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She left him this morning while he was at church. My brother drove five hours to come and take her to stay with his family. After seven years, she finally got up the courage and bailed. I have never been more proud of her than I am in this moment.

She left the abuse, the control, the hate, the mind games. She left the drugs, the crime, the lies and the stealing. She left him for going through her things and screaming at her every day. She left him for punching her in her sleep when she snored. She left him for telling her when she could or couldn’t eat or leave the house or come visit me and her granddaughter. She just… left.

She left.

History has a way of repeating itself, especially when it comes to relationships. And her history has been on repeat since 1970. Every man she has ever been with has treated her like the scum of the earth: my dad, her boyfriend of 10 years (after divorcing my dad), and now him. I would be lying if I said I thought none of this was her fault because she chose this. She has continually chosen this, but that doesn’t mean she deserves it. Nobody deserves this.

Her bouts with mental illness have plagued her for most of her adult life. It’s like the men she chooses know that she is weak. They prey upon those who seem to “need some help.”

My mother has been homeless on the streets, homeless in shelters, fed by soup kitchens, and by the kindness of strangers. She’s been in and out of mental hospitals and failed relationships more times than I can remember. She has been raped, assaulted, kidnapped and abandoned on the side of the road in her underwear in a blizzard. And through all of that, she lived. She lived through it.

But today? She finally ended it on her own. She didn’t wait to be kicked out or told that he was done with her. She didn’t wait to end up in a hospital or shelter or on the side of the road… or worse. She left on her own, by her own free will. She didn’t wait until she was no longer strong enough to go.

I always used to tell her the analogy of the frog in the pot: If you throw a frog into pot of boiling water, he will instinctively know that the water is too hot and leap out. But if you put a frog in a pot of cool water, and gradually increase the temperature, he won’t notice that things aren’t right, and will let you boil him alive and kill him. She was that frog. The one who started out in a relationship being wined and dined and showered with gifts. But soon those things started to go away, and slowly the little jabs at her self-esteem became major blows, both mentally and physically. She didn’t notice… or maybe she did but soon nothing became shocking; nothing “burned” her.

I asked her this morning what finally made her snap. She said she heard them talking outside her door when they thought she was asleep plotting how they would “off her.” Whether it’s the illness talking, or the truth, I will never know. And it does not matter.

She left.

She is free.

I am so proud of you, Mom.