I was asked to identify a person who represents the feminine upon who's shoulders you stand. I first reached way back to my unnamed grand-ancestors who because they existed and loved and lived, I live now. But after truly considering who has brought me to this actual place in my life at this time, I have to share with you the closer truth is, that woman, the singular woman who has helped allow me to make the decisions that have helped make me be me, was my little mother, who would be 103 if still living.
She was born in 1917 a few hours away from where the 1918 Flu was born only a year later. Bea Bradshaw grew up in the Missouri Ozarks, attended a country school and had to leave home and live with relatives to finish high school, where she impressed her sister's husband enough he paid her way through medical school, graduating as a doctor in 1939, just in time to take over the small hospital in Welch as the only physician when men were all called to war.
Just as COVID-19 came upon us months ago several items of hers appeared that she had worn to both protect herself but to be most protective of others. I found masks she had worn in surgery, that she would have tied behind her head snugly and the cap that went over and tied in the back of her head. The mask was made out of a multi-layered white cloth and still had her name printed inside. How had those masks survived 75 years and just randomly surface?
How was I to find these items now? in the middle of a pandemic where masks worn at this time is one of the only ways we know individually we can protect ourselves and others from the spread of the same kind of virus that my mother was born to. My mother throughout my life, was always there being that example of what kind of woman I wanted to be. Smart and ethical, delighted in learning and challenging herself to keep asking and finding ever more to learn.
Even just a few years ago I was still meeting people who all those years ago remembered a leg she had set, or that she had delivered them. She married my father and never practiced again. She closed her medical bag AND became the best mom to me and my brothers.
Bringing her forward, realizing the amazing woman she had been in my life, always encouraging, always accepting, knowing now she truly was my Sankofa. The person I never knew to identify as such, as the woman who had the influence that made me who I am. I will persist on this journey because I know she is still with me.
So this evening, I opened her medical bag and reached in to experience the reaching in she must have done under extreme conditions during home visits, as the medical emergency team, herself, a woman never weighing more than 100 pounds, attending to the sick, the injured, those broken and in pain.
She cared for my brothers and me throughout our childhood, as our first defense on all health and of course our broken hearts. And as she aged, I got to be there for her to the end of her life. She is continuing to be there for me and leaving me just what I need to fetch. Her masks were used as patterns for the multicolored masks of the day. From the pandemic she was born into, to mine.
One of my former students lost his mother this week to our pandemic flu, she was a friend and a great supporter of our Cherokee Volunteer Society and later LEAD Agency efforts and countless other good deeds moms like her in our world do, all ending with her passing.
I asked all those months ago what sort of monument we will be inspired to erect to the dear ones we are losing. Think of the monuments we have constructed through the decades to honor those who have been lost to wars. Is this not a war? against common sense and decency? Let's pull together and do the simple things people around the world did over 100 years ago to protect themselves and put a flu to bed. Let's learn from the past to ensure a strong future.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim