Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mothers' Day

A happy mothers' day to all loving mothers in the world. I'm sure Justine must be saying this to her great mum in the heaven too. One very old article about Justine speaking of her mum which I found from women tennis forum, I'm sure alot of ppl have seen it.
I cried when I read it, it's too touching and it's hard to suppress the tears from flowing down. So I thought of posting it again. Justine had a very tough childhood and she's actually easily hurt from inside despite looking strong.
Translated by pigam (exact copied from there and it's very long):
chapter 5 "A ma maman" (to my mother)
"When I talk about my mother I can't find wordsthat are strong enough to express the admirationI had for her, and I still have for her, now that she is no longer here with us.
What I admire in particular, is the way she fought againsther illness. This incessant struggle has left a deep impressionon a lot of people, in the first place on myself.I admire maman a lot, because she was a 'grande dame'.She was strict, in general. She had her principles and her values that had to be followed, but she was sincere. She never exaggerated. As a mum, and as a teacher,she found 'justice' something really important.

My mum was a teacher for 16, 17 and 18 year oldsin the school of 'Les soeurs de Rochefort', and I think she washighly respected by her students, namely because shehad this feeling of right and wrong. Respected, but feared, because the courses with Madame Henin where never easy. She was, without a doubt, the teacher they feared the most, but also the teacher they had the most respect for.

My ‘maman’ loved life, she adored laughing. The people who have known her, know she lived only for one thing: her children. She wanted us to be ok, to always be ok. She took care of us, in the first place. She spoiled us, she gave us a lot of affection. We had a very close relationship. She passed away when I was twelve years old. Twelve: that’s a lot and ‘not a lot’ at the same time. I have a lot of memories and beautiful images in my head. When I think back on it now, I realise we had our little disputes, but I was very young, and those little things meant nothing in comparison to our closeness. We were really very close. It was great.

One of the images I will never forget, is the one, when she left me every morning when we went to school together. Seen that my primary school and the school where she was a teacher where very near, we always went together by foot. We walked down the street and ad a certain moment, we arrived ad a crossing where she had to cross to go to her school, and I had to turn left towards a parking. At that moment, she always said ‘Bonne Journée’ to me, she gave me a little kiss, and there she went. I remember I always turned around to see her leaving. I don’t know why, but this image of my mother leaving for her work has always struck me. She had this unbelievable ‘présence’, a certain class that I just can not describe.

When I had a holiday, I loved going to her class, or sometimes, when I had finished school earlier than her, I passed by her classroom, and I observed her. With her little glasses, she kept an eye on her students. She seemed very strict, very severe. But, I also love that image of her.

She was a French and History teacher, she was really passionate about it. After her hours, she created theatre plays with her students. I often went to the rehearsals. I could listen to it for hours and when I returned to our house, I recited everything I heard,I memorised whole parts of the plays, and she listened to me with a lot of attention.I think that, in a way, I kept her ‘literary mind’. I love reading, and writing. I also love the logics of mathematics, the fact that there is ‘a solution’, but I received a part of her ‘literary senses’.Maman was what you could call an intellectual, but not really fond of sports. She played a little bit of tennis -in fact, she was rather talented seen that she played very little- but she was an intellectual in the first place.

Maman had been through some very difficult moments during her youth. She has lost her mother at a very young age too, also because of cancer. She was 15 at the time, I believe. My parents also lost a little daughter who would have been the eldest of my siblings. Her name was Florence. I never knew her because she died when she was 2 years old. Those were very difficult times. That’s probably why she took so much care of her children.

Me personally, what I admired the most in her, was her ability to manage everything at the same time: go to work, do the household, prepare her classes, cook dinner, do the dishes … Her life was filled to the top, but she never complained, she did it with pleasure. When she went for something, she did it really quick and when she promised something, she always tried to fulfil it, and she managed to do that.

I’ve now talked a lot about her qualities. When I talk about her,I only see the good things, but like everyone, she had her little ‘defaults’. She was very stubborn and she always wanted to be right. I think I inherited a lot of her character. When I speak about her, I recognise a lot of myself, because, I’m very stubborn myself, and fairly serious. I never tried to imitate her, but I always took this ‘grande dame’ as an example, her personality and the way other people thought of her. There is of course never absolute unanimity, but my mother was highly respected, and that was something really important for me.

She always wanted to be right, but sometimes, she was wrong even if I find it hard to recognise that today.But, when she decided she wasn’t wrong, it didn’t help trying to have a discussion with her.Maman has never pushed me to play tennis. From the moment she saw how I loved the sport, she has never hold me back; she never said ‘no!’. She did have the fear of seeing me pass on my childhood, my youth. She was afraid that I did it all for nothing. That, at the end of the day, it would be too difficult, that I could not make tennis my profession, and that I wouldn’t be able to take on another profession. She was afraid that a real tennis career would maybe never be there for me, but she accepted what I did.

Having said that, even if she accepted I sacrificed a lot of timeto tennis, she wanted her children to succeed at school –like probably every other teacher …-. Her priority were my studies, without a single doubt. That’s normal. When you’re 10 or 12, you don’t know anything on life, it’s important to hold on to succeeding in school. That’s why, later on, I promised her to finish high school.But, I couldn’t keep my promise. Would she have been angry with me? No, I don’t think so, because my life took a different road when I decided to throw myself in the life of a professional’ and when I decided to take my responsibilities. Up till now, that’s been fine, and I succeeded in having a pro career. That’s why I’m quite sure maman is very proud of what I have realised in the past few years.

When my mum drove me to the training, In Ciney and later to Géronsart close to Namur, she left me at the club and went doing her groceries in the mean time. She came back and sat in the club-house. She never came to the courtside, she drunk her coffee and she looked at me playing, without saying anything. Then, she drove me back home. She was very discrete: she came to look at her little girl doing what she loves to do most and that’s it. Regarding tennis, it’s the image of discretion that I keep of my mother.

When I came back from training with my father –she knew at what time we usually got home-, when I came in to our apartment, I could hear my bath running, she had already cooked for me and my bath was ready. I think that the best moments that I had with her were when she came to sit at the side of the bathtub and when she talked to me about what happened during the day. Even when she was really busy, she took the time to talk to me. That was like a ‘sacred moment’, she had to come and talk to me.I was still very little at the time, but we talked about everything.

Those were magic moment which I will never forget.

Another great moment I shared with her almost everyday took place after we finished dinner. I adored rope skipping, and every night, I went to the kitchen were nobody could come but only my mum. There, she started counting the number of ‘jumps’ I made. I don’t remember how long it took because one of my records was 700 jumps and I tried to break my record every evening again and again. And maman counted, time and time again. She was patient, she never nagged.She saw that I was so focused on my goal, that she stayed and counted. I tell you this, because it’s an example of how patient she was with her children. She left her own activities aside for us. I hope a lot of children have the chance to have such a great mother, with that much patience.

There were so many great moment, but then, one day, it all crumbled. It’s at times like those one says there is no such thing as ‘justice’. To know that my mum was so good towards people around her, and then to hear she has a terrible disease and that she would die from it… to me that’s so unfair. Today, still, I ask myself the question: Why her? Of course, nobody deserves such a thing, but to have to live the loss of someone you love so strongly, that’s the worst thing there is!I will never forget the day my parents were told she had cancer. Whereas I only heard the word ‘cancer’ 2 months before she died, because my parents were very discrete about their (!) illness and they tried to talk as little as possible about it in front of their children, and especially in front of their 2 little daughters. I remember it very well. I went shopping with my godmother, and when I returned. I found my mum lying in bed. I knew there was something wrong right away, that they had heard terrible news or something. They told us maman had to go to the hospital to get an operation, but when you’re 11, are you really aware of what’s happening? I knew it was really bad but I didn’t realise the real seriousness of the illness.

She had the operation in April 1994. Her illness lasted for a year, because she died the 26th of march 1995. A very difficult year that I will never ever forget. We were all heavily marked by itand we all suffered from it. When she had the operation I went to see her in the hospital in Liège. It wasn’t easy, because she had suffered a lot. It was a very painful operation, but –and that’s exactly it- I didn’t realise what they had done to her.We know maman was very ill, but, for Sarah and me, things stopped there, we didn’t know anything more.A few months later, maman was feeling better, so … I thought at the moment that everything would get back to normal. She even came to Gruissant in France, in august, to see me play a tournament there. My aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews, … everyone was there. We had a real family holiday.But after that, everything went downhill. There was the chemotherapy that weighed on her, that was very tough, but I was only 12 and I didn’t realise the consequences. I said to myself ‘Illnesses are there to be taken care of, there are doctors and you can always overcome them’.

I didn’t exactly realise what was happening, but deep inside,I think I felt something really terrible was about to happen.One day, when I took my bath, and she was sitting next to me on the edge of the tub, I asked her: “But maman, your illness, you won’t die from it, will you?” She answered: “Of course not, ma puce. What are you talking about, I doing fine.”Then things really went backwards at the end of 1994, she got worse and worse, she forgot things, it was very difficult to see her like that. We all knew she fought hard, but she refused to show her suffering, in particular towards her children. It was out of the question to show she was in pain. She had an incredible courage.

How can someone be that courageous, when you knowyou are going to die? She knew it, because the doctors had told her the illness was already in a too advanced stage. At that moment, how did she manage to fight like that? To still care and think about her children? To refuse to suffer? To never ‘loose her face’ in front of us? I find it really hard to understand how she managed to hang in there.For me, to seeing her degrade like that was something very painful. She had a lot of energy, she always did lots of things, but in the end it became more and more difficult to carry on.

In January, two months before her death, she did something amazing, when she–together with my godmother- came to see me play a tournament in Petit As in Tarbes. She travelled 1200 km back and forth just to see me play. She followed my match against Gubachi, a very tight match. There she was, she travelled all that distance to see me play for the very last time. That was the biggest sign of her love my mum could have given me, two months before her death.It was a very important moment for me. She had lost all her hair, her condition wasn’t good at all. I didn’t realise at the time, the worse was yet to come.Right after the tournament in Tarbes, in January or February,I heard the word ‘cancer’ from someone in my entourage for the very first time.

Then came the month march. It wasn’t until the day before her death that I knew she was going to leave us. It was a Saturday, I will never forget, a Saturday, that my dad took his children -we lived with our grandparents at the time because we couldn’t stay in the apartment- my dad took us aside and told us, I will never forget: ‘Your mum is going to join Florence in heaven now.’That was the worst thing I ever heard. A dream collapsed.When you are 12and you hear that the person you admire most in life has to go, that’s the most terrible thing there is.I went to see her for the very last time, she managed to say “Je t’aime, ma puce.” She was in terrible condition, she almost didn’t recognise us.The next morning, she left us.Ultimately, it was maybe for the better, for her and for everyone close to her. She deserved a good and a very long rest. I hope she rests in peace, because whole her life, she took care of others.

The moments that followed where very hard. A lot of memories come back to me now. I tried to be very brave during the days that followed her death. There were a lot of people at her funeral, another prove that she was highly respected by everyone.When I was little, I always told myself that if my mum would die, my life would stop right there, that the earth would stop turning.When she had passed away, I believed for a moment that tennis was over for me because I didn’t see anymore reasons to fight. I found that life had been too unfair with me. I didn’t have fun anymore on the court. But then, step by step, a few months later my life continued.I have never forgotten maman, she’s always with me. During difficult times I think about her a lot. She gave me so much love, so much positive signs that, when I’m in a complicated situation, I think about the good and the bad moments with her, I think about her illness, and I think about the way she has left us. She is of a primordial importance for me, because she gives me reasons to fight for.

People often say that it’s easier to put the problems of life into perspective when you have lived such a tragedy. But I don’t agree. Life, society in itself just makes that you continue to be annoyed by details.I don’t know if I changed since her death, but one thing has never changed: My love for her. She is still alive inside of me and I think about her every day, about that ‘grande dame’, about her discretion and the fact that her children were the most important in her life. When she left, her biggest fear was not knowing what would happen to her children without her. She often asked herself how we would continue our lives without her.It was very hard, but I found happiness. There are a lot of people who have to go through someterrible periods, but that doesn’t have to prevent them from finding happiness with the persons they love.

I can laugh again, smile again, we have to continue our lives and, since a few years, I have found happiness again. But that happiness doesn’t stop me from thinking about my maman, sometimes with joy, other times with sadness.Sometimes I cry when I think about her, because a mum always stays a mum, and we only have one. She will stay with me all my life. I often heard : “Oh that poor little Justine, she has lived some very hard times …” Yes, that’s true, but it created a character and you can’t stop that. It has hardened me but it has also made me more fragile. I’m a lot more sensitive because I find life has been unfair. I know it all sound a bit paradoxical.Yes, I think about it every day. I would have loved to share a lot more things with her, but I also know that we lived the things we shared together with such anintensity that I can’t have any regrets.I miss her, I can’t tell you how much. The day of my marriage, I thought about it a lot, I would have wished she was there. Sometimes, I dream, I lose myself in my thoughts and then I see her arriving at my door, knocking on my door. I still dream about that today.

No matter what, I hope, and I’m sure she’s very proud of me. Not because of the player I am, but because of the woman I became, for the things I stand for. I hope she’s proud of me because of all that. I’m sure she’s proud of my results too, and of the way I fight on the court.She is no longer there, but in a way, she is there, in my heart, and one day I will see her again, and we will share everything we didn’t share up till now.”

I'm sure Justine's mum must be very proud of her strong daughter and the way she lives with her life now. Her mum will watch over her, will bless her, I believe that so. Justine Believes too. ALLEZ JUSTINE! I love you too!
To all ppl in the world, may you cherish your mum, your loved ones before it's too late.

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