There are moments in our lives that can define or re-define our existence. Sometimes we may have full control over those events, but more often than not, we don’t. Those moments in our life that have changed us forever, stick with us, like gum to the bottom of our shoes. However, there are moments and events in our lives that have changed us, and yet, we don’t even consider them as life changing. For example, many people don’t consider their parents’ decision to give birth to them as a major event in their lives. In reality, far too often we take those biggest decisions, over which we had no control, completely for granted. Two such decisions, over which I had little control, changed my life forever.
It was 1981. My mother went to the hospital to find out why she not having her period. She was surprised when the doctor told her, “You’re pregnant.” She was not trying to get pregnant again. You see, she had had two miscarriages in between my older brother and sister. She was desperately concerned and fearful about having another miscarriage. The doctor was also concerned for my mother and wondered if trying to have another baby was the best thing to do. The doctor said, “What are you doing? Do you really want to risk trying to have another baby?” I don’t know how long she thought about it, or even if she said it out loud, but for some reason she could not say no, so, she said yes, yes to giving birth to me. That decision under dire circumstances… gave me life. I am left to wonder, what would make my mother take such great risks to have me?
I don’t know why she took the risk to have me, but I am determined not to take that life for granted, a life that could have been so easily extinguished, and with good reason. How often do we take each day for granted? Do we realize just how precious our life is? Do we ever ask ourselves, “What if, my mother and father decided not to have me?” “What if…?” Do we have some responsibility for the gift of life that has been given to us? Do we owe some debt to those who made our lives possible?
As I think about it, my mother’s decision was not the only time that someone changed my life by saying, “Yes.” In August of 2001, I met my wife to be. I was stationed in Korea with the U.S. Army and she was finishing her degree. As we got to know each other, we fell in love. I tried to extend my tour in Korea, but the request was firmly denied. We were devastated, but I had to go. I had to do my duty. I prepared to leave Korea and we went together to the airport. My wife asked me, “Why do you love me?” There were many good reasons to love her, I thought to myself, but was there a single main reason? I told her, “I love you just because,” for no single reason could justify our love; no explanation could simplify our situation. Our love, I realized, had become unconditional, no strings attached. We loved each other for every reason and for no specific reason at the same time. With tears streaming down our faces, we said goodbye. As young adults we didn’t know if we would ever see each other again, but before I left I asked her, “Will you marry me?” She said, “Yes!” She said it so quickly that it surprised me. I wanted to say something, but it was time for me to go. I tried to wipe her tears away, but the stream would not end. So I tore myself away at the last moment possible and boarded the plane.
I sat down on the plane and wondered. What could make her love me? I realized her love was just like my mother’s. My wife loved me despite the fact that marriage to foreigners, especially soldiers, was looked down upon by her culture. She loved me despite the fact that her family was very conservative and likely would disagree with our marriage. For some reason, she still said yes, even though we had no realistic idea of how it was going to happen. As it turned out, years would pass before we could keep our promise and get married. I went to Iraq. She finished her degree. However, not a day passed that she did not mail me a letter or talk to me on the phone. Finally, our patience paid off and we were able to marry in 2004, almost three years after I boarded that plane.
Looking back I can vividly see the day that she said, “Yes,” to marrying me. I can also imagine the day when my mother said, “Yes,” to giving birth to me. When they said yes, they had to have known that there could be great trials for their decision. They had to have known that things would be difficult. My mother could have suffered another miscarriage, another precious child lost. My wife endured patiently, waiting years to see me again, and for what reason? I realize now, there was no reason. No reason, specifically, that is. They simply loved me, unconditionally. I did not earn their love, nor deserve it. Oh, but I am so glad they loved me and said, “Yes!”
Paul Kunnas is a senior from Mansfield, Ohio, majoring in Psychology.