Three Mothers

December 4, 2013

At this time of year it goes without saying that we will hear the story of Three Kings and the Christ child.  The story bares telling again and although I do believe it is part of the greatest story ever told, I won't repeat it here.  I have a notably different story, a story not just of new life, but one that also includes death. Not the story of three kings but of three mothers, three mothers that are somehow related by events several decades apart that no one could have imagined.


Since you are reading this blog I am going to assume that this isn't the first time you have visited and that you are aware of the story of Baby Jesse and his mother Kristin. So let me put this mother and child aside for a few moments to start with something I witnessed over this past weekend that cannot be left to the confines of my own memory. It is just too special. It is the story of a very unique lady. As a boy I grew up in the city of Toronto in a very modest little semi-detached house that my mom and dad bought and moved into for the grand price of $6,000 after my dad had returned from his service in the second world war. The money was borrowed from his own father and mother who had immigrated from Italy a few years before. By the furthest stretch of the imagination we were not rich. Not until a young couple moved in next door to our house into the house attached to ours. At the time if my memory is correct they had four children and their mom and dad were just in their mid twenties. I had just one sibling, a brother but eventually the family next door added five more children for a total of nine.


Our front steps were a foot apart, our open verandas were joined and the war time walls that divided our houses were the opposite of sound proof. There was no resisting our families growing close even if we had wanted to resist, but we didn't.  Because of the incredible character and love that this family projected to everyone, next to the years of eventually raising my own children, these were the years that I can consider the wealthiest years of my life.  The character today of every one of those kids is impressive to say the least.  They have become strong, respected, and sincere and much of their good character must be credited to their mother.


This brings me to the first mother in my story. Her name was Betty.  She was the centerpiece of her family. I say "was" because she passed away in her 79th year last Wednesday. This past weekend my wife and I attended her funeral along with several hundred others to commemorate the passing of a great life. Reality is, Betty's story deserves a book, not a blog. Maybe someday someone will write it but not I and not now.  There are a hundred different ways I could digress from my goal of telling the story of three mothers so I will attempt to constrain myself and continue on track. Our three mothers begin to connect like this. Betty's fifth son born was named Charles or Chuckie as we all called him. Very early in his life Chuckie was diagnosed with muscular dystonia. The condition grew progressively worse until complicatons from the condition took his life just before his 17th birthday. It was a devastating blow to the family yet shortly after that horrendous emotional crisis the father of all the children and Bett's loving husband Lorne died suddenly and unexpectedly in a tragic truck/train accident.


This left Betty a widow and single mom of eight children at the age of 39.  I have no idea how she survived all the trials, challenges, responsibilities and burdens of her indescribably difficult lot other that to give credit to her personal strength, incredible character and her faith in a God that protects and provides for those that look to him in faith. She was a woman of great faith and she was almost like a mother to me. I say almost because I revered her, respected and honored her as any loving mother should be. I know that she impacted me in ways that I can't even imagine. Today when I went to the mailbox, I opened a Christmas card signed Love Betty with a note that said she has arranged for her church to offer special prayers for Jesse and our family through five services on Christmas day. Her last communication to me and my family was a message of her love. What a woman!


So here's the first connection...our little Jesse also fights dystonia and his mom Kristin fights the war with him, Kristin also a single mom knew Betty well and knew that Betty prayed faithfully and fervently for Jesse from the day of his near drowning. Betty was heartbroken when she heard that Jesse was diagnosed with dystonia at the age of just 10 months as a result of his drowning and miraculous survival. In recent months we had had so many requests from Betty and her eldest daughter to arrange to get together for a visit as Betty had been fighting cancer for eight years and was growing weaker. She was originally told she had six months to live but she refused to go until she felt all things were in order with her 22 grand children.  And in the extra years she fought through she was further blessed by her witness of the birth of her five great children. Betty never gave up. And "Nevergiveup" as many of you know has become Jesse's prevailing motto. Gee, I wonder what my family has learned from the close up witness of a life such as Betty has lived?


Now we approach the last link in our chain of miracles.  As you may recall when Jesse fell into our pond his mother Kristin jumped in, pulled him out and performed life saving CPR on him until paramedic help arrived. Several months later a friend of ours hosted a CPR workshop in honor of Jesse and made it a fundraiser to help pay for Jesse's therapies. A year past quickly and the same friend offered to host another CPR workshop. That was a couple of months ago. The workshop was mostly women however two husbands had also signed up. One of the couples was pregnant with their first child and just three weeks ago little Oliver was born healthy and happy to be in the world.  Chantelle the baby's mom was as healthy as any new mom, delighted with her new role in life and without any prior health issues, that was until the day her husband found her on the floor and not breathing. Without notice or any known cause Chantelle had had a heart attack. Her husband Brian remembering what he had learned at Jesse's CPR workshop just a few weeks before immediately went to work on her for several hearth throbbing moments of panic (and heroism) and revived his wife. Kristin visited them in the hospital the other day as Chantelle is waiting for a pace maker surgery.


CTV News covered the crisis and it ran on Friday's news all day. If you didn't see it I have attached the link at the bottom of this blog.


Three moms blessed to experience the emotional elation of the birth of their children, one mom with the death of her child, one mom who gave life back to her child and a new born baby who was given back his mother. Chantelle calls her husband Brian her hero and Brian calls Jesse his hero. But whatever way you want to assemble it, I see a thread of life and death issues that have somehow tied together a larger story, a story big enough to include a plan that no man could write.  We are all just witnesses to the mystery of life and death.  When will a new life begin and when will it end? But immeasurably more important than that...we too began and we too will end, but the critical question eternally remains, what will we do with the time in between?


I am convinced that our legacy is not in the careers we accomplish, the buildings we build, the wealth we amass, or a hundred other things that we hold in such high regard, no...all of that dies with us.  Our legacy is to be found in the lives of the family we leave behind. The way that they live, the traditions that they hold dear, the ideals that they stand up for and the ones that they reject, the way they forgive and the way they love.  No matter what challenges we face or what dark tunnels we must walk through as the years pass us by with all the surprises that life can hold, my family and yours is the reason we can Nevergiveup!


Bob Arrigo


Please leave a comment if the thread in this story has woven it's way into your heart in any way. We know that every comment accomplishes something positive in the heart of someone who is discouraged and lost hope in all the good that life can hold.

Here is the link to the CTV News coverage of Chantelle's story.

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