Gwendolyn visits Grandmommy DeBardJune 30, 2009 by Victoria Strong
This afternoon was difficult. I knew it would be when planning this trip, but it was something that was very important to me. I took Gwendolyn to meet my mom. The last time I was in Palestine, it was to bury my mother. That was ten years ago this August and I still miss her desperately. My mom, Susan DeBard Gillespie Withey, was an amazing mother. She is my role model. She exemplified kindness, compassion, selflessness, patience, and wisdom. She taught me so much about thinking for myself and nourished my confidence to believe in myself and my own choices. Her influence has made me who I am and if I can be half the mother that she was, then I know I have done a good job.
My sister and I were very inquisitive children, and one of the classic responses my mom always had to our many questions was, Well, that is a good question, what do YOU think? Although she must have chuckled to herself about some of those questions, she never let it show. Her response validated my curiosity, never making me feel my question was silly or insignificant, and forced me to think for myself...and to continue to want to learn new things. She would engage in a discussion with me about the said topic and would throw out ideas, but it was never a this is the only answer or a my way or the highway attitude. It also helped that she was exceptionally intelligent and diversely and deeply well-read and had an accurate answer or a theory to pretty much anything I ever asked.
I was only 22 when she passed away after bravely fighting a glioblastoma brain tumor for over a year. That was her second bout with cancer and I suppose I am lucky to have had her in my life at all as I was only 6-months-old when she first fought and beat breast cancer. She never forgot that battle and, now having a better understanding of the time period in which she was battling that disease, I know why she felt such a need to help advance breast cancer awareness and treatment. Sometimes I am able to remember this aspect, that I am fortunate that I had her influence in my life at all. But it never numbs the loss. And I know I am lucky to have her memory so alive in my sister, my dad, Harry and Gwendolyn -- they each remind me of my mom in different ways. But, I could really use her right now...I know her gentle, quiet, unwavering strength and determination would help me through this. Her presence always gave me a sense of calm and she always had a way of making everything better.
5,000 miles driven. Over 15 newspaper articles written, four nightly news segments aired, and two radio interviews broadcast. theGSF's first official fundraiser. Over $44,000 raised.