Inspiration from Adversity

Mother’s Day is fast approaching, which coincides with Inspiration Week at Fierce Romance. What a nice coincidence since my mom inspired me. I’m the youngest of four, and my mom gave birth to me when she was almost 40 – fairly common today, but not so much 40-odd years ago. But the fact that my mom was an “older mom” is not what made her inspirational. A few years after I was born, my mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Since this disease primarily affects older people (in their 70’s and 80’s), my mom’s diagnosis was “early onset” Parkinson’s disease. The actor, Michael J. Fox, has the same diagnosis.

Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disease, which affects motor skills and even speech, and it’s progressive. So getting the diagnosis at 42 is a lot different than at 72. The disease is characterized by trembling hands and a shuffling gait. At times, my mom’s hands would shake so much, she couldn’t feed herself. Her ability to walk and keep her balance deteriorated so severely that when she did leave the house, she had to use a wheelchair. She took medication, but it didn’t work very well and there is no cure for the disease. That was my number one wish as a child – not a new bike, or a new dress for the prom – but that someone, somewhere would find a cure for Parkinson’s disease and give me a mom. I'm still waiting.

My mom was an inspiration to me, not because she ran marathons or went to the moon or became president, but because she showed incredible grace and dignity while this disease stripped away her ability to live a “normal” life. My dad was an inspiration to me too because at 42, he was left with an invalid wife and four kids ranging in ages from 2 – 10. He hung in there and gave it his best shot, and at age 60, he took an early retirement so he could stay home and take care of my mom. Ironically, my dad passed away before my mom. She followed him two years later. She didn’t die from Parkinson’s disease, because that disease in and of itself is not fatal, but she did die of pneumonia after catching a simple cold.

So every Mother’s Day I think about my mom, and my crises and issues of the moment seem petty and insignificant. I try to teach my kids, who never met their grandmother, to appreciate their good health as well and sometimes wonderful opportunities to do so arise. A few years ago, my husband participated in the Silver Strand half marathon, which runs between Coronado and Imperial Beach in San Diego. The race benefits the Challenged Athletes Foundation, and there are many athletes in the race who are in wheelchairs, are amputees or burn victims. My boys were wide-eyed watching the amputee runners with their special running prosthetics. It was so inspirational to see those runners crossing the finish line (in some cases well ahead of the able-bodied runners) and such a good lesson for my boys.

I’m going to leave you with the most inspirational commercial I’ve ever seen. At the very end of the commercial, you’ll see Oscar Pistorius, a South African man who’s a double amputee…and an athlete. I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier...

And Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there who are daily inspirations for your kids.


Carly Carson said...


I am so sorry to hear about your mother. My FIL has Parkinson's and it is truly a dreadful disease. Complete deterioration and no hope for a cure yet. To live gracefully with a disease like that is definitely inspiring.


Lynne Marshall said...

Thanks for the touching story about your mother. I know her plight affected every part of your life, and you are an amazing person because of it. The other amazing thing is the advances we've made in prosthetics for our soldiers coming home as amputees. I just know we'll find a cure for Parkinson's too. There are some new breakthroughs that are surprising and coming from areas we didn't expect them to come from.
Here's to a soulful Mother's Day for everyone.

Nicole North said...

Beautiful and inspiring post, Carol. Sounds like your parents were amazing, strong people. The amputees who run and win races are incredibly inspiring as well. Certainly makes me realize I need to do a lot more. :) Thanks for sharing!

Happy Mother's Day to everyone!


Carol Ericson said...

Thanks, Carly. Blessings to your FIL.

Thanks for stopping by, Lynne. Happy Mother's Day!

Nicole, yes, the amputees are amazing. That day at the race gave my boys a lot to think about.

And if anyone wants to know who all the athletes in the commercial are, you can read there stories here:

Anonymous said...

Hi Carol, Thanks for sharing such a personal story. I think you are amazing to turn something like this into inspiration and that you found something to admire, rather than whine, "poor me." You and your husband are amazing for showing your children early on that anything is possible, the only obstacles are those you decide to put forth, they are the bonds of your own creation. And what you create, you can change. Finally, I think you are amazing for reminding me of the innate strength we all have. You are awesome! Thanks for sharing!


Lilah Rune

Carol Ericson said...

Awww, thanks Lilah, but the amazing ones are those "challenged" athletes who don't allow physcial boudaries to stop them.

Leigh Court said...

Truly inspirational, Carol -- the athletes and YOU as well! It should remind us to count our blessings every single day.

Thanks for sharing.


Chiron said...

Hi Carol,

Your tribute to your mom is very inspiring. Your love and admiration for your mom's courageous spirit and your dad's kindness shines through.

Thanks for sharing this.

Sending you love and hugs...

Chiron O'Keefe

Sandy said...


What a lovely tribute to your mother and your father. They were truly inspiring. What your parents and family went through brought tears to my eyes. I do hope they find a cure for this horrible disease and similar ones.

My mother was an inspiration to me, too. I still miss her.

Thanks for this inspirational story.

Carol Ericson said...

Leigh, yes, we tend to take so much for granted. Isn't Oscar Pistorius amazing? It took me a couple of views of the Nike commercial to realize the runner at the end didn't have legs.

Thanks, Chiron. Happy Mother's Day to you.

Sandy, I'm sure you're an inspiration to your children as well, and their children, and their children!

Beppie Harrison said...

What a wonderful lift to get in the middle of the day! Thank you so much for sharing -- and I know your mother and your father would be so very, very proud of you and what you're doing with your life -- both your writing and your sons and family.

The commercial was wonderful. I'm saving it to show Geoff when he gets home tonight.

It's not just your mom and dad -- I'm very proud I know you, too!


Carol Ericson said...

Hugs, Beppie. I'm proud to know you too - and all the amazing, strong women in my life. I'm glad you're sharing the commercial with Geoff - he probably likes Wayne Rooney and Ronaldo Cristiano! Go ManU!

Unknown said...

Your mother was a very courageous and graceful lady. Sounds like you are, too.

Please have Cathy email me at about my prize book to her. My computer wasn't working the other day but it's back up and running now.

Stacey Joy Netzel said...

I hadn't seen that commercial before--very cool! I'm going to go watch the Michael J. Fox special right now. Hold the good memories of your mom close to your heart. I've got a whole bunch of my mom, and hope to collect many more with her still.

Happy Mother's day to all the moms!

Carol Ericson said...

Thanks, Ashley!

Stacey, the commercial first aired during the 2008 Olympics. I was blown away when I first saw it (of course, it helps that they use an awesome song from The Killers!). So I found it on YouTube and I watch it often. Give your mom a big hug for Mother's Day.

Abby Niles said...

A very heartwarming post, Carol. I'm sorry for your loss, both of your parents sounds like a very strong and couragous people. Thank you for sharing!