"I believe in the power of root beer.
I better explain.
I never really liked root beer, but my mother sure did.Î¾ I was always tickled by her child-like enthusiasm for it.
As a widow raising four children, my mother's life was difficult.Î¾ But she kept us healthy and happy; taught us to be honest and hardworking; identified and praised the unique talents in each of us; and sometimes, allowed us a little glimpse of her shy, root beer-craving inner child.
I was fourteen when Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was only forty-three.Î¾ She fought cancer for nine years, with amazing strength and determination.Î¾ And somehow, she still found the time and strength to take great care of us while working full-time.
In Mom's final year, her surgeon tearfully told us that all hope was lost.
Still, the battle continued for nine months.Î¾ Near the end morphine made her reasonably comfortable, but her mind returned to her childhood.
I was with her one night when she began stubbornly insisting she was thirsty, but refused to drink anything the nurses gave her.
Eventually, I thought of root beer.
I had to drive to a nearby store to get some but the result was magical.Î¾ When Mom tasted it she paused to smack her lips, smiled radiantly, and drained the cup dry.Î¾ Then she closed her eyes and slipped into a peaceful sleep and then, over the next few hours, into a coma.
She died a few days later and that little foam cup of root beer is the last thing she ever tasted.Î¾ But I always smile remembering how much she enjoyed it.
My mother loved me, cared for me and instilled in me a deep belief in goodness, honesty, kindness, courtesy, and responsibility.Î¾ She helped me understand that a man can cry and still be strong and that joy comes from helping others.Î¾ I miss her so much.Î¾ Losing her was a tragedy that still, after twenty-two years, sometimes feels unbearable.
But I kept that half-full bottle of root beer, the humble beverage that accessed my mother's inner child and infused joy into devastating heartbreak.Î¾
Grief and heartbreak are unavoidable.Î¾ I can't escape them, but I can endure them, by collecting and treasuring the joy that is often revealed in small but powerful things—like root beer.
This, with all of my heart, I believe."
Here's a personal note John sent to This I Believe about his experience.
My wife and her family never knew my mother.Î¾ I didn't grow up in Texas and none of my siblings live here so I find that the part of my life that coincided with my mother's life can often feel like a dream or a story that happened to someone else.
My life is in turmoil right now.Î¾ I've been laid off from my job, my kids are grown and have moved to a different state and my wife and I are in the process of selling our house and moving into a smaller one.
Writing the "root beer" essay helped me renew my sense of connection to my past and provided a way for me to document, and thereby preserve an incident that deeply influenced my personal development.Î¾ It also served to remind me of my own strength and my demonstrated ability to endure hardship.Î¾ This has helped me to put the challenges I currently face into perspective.
Writing the essay was easy; editing it down to five hundred words was hard and at first, very frustrating—I didn't want to leave out anything!Î¾ But I soon realized that editing my essay was even more therapeutic to me than writing the initial draft had been.Î¾ It forced me to carefully evaluate the events and feelings I was writing about and distill from them the essence of what it was that made those events so important to me.
A gem cutter understands the inherent value in the raw stone he is working with but is able to increase its value by carefully cutting it to enhance its clarity.Î¾ After many hours of work, I'm satisfied that The Power of Root Beer is well worth the effort needed to create it.