Many Clevelanders shared a common theme of their appreciation for their families and employment, while others expressed thanks for the joy of being alive, the memories of loved ones who passed away and their indomitable faith.
Benjamin Molley, 60, has been in Cleveland for the past 13 years and insists every day is a good day to be thankful. The positive-thinking senior said simply being alive and enjoying whatever life brings is the best way to live and be happy.
“Every day is a good day in my world,” said Molley. “I go to bed happy and wake up happy. That’s the way I was raised. When you look back on your life — it’s never as bad as it seems. Look back about five or 10 years ago — it’s only bad at the time. Life is not as bad as it seems. It’s still great!”
Molley, a car detail specialist and father of two grown sons, said, “Even in this economy, it’s better than the people have it in Haiti. Even if you don’t have a job, life is still good. You have shelter, food in your belly — every day is a good day. If you have friends and God in your life it’s an even better day!”
“We need to be thankful not just on Thanksgiving but every day — not just on the holidays. People ask me why am I so happy. I tell them I have nothing to be sad about. I live in the present. Everything in the past — I let it stay there. The future is bright. Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
While many Clevelanders subscribe to a similar view, others find it adds to their joy by including thankfulness even for the “small stuff” in life, often taken for granted.
It was a touching true-life story of never giving up hope, told by Cleveland Daily Banner Associate Editor Rick Norton, regarding his mother’s fight with breast cancer that captured thanksgiving for the memory of mothers who still live in the light of love.
Norton’s complete account was printed in the Banner’s “Breast Cancer Awareness” supplement issue published Oct. 20.
In part Norton wrote, “My mother’s breast cancer years ago did not take her life. She waged a determined fight. To this day I believe her (Polly Norton’s) courage and positive attitude strengthened those heavy doses of chemotherapy and the seemingly endless series of radiation treatments that she bravely endured without complaint.
“Like so many women — wives, daughters, grandmothers, sisters and beyond — she had the untiring support of a unified band of family members and friends in her community and neighborhood. Yet ultimately it was her fight to win. And she did. Until it came back. In yet another form.”
According to Norton, the 2004 diagnosis was alarming — melanoma. “Yet as she did with breast cancer, she took it in stride and prepared to wage war once again on a marauding enemy that we knew took no prisoners,” he said.
“I traveled to Middle Tennessee to be there for the surgery and to spend a few days during her recovery. My father had passed away in 1991, the victim of his own battles against multiple illnesses — one of which was chronic leukemia.”
In their talk with the surgeon following the procedure, Norton said he was told a large amount of tissue surrounding the diseased mole was removed and the surgeon felt good about the surgery. He believed they were successful. But Norton admits he learned something new about melanoma.
“Apparently melanoma is a form of cancer whose unpredictability is its only consistency,” he said in the article. I spent the next couple of days with my mother tending to household needs and enjoying rare and quiet moments with her that grown sons abandon once they marry and leave home.
“We talked of the past. We reminisced to special family moments. We laughed about my dad’s funny ways back when he was among the living. She was recovering. Her spirits were high. We felt good.
“I even took her to a movie — a rare treat for her, one she enjoyed so dearly. She was in her early 70s and had lived a sometimes challenged life at best. She and my dad raised three kids on moderate incomes and sometimes in difficult environments — small-town atmospheres where employment was never a given and money was always in short supply.”
Still, Norton said his parents were able to send their children to college and all three graduated in their respective fields — one nurse, one horticulturist and one journalist.
“Perhaps it is why a grown son enjoys spending rare moments with his mother, as much to show appreciation for her support over the years, as well as to give her the kind of love and care that she provided in those golden days of our childhood,” he wrote.
The months passed in 2004 following the melanoma scare and the surgery. In spring 2005 she experienced recurrent stomach pains. Upon returning to the doctor, Norton recalls the visit did not go well.
“It landed her in the hospital for extensive testing,” Norton wrote. “I stepped into her room that fateful Saturday morning as the doctor sat at the edge of her slightly tilted hospital bed. Only my sister-in-law and I were there to hear the diagnosis ... and the heart-wrenching prognosis. Cancer had returned.”
Norton said it had spread rapidly. Into her lungs. Her liver. Her spine. Chemotherapy and radiation could be used. But this time it would be futile, he said. The spreading disease had done too much damage.
“My sister-in-law and I sat with her quietly. Respecting her silence was an uneasy alliance. But we had no words,” Norton wrote. “We were stunned. We felt the helplessness of a lost child. Swelled in emotion, my sister-in-law stepped from the somber room to share the unforgiving news with distant family.
“My heart broke as my mother’s tears began to flow. She spoke of giving up. She cried of lost hope and forgotten dreams. She was so tired of the fight. She no longer had the will, the strength nor the means to stand against this raging disease. She could go no further. She could only wait.
“My eyes stung as I wiped my own selfish tears. My mother was dying. The woman who had given me life. She who had provided for me, who had protected me and now who was saying good-bye to me. I was her grown son and I could not save her.
“I felt myself a failure. I should have been there sooner. I should have given her soft words of comfort and reassuring arms of support that surely could have saved her life. Yet she was saying good-bye. And all I could do was listen. And give her my time. My sinking heart. And my lost words.”
On a sunny Saturday morning, Aug. 21, 2005, his mother died. Of that day Norton wrote, “On this Saturday, her voice was still. Only silence. Save the tranquil inhale ... exhale ... of her shallow breath. Family members surrounded her. Children. Their children. In-laws. Even family pets. A final low breath. Quiet. Her time of peace had come. Her final good-bye. Cancer would claim another life. My mother’s. Soon she would have been 77.”
Although cancer robbed him of his mother, Norton said it could not rob him of all the sweet memories and unforgettable moments with his parents for which he will forever be thankful.
And so it goes with another year of thanksgiving for life and love, for family and friends, for food and shelter as well as the priceless gift of sharing such warm moments with one another and the grateful community of Cleveland/Bradley County.