Jeannie Gaffigan, the wife of and co-writer for popular comedian Jim Gaffigan, was lying in the ICU and thinking about her five kids. She had survived the surgery to remove a pear-size tumor from deep in her brain, but the operation had left her unable to swallow properly. By the time this was discovered, she had developed severe pneumonia and without immediate intensive care, she would have died.
Jeannie lay in her bed, too weak to write on a pad of paper or even to sit up. A breathing tube prevented her from being able to speak. Her condition left her unable to take any food or liquid by mouth, even a sip of water. But worst of all, she was unable to see any of her children (ranging in age from grade school to preschool). Kids weren't allowed into the ICU.
Before the tumor surgery Jeannie was a certified supermom. She had been the show runner of a successful sitcom, the co-writer and producer of some of Netflix's most popular comedy specials, and she still managed to get all five kids off to their respective schools each morning.
But she was admittedly overloaded. With so many kids to attend to and a husband who traveled much of the year, there was never enough time to get her work done. And with little ones getting sick or crawling into bed with her in the middle of the night, there was never enough sleep.
She often found herself wishing she could just get away for a while to check a few things off her big to-do list, or just get some time to think.
Now in the ICU, all she had was time away from her kids. But it was hardly restful. The many devices attached to her made it uncomfortable to lie in bed. Being fed through a tube met her nutritional needs but did nothing to sate her gnawing hunger. But the most agonizing part of her ordeal was not being able to see her children, let alone touch them.
Mother's Day was just weeks away and what Jeannie craved more than anything else was to have all five of her kids pile on the bed—like they'd do when they'd awaken her and Jim too early.
Thankfully, Jeannie recovered enough to go home and, after a long recuperation, return to her life of mothering and comedy. But her perspective on what was most important changed dramatically.
In her hilarious and touching memoir about her medical miracle, When Life Gives You Pears, she writes that she came to be thankful for her tumor.
"As an overwhelmed mother of five with a touring comedian husband and a career as a writer and executive producer, I already felt like one more thing would be the wafer-thin mint that made me explode. . . Ironically, 'Tumorgate' turned out to be the catalyst for the radical revolution I desperately needed to reconstruct my priorities."1
What a better time than Mother's Day to reflect on our relationships as mothers, spouses of mothers, and children. Life will never be perfect and if we wait for the perfect time to stop and really enjoy the special people in our lives, it will never happen.
We wish you and your family a happy Mother's Day.