To honor International Women’s Day, women are telling inspiring stories— of remarkable and courageous women around the world; of women helping women; of women who made it possible for them to succeed.
I feel so fortunate, to live in the United States; where for the most part, women have the rights and the ability and the tools to change the world, and ourselves, for the better. Although that, too, can require the help of another woman to make possible.
For me, on International Woman’s Day, one story stands out—of a young woman who came to the United States from El Salvador to make a better life for herself and her children. In doing that, she helped make a better life for mine.
It couldn’t have been easy for Elizabeth to come to Los Angeles, where I met her when she was a young mother herself— helping me with my two children. Due to circumstances for both of us, she came in and out of my life several times.
When I was a single working mother, she helped me stitch together a fragile hold on my life and equally fragile state of mind. She helped me pick up the pieces of our home that were shattered after an earthquake. And she helped me pack up and leave Los Angeles to re-settle my children into our new lives in Carmel.
Life was equally hectic, and I missed having Elizabeth close by—-especially when a bomb blasted into my new life after less than a year.
The first weeks of cancer were a blur; I was facing a year of treatment, with a chemotherapy regimen more rugged than what is standard for breast cancer today; with no idea where or how I would find anyone to help.
When I came up for air after surgery, I was still drowning in fear. I longed for the familiar and comfortable; but I had no mother or family member to come to the rescue; no support system in my new community.
Into this haze of fear and hopelessness, Elizabeth came back into my life like a mirage would appear to a traveler wandering in the desert.
Without being asked, she uprooted herself from her job and her teenage daughter in Los Angeles, moving here to care for my children—and to be the mother I couldn’t be. She took care of them—and me—when I couldn’t even drag myself out of bed; at times she literally had to feed me– -sustenance and support. She did far beyond what could be expected or asked.
She cared for us because she cared; she stayed for months, I wish she could have stayed forever.
There is no way I could ever repay Elizabeth, for the gift she gave me; no way I could honor her sacrifices or those of her daughter….in exchange for the comfort and security she provided my children, who trusted, and love her to this day.
On International Women’s Day, no articles will tell her story– or those of other women who help many of us make a better world for our children. That’s why today seems the right time to honor a woman who reached out to me in my time of greatest need—who was there for me just because she knew I needed her to be.