As so often happens, I intend to shoot one thing and end up with something else.

I’m at home recovering from some shoulder surgery.  It was minor as far as those things go, but it hurts and I’m basically a pain wimp.  To achieve a sense of balance, I am taking some stout painkillers that make me feel a bit woozy.  I wanted to shoot a picture of some blurred motion to illustrate that wooziness, but it didn’t work like I wanted it to. Instead, I got a nice clear shot of the white flowers of this shamrock plant.

That’s OK, because it ties into this pain theme.

The plant came from my mother to Sherry as a gift 35 years ago.  It’s a good thing Sherry got it, because I probably would have caused its demise shortly after arrival.

My mother always had plants around, and this shamrock was a treasure of hers.  I’m sure she would be pleased to know that it thrives at our home.

She also had a lot of physical pain in her life.  A bout of rheumatic fever as a teenager caused lifelong problems with her heart, and she spent a great part of her life coping with and alleviating the pain.  She managed to give birth to and raise six of us, giving her a superhero award in my book.

She never complained about it to me.  She was always active, but always moved at a more measured pace than everyone.  No doubt part of that was from chasing 6 kids around, but a big part was that her heart didn’t work as well as ours did.

She eventually had repair work done on a valve, a procedure that is done pretty routinely today. Then, back in 1973, it was experimental.  There came a time it was either replace the valve, with the accompanying risks that open heart surgery entailed, or get her affairs in order.  After much deliberation and prayer, she chose the surgery.  The doctors swapped out her God-given valve for a metal one.

The surgery was a success, and that valve kept her alive – and in my life – for the next 22 years.  I often tell the story of how, sitting at a quiet breakfast table reading the morning paper, I could hear “click, click, click”, which was the opening and closing of the valve, and the sound of life.

Mom suffered with that heart problem.  She bore it with extraordinary grace, and showed us how to endure physical hardship.

I saw suffering in her.  My shoulder is painful, but it will be better soon.  It’s inconvenient, but it’s not suffering.

My pain meds make me feel like I’ve had glass of scotch, and they make everything a little out of focus.  One thing I know that is clearly in focus is that my mother was a wonderful woman, and a great example of courage.  Every time I look at this plant, I am reminded of her and her graceful suffering.

I like the in focus.  I hope you do, too.


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