:00AM. My mother gave birth to a healthy girl, her 6th child at home. There was a lot of excitement and happiness, but that was about to change. The private midwife said, “We have trouble!” My mother developed a headache right after the labor and started going into convulsions, her body became toxic, and she went into a coma. I remember very clearly, a few minutes before, the way she reached for my hand and said to my father, “I am scared, please don’t let me die”. We called for an ambulance and they took her, it was the last time I saw my mother alive. Each of her children, ranging in age from 17 to one day old, and my father, were left with little idea of how to manage the grief.
Tragedy was supposed to pass over a home like ours, the “perfect home” in my own eyes. It was as if my mother was the glue, not burst through the door like a destructive hurricane. Dealing with the fact my mother was in ICU all alone without her children by her side and hooked to a machine (she was clinically dead) for two more days, trying to digest the millions of questions in my head and to support my father on the one final question… ”Should we pull the plug?” What kind of question is that to be asked of a 17 year old? Her best friend, her mother, is leaving this earth and won’t be seen anymore. The feeling was as if my heart was being ripped out of my chest and it was leaving an enormous hole. I bargained with God and pleaded with Him to take me instead, my family needed her more. I asked Him to give me her pain that I would take all her pain and everything if He let her stay… He did not listen… The next day our physical bond was broken, she died.
How do you begin to pick up your life without your mother and best friend? There were no blueprints for action. Where do I begin? Where is the book that is going to tell me what to do next? There wasn’t any? I did not have the time to think about “me” any more, I had siblings and a baby to take care of. There was no way I could study for finals, how to concentrate on that when we had a funeral to prepare for, I had to help my father make funeral plans. How can that be? My mind was going crazy. I was unable to sleep, keeping up with a baby and looking out for my siblings, they were lost as much as I was. It was my chance to put into practice all the teachings my mother had given me. When the day came for her viewing, I saw my mother lying in that casket and just got so angry. My mother in all her beauty, in all her greatness, in all her wit, wisdom, skill and integrity had been reduced to a pile of cold flesh; it was not my mother anymore. That was when I realized that she was in Heaven.
How did I survive the past 34 years without her? It was not easy, I struggled, and there was so much emptiness inside me. A void that took years to be filled… I finally understood and learned to see my mother in a different way. It was a way that took practice and acceptance. I learned to slowly live with the loss and not bow under it, to let it become a companion rather than a guide. I learned that grief is not linear, not predictable, that it goes in cycles, like the seasons, like the moon. I learned to let go of the despair and turned the power of her spirit into peace.
Her death became this universal energy; I don’t hear her, but I always feel her answers. She taught me how to converse with her. Through the years she made sure I saw her, she gave me signs and encounters that she is still around. My mother lives on beneath everything I do. Her presence influenced who I was, and her physical absence influenced who I am now. Our lives are shaped as much by those who leave us as they are by those who stay.
My pregnancy and motherhood was like reactivating the original connection. They helped me develop the bonding connection – the relationship, frozen in time when she died, became dynamic again, experiencing the baby move, the sound of the heart beat were miracles of my mother as her blood ran through my baby’s veins.
Of course there were fears, like approaching the magic number “37” (my birthday year). I turned 37 with a certain apprehension and I was relieved when I turned 38. The same when my daughter turned 17. I asked myself, “Would I die this year?”
I am a survivor, mentally strong, determined, self-reliant and independent. You have to learn to be “mother” for yourself. You have to become that person who says every day “Don’t worry, you are doing fine”. I became an adult over night at 17! I learned to do everything on my own.
I truly believe that her death has made me what I am today. You see God did have a plan, when I asked Him to give me her pain that I would take all her pain and everything if He let her stay 34 years ago…. He did… I am my mother, and I am her legacy. And yes she is in both places, the North and the South.
Love you Mom for EVER!
In Martha’s own words about her personal life struggles and her dedication to helping families dealing with addiction:
What causes are the most near and dear to your heart?
At this time I am not volunteering for one or two specific needs or charity, but for hundreds of needs…as I (we) move forward together with our new ministry organization that I founded called Guiding Hearts with Hope, Inc., a 501c3 nonprofit.
Why was it founded?
My story began with a new career in my life, chosen for me many years ago. Not the health care career I had in mind, but a different one. I will never forget the shock, fear, grief, and despair that I felt the day I discovered my beautiful daughter had a devastating disease. I literally was paralyzed by the circumstances into which I had suddenly been thrust. Nothing in my life or my family had prepared us for the journey we were about to take and no life experience from our past was of any help.
Learning to understand the disease of addiction, along with mental health, requires dedication, education, patience and lots of love. My personal pain that I have endured has become my passion! Guiding Hearts with Hope started as one small seed, one seed of hope and strength, and the hope that could blossom everywhere where a seed is planted. It’s a story of how people came together – at first one person with one voice, a small group with many voices, but then growing, expanding, moving forward and making a difference one seed at a time, one heart at a time. I have also become a Certified Recovery Specialist (CRS), as a “recovery coach”, working with parents and family members of loved ones affected with the disease of addiction.
What do you want people to know about addiction and recovery?
My strongest word of advice I have shared with hundreds of people the past years is getting educated about addiction, the better you understand the disease, the more realistic you can be in your expectations and the more effective you can be in your efforts to support recovery. Addiction is a chronic lifelong disease of the brain, damaging the important parts, changing the communication system. That is why it is so important to educate yourself. It is the only way you will understand your loved one and accept them and be able to love them for who they are as they embark upon recovery.