Saturday, September 10, 2011

Why Feminism is Important to Me

Laura Breck

One of the strongest influences on my life was my sister, Mary. She was quite a bit older than me, and a strong feminist. To her, a feminist was someone who cared about other women. Not a militant force intent on promoting all things female over all things male, as some have categorized feminists. She truly cared about the plight of women, whether it be domestic abuse or illiteracy or discrimination.

Mary attended college and received her bachelors degree in nursing. As an RN, she chose to join the US Army and was stationed in Germany. After her tour of duty, she came back to Minnesota and taught nursing at Abbott Northwestern Hospital.

She never married, but loved children. In her 40s, she headed back to school at the University of Minnesota to pursue her masters degree in nurse midwifery. She 'caught' over 300 babies in her career as a midwife, and kept a scrapbook with a photo of each one of them.

She was well loved by her clients, many of who became lifelong friends.

In the late '90s, she was diagnosed with an extremely rare blood disease. She was given six months to live. And I was devastated. She'd taught me so many things. I learned about eating organic and natural foods from her, how to make ice cream, how to drive a stick shift. It seemed impossible that I would lose her. I always imagined we'd grow old together.

She didn't take the diagnosis lying down. She researched every possible treatment and cure, chemical and herbal, spiritual and physical. She moved to Oregon for a time because a doctor there was performing experimental treatments. When that failed, she moved in with friends in Zuni, New Mexico.

If you've ever been to that part of the world, you'll know what a beautiful and raw land it is. The Zuni people are Native Americans whose main source of income is the beautiful silver and turquoise jewelry they create.

She lived there with the couple who were the pueblo's physicians, and their four children. She dedicated her time to educating the people on healthy lifestyles during pregancy and nutrition and care of infants and children. I visited her there, and saw how close she'd become to the residents. And how much she loved every day of her life there. One morning, she didn't wake up. It had been nearly three years after she'd been diagnosed. Two and a half years after she was supposed to be gone.

I miss her every day, and often feel her touch and her guidance in my struggles. When I think of women who have achieved incredible things in their lives, I think of Mary, who in her small but urgent way, made such a difference in so many people's lives. Especially mine.

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Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Laura,
What a poignant blog. Your sister Mary sounds like an incredible woman. An unsung heroine if ever I heard of one.



Jerri Hines/Carrie James-Haynes said...

What a lovely woman. We all could be so fortunate to make a difference like you sister.

Laura Breck said...

Thanks, Margaret and Jerri. She was a strong woman, but she had such a loving heart.

Alison H. said...

What a wonderful story, Laura. It's clear you cherished your sister and for very good reasons. It makes me want to call my sisters today and tell them how much I love them.

Jannine Gallant said...

Wow, Laura, your sister was an inspiration. Doesn't seem fair that those with so much to offer are taken too soon.

Laura Breck said...

Alison - thank you for the kind words and yes, do call your sisters. It was great to see you at MFW today. Today must be the day to share!
Jannine, she did leave us too soon. My mother was crushed, but we have so many wonderful memories of Mary, it helps to remember her legacy.

Brenda Whiteside said...

Thanks for the beautiful post. I would love to have known your sister.

Vonnie Davis said...

So many people lead shallow, self-centered lives. Your sister did not. She made a difference in her own unique way. She did her angel training here on earth and blessed those whom she touched--including you.

Laura Breck said...

Brenda, you and she would have gotten along well. She was as smart and funny as you are!
Vonnie, she was an angel. She gave of herself in so many ways. Thanks for the kind words.