Let us take this Mother’s Day to reflect on the awesomeness of Mom. And, to be clear, I don’t mean the awesomeness of moms everywhere or the concept of motherhood. I mean, let us all together reflect on the awesomeness of my mom.
Momma Sampat was born in Kenya in an Indian family, the oldest daughter of a hardworking goldsmith and a teacher. The brilliant lady she is now was a brilliant, highly intelligent child then, but she wasn’t able to complete beyond a 7th grade education because her father couldn’t afford to send her to school after that. She wanted to be in school, but there is no free public education in Kenya. Mom tells me the sad story of how, one day, my grandfather literally had to pull her off the school bus, shaking his head sadly as she cried. It was the last time until my brother and I were in school that she would see the inside of a school bus.
But, what has always defined Mom has been her quiet, humble, but raging drive. Getting things done is not something she does to prove herself, but because they are things that need to get done. If obstacles come in her way, then they must be overcome, period. Others will look at her from afar and see a self-starter, a go-getter, a superwoman, but she will simply see herself as someone doing that which needs to get done.
And so, after losing the opportunity to continue her education, she put herself to work. She took one job after another. She helped my grandmother teach. She began working for a commercial and industrial supplier, where she first saw sewing machines. Within months, she taught herself the intricacies of embroidery and fashion design, and was teaching those to customers, transforming the business as she did so. As has been true throughout her life, the people she met quickly came to adore her.
Not all of them loved her right away. One co-worker resented and envied her at first. Mom knew this and is the kind of person who is not at peace when there is conflict. She understands people and can pick up on the slightest inflection in someone’s voice. And, she’s also the kind of person whose genuine goodness can melt any human being with a soul. It was not long before this coworker had transformed into one of Mom’s best friends.
Her skills continued to build and, one day, she left the job at the factory and opened her own school to teach embroidery and fashion design. She advertised all over the city, and soon her classes began. Word got around fast and soon they were overbooked. She was making enough money to support the whole family, her parents and all of her siblings. She became one of the most well known and widely respected people in her city. If word got around town that she was ever in trouble, people would come to help.
But, in spite of being who she was, she was never destined to simply “live easy” once she had “made it.” In her life after that, she’s had to overcome one adversity after another.
She and my father met through relatives. After they got married and immigrated to the United States, they had to struggle as my family worked its way up. Those were the start of what would be decades of hard times. They were hard times financially, hard times emotionally, and hard times spiritually.
My brother Anmol was born a few years after my parents were married, and it was a day of great joy for them. But, Anmol was very ill from early childhood. He had a congenital defect that had gone undetected and his kidneys failed him early in life. He spent the first several years of his life in and out of the hospital—dialysis, one surgery after another, a feeding tube, life-threatening infections, poor growth, crying, and suffering. Mom was his full-time caregiver. She took him to and from the dialysis center at the hospital, taking three buses while carrying an infant, a stroller, and medical supplies, and if she ever showed up a few minutes late, she was forced to wait hours until the next session. When Anmol was switched to peritoneal dialysis, she was the one to do his dialysis exchanges at home, every 2 hours at the height of it. She did his tube feedings. She did his dressing changes. She took him to appointment after appointment. One of Anmol’s doctors suggested to her that, with all of the experience she had gotten in taking care of him, with only a little additional coursework she could become a registered nurse.
Anmol’s health reached its low point when he suffered a stroke one Christmas Eve, a stroke that robbed him of his sight, left him intellectually disabled, and gave him epilepsy. My parents dealt with Anmol’s suffering in very different ways. Dad has always been outward, so his grief and fear and pain manifested as anger. He was the family member no doctor ever wanted to deal with. Mom was one to turn inward, though, crying quietly to herself, always seeking refuge in God. She has been a deeply religious person her entire life and has unwavering faith in the protection of God. Even as she has suffered, as she has seen some of the darkest of dark days, she has always looked up to say that her protector—her Father, as she says—is always watching over her.
Mom tells me, “I have no idea when you grew up because I was always taking care of your brother.” Even today, she makes sure he gets all of his medicines, she keeps track of everything going on with him, and with herself, and with my father’s health. She is the pillar of our family. Her gut feelings have driven our decisions. If Mom’s gut says something, then in our house we consider it the closest thing to the Word of God. Dad often says, “I’d be nowhere without your mother.”
Growing up, Dad was the breadwinner for the family, but struggled moving from job to job. We were on food stamps and Medicaid. Mom managed the finances, the one to always say, “No, we don’t really need that.” Her catchphrase was always: “Are we stuck without that?” If we weren’t stuck without it, we didn’t need it. Today, even on a doctor’s salary, I ask myself that before I buy anything.
Mom kept all of us clothed and fed. Quite well-fed, I must say. Everybody loves their mom’s cooking, but believe me when I say my mom’s cooking is on a whole other level. Rarely was there a meal in our house where she had not prepared a minimum of 3 different items, each the epitome of deliciousness. When we ever went out to eat—which was not often, as we were not “stuck without it”—she could taste something we ate in the restaurant and know how to re-create it at home. Even today, whenever I come home, I have to bring a half-empty suitcase with me because she’ll load me up with a “care package” of food. And she’ll overfeed me. “You can go run an extra mile later,” she’ll say, “Right now, eat more. Mom’s orders.”
And speaking of Mom’s orders, I’m on strict orders not to spend any money on her this Mother’s Day. I’ve been expressly forbidden from buying her flowers or a gift, for we are not “stuck without it.” So, Mom, just so you know, I didn’t spend any money in telling the whole world how awesome you are. You sometimes ask me, “Am I really a doctor’s mom?” Well, Mom, was I really so lucky to have been born from such an incredible woman?
I love you so much, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day!
NOTE: This post originally appeared on May 13, 2018 for Mother’s Day 2018. I expanded it and re-published it on May 12, 2019 for Mother’s Day 2019.