Like Mother Like Daughter

How I learned to stay calm

May 7, 2021

The abrupt and overwhelming blast nearly shattered my window!

I didn’t understand what had just happened, all I knew was I heard screaming and crying.  Then my mom began moving towards the front door. I followed, not far behind her.  What I saw then was unbelievable.  My brother Neal, badly cut and bleeding, his face was blackened.  Behind him, I saw Larry leaning up against the house holding his hand, his face was pale white.  

My brothers had been out experimenting with a piece of pipe from an old swing set, gun powder, and wadding.   They created a homemade cannon of sorts which they successfully shot off several times, until they packed it too tight and it exploded in Neal’s face.  Small cuts and gunpowder covered his face and neck. But the worst damage was on his right forearm, it was deeply gashed and actively bleeding.  

My young mind struggled to grasp what I was seeing.

I began to realize the severity of the situation as I watched my mother swiftly take control.  She calmly brought Neal into the bathroom, covered the arm wound to apply pressure and went to my dad’s office to dial the ambulance.  There was no touch tone phone to dial 911, it was a rotary phone.  She made the call then returned to care for Neal.       

When the ambulance arrived, the paramedics bandaged my cut, burnt, and bruised brothers and took them to the hospital.  Neighbors arrived to see what happened and provide support.

I remember the ambulance driving away, as I stood there in shock I watched it turn the corner and speed away.  It had all happened so quickly.

Neal required extensive surgery on his arm to repair severed tendons, which would allow him to use his hand again.  Later, Neal also underwent eye surgery to repair a detached retina that resulted from the blast.  Larry needed a few stitches, and a nail removed from his finger.  

The memory of that day is forever etched in my mind. 

That day my mother was completely calm, she demonstrated grace under pressure.  She assessed the situation and faced it with courage. 

It wasn’t until years later, sitting in my office working as a hospice administrator, that a nurse sat down in front of me and asked how I always stayed so calm despite all the challenges of operating a busy hospice agency.  Grieving patients and families, and managing nurses, physicians, aides, social workers, chaplains, and volunteers was endlessly demanding.  Understaffing, illness, family emergencies, with employees going through their own things had become a part of my daily life.

As I contemplated her question, I realized it was the impact of that day, that it was my mother who modeled how to remain calm under pressure that had taught me to do the same.  She taught me how to keep a clear cool head and to just keep moving forward doing the best you can.  My little eight year old self watched mom’s every move that day and resolved I would do the same when faced with challenges.  

Mothers are a gift and a miracle in our lives.  They teach, nurture and love us, though sometimes imperfectly.  They are a gift and a blessing in our lives.

Today, I want to pay tribute to my angel of a mother and to all the mothers out there who give of their time and love to make this world a better place, and teach us to do better and be better.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Much love to you all,

Laura Jeffers