By Jessie L. Rayl
My mother, Ila Rayl, was born in rural West Virginia in 1928. Early in her life, she developed polio myelitis and subsequently spent most of her childhood at the Shriners hospital in Philadelphia, PA. Despite that, she completed high school and was able to graduate with her class. She went on to college which she could not complete at the time, however she maintained a job for several years. She returned to her family in WV and met my father at a Church picnic. He was from KS and had come in on a construction job. They were married and had four children including me.
When I was eleven months old, mom realized I seemed to be having visual problems. Two weeks later, one eye was removed followed by the second two weeks after that. I have often thought about how difficult suck quick and painful decisions to make about their child must have been. We lived in KS at that time but later moved to Maryland, then West Virginia. My parents enrolled me at the WV School for the Blind and mom was hired as an Arts and Crafts teacher. She went on to complete her BA degree, driving two hours each weekend and some evenings, then attained her Certification for teaching blind children.
As her Certification, mom learned braille and proceeded to transcribe all of my books for children in braille. I spent long, happy hours listening to mom read books to me, even after she put the books in braille so I could read them myself. Later, mom read all of my college books throughout my MA degree.
Despite her disability, mom did not complain, nor did she allow herself to be held back. She was a Girl Scout leader, a teacher, an Avon sales rep., a business woman and a mother. She attended all of my athletic events as well as numerous other activities and events with me and my three sisters. She was quick to offer support and also let us know when our behavior was not acceptable. Early on, she taught me how to do the same chores that my sisters did – house cleaning, dishes, some food preparation, and I was fully expected to participate in family activities and had responsibilities along with my sisters.
Mom was my biggest cheerleader. She was there when I won various awards and trophies at school. When I won the golden horseshoe, even though she was recovering from a broken leg, she went with my father and sister to the capitol seven hours away for the ceremony. When I chose to get my first dog guide, she embraced that decision and every one of the dogs became “my grand dog”. When I graduated from high school, then three additional colleges, she was there even though standing in the lines and sitting long hours on bleachers was tiring and painful for her. When I opened my business, she could not wait to help and became my best office manager. When she learned I would be pursuing my doctoral degree, she supported me even though it meant less time with her. Through the many difficult times in my life, she was there, offering support and encouragement.
I lost my mom, first to the ravages of age and time, then quickly after to death six years ago. I miss her every single day. Mom, on this Mother’s Day, I celebrate you, all you were and will forever be to me. I love you from the bottom of my heart. I thank you for always believing in me. You were, and will forever be, my greatest inspiration. I am immensely blessed to be your daughter, and proud to call you mom!