Mom’s Second Life — A Second Chance

She almost died. That’s why she lived.

Today’s story is from Yonsenia White.

Arnetta White. My mother. Born in poverty. The youngest of twelve. She faced racism, sexism and segregation. And a troubled marriage, as well.

Mom was our rock.

Kevin (standing left), Keith (seated), Mrs. Arnetta White, Mr. Henry White (Yon’s father), Me (infant)

After Dad left, Mom filled both parenting roles. She shined at both. We rarely felt an absence of dad.

But she never complained. Her strength of character and faith in God got us all through some difficult times. Her heart was so big, her effort so great; she made many sacrifices for us. In all of my life, I‘ve seen Mom cry only twice.

She raised my brothers and me on a housekeeper’s salary. Her venue each day: twenty-some rooms on a nursing home floor. Climbing ladders. Changing curtains. Mopping floors. Removing trash. For anyone—especially a heavyset woman of 60 — backbreaking work.

Then it happened. Mom suddenly became tired, light-headed, but wanted to finish her housekeeping duties. When she got home, she felt a lot worse. My brother rushed her to the hospital.

“If you hadn’t come to the hospital when you did,” the doctor said, “you’d be dead.”
mom was our rock

Mom before surgery

Mom had been having a heart attack all day. We didn’t know then. We do now. Mom was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and told to lose the weight that had taxed her heart for many years. She was faced with a choice. Create a new life—or have none at all.

Drug-therapy, weight loss, exercise, a strict low sodium diet. She struggled to lose weight, and was advised to undergo the gastro-intestinal surgery for immediate results. She lost over 200 pounds—going from size 34 to a 14.

With a renewed body and healing heart, Mom’s now the picture of health.

My Mom of the past expired that day. A new one emerged.

Mom was our rock

Mom 6 years post surgery

With twice the spunk and joie de vivre as before. And now, at 70, Mom has retired from housekeeping, as an award-winning employee of 30 years. With five grandchildren, Mom has five more reasons to live.

Remember my mom was my mom. My mom was my dad. What did I learn from my mom and my dad?

Life presents us with many struggles. We fall down but we must get up.

And when it comes to our health, we must take better care of the bodies we’ve been given—no matter what stage of life.

For Mom? A second chance at life… It was just what the doctor ordered!

Arnetta White is a native of Newport News, Virginia and a graduate of George W. Carver High School. She has four children and five grandchildren. Mrs. White is now twice retired from working as a housekeeper in the Riverside Regional Health System for thirty years.

Yonsenia White is a graduate of Homer L. Ferguson High School in Newport News, Virginia. She is an alumni of Virginia Tech, Rutgers University, and is currently working on her Masters of Science in Art Therapy & Counseling at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Virginia. She is a tenured professor of studio art and a professional artist. Her website is

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