What does it mean to sacrifice for love?

By Michelle Villegas, OFA Regional Organizing Manager

If my parents could have moved mountains for me, our world would look much different.

There are too many stories that tell me so.

One that comes to mind is when my mother, an immigrant from Guadalajara, Mexico, let go of her small business — the dream she had built and nurtured daily for 15 years — during the financial crisis so that our family could be assured some financial stability. Her business, a children’s clothing store, had taken a hit, but she could have hung on to see it through — instead, she let it all go to take a steady job and keep us afloat.

I’ve never owned a small business, but I saw up close how much of herself my mother invested in that place. It wasn’t the first dream she had to let go of — but that’s a story for later.

We asked OFA supporters about a time when they witnessed someone make a sacrifice out of love for someone else. Maybe a family member did something at a cost to themselves; maybe a friend made a hard choice for his or her family; or maybe it was a personal sacrifice made for someone they love.

Why was that so meaningful, we asked?

What does it mean to sacrifice for love?

The responses people sent were touching. Check out some of my favorites below — and feel free to submit your own here, if you’d like to.

My mom worked for NYC as a secretary. Not making much money to support her three children with an apartment, food, and clothing. We were happy to get hand-me-downs from cousins.

I remember meals made from one can of salmon mixed with a lot of saltines to stretch a dinner of salmon patties to feed four of us. My brother was a growing teen.

Mom never missed work, even though she kept the secret of having congestive heart failure to herself. With cardboard in the bottom of her high heels to fill the holes, she always looked well put together.

She gave her life taking care of us, dying at 45 years old. My little sister was 13 and my big brother was 20.

My brother kept a steady job and supported us without complaint. We were fortunate that he was mature for his age.

Thank you, Mom and Richard. I will miss you forever.

— Justine S

My dad is a Vietnam veteran. Every day he flies the American flag right above the Marine Corps flag in his yard at the house he bought after working hard all his life to be able to buy a house for his retirement. I have mental illness, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder that I have struggled with since I was a teenager. Homelessness is no stranger to me. All my adult life I have struggled with keeping a job; the stress from a job inevitably landed me in the hospital, which led me to lose my job and end up on the streets. My dad bought a house with an extra bedroom he didn’t need just so I could stay there while I applied for Social Security Disability, so I wouldn’t have to be on the streets anymore. I now have my own place; and he still has that extra bedroom that he now uses for a den. I am forever thankful to my father for buying a house with an extra bedroom so I wouldn’t have to be on the streets or in a shelter.

— Shannon G

My mother left a loving family and community in rural Kansas to go with her husband to the frontier of Fairbanks, Alaska, in order for him to find steady employment — a place 4000 miles from home where she knew not a soul. She did it to so that her children could live with our father, and so that our father could have the dignity of providing for his family. She was lonely, she sacrificed the joys of daily interaction and mutual support that had been her whole life’s experience until then.

— Magaretha H

My mother sacrificed many things for me and my siblings — she also helped my grandmother in Tijuana and Ensenada, she was also a Villegas. My family was very close and shared what they had freely with us. I will always remember what values they taught me. They are all gone now, but not forgotten.
 — Bert/Darlene M

Giving up a career at the department of defense, and all its responsibilities for the sake of saving three lives within your family is beyond compare. Despite the tremendous opportunities, exposures, and the power that came with it, despite the honor, and letters from presidents, it a far better thing I have done, than I have ever done before, out of love.
 — Michael A

My sister left an abusive relationship, moving her kids to Africa and sending them to boarding school to further their education. She is now in India with one child who graduated from Penn State, one attending his last year in college in Georgia, and my other nephew in college in Canada. For the love of her children, she went around the world, keeping them away from the abuse and exposing them to places and people some of us will never see. She is the best. Love you, Quin. +

— Charlene M

My husband and I own a small business with no employees. He works on outside jobs while I stay in the shop. When our son became seriously ill, I took him to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. We live in Northern California. My son and I were at the Mayo Clinic for two weeks. My husband told us we MUST go. He had to close the business during the times he was on outside jobs. He took extra jobs after hours to make up for the business being closed much of the time for two weeks. He did it for our son to receive the best health care possible.

My widowed mother also gave us her credit card to pay for our plane flights. She was on a fixed income, yet wanted her young grandson to go wherever he could receive the best care.

— Elizabeth M

I am the one who sacrificed and was glad to do it, but now I only pray I do not have to choose between health care and housing. I gave up my career and life to move home and be the 24/7 caregiver for my father with Alzheimer’s. I did not get to add to my retirement or social security during my peak earning years. He survived much longer than expected and after seven years, I was diagnosed with MS. Because I had been out of work so long, I do not qualify for disability. Almost two years ago he died. No disability, too young for social security, I am living off of my father’s savings and getting ready to sell my house to survive. That’s what I did for love.

— Marylucia A

My father came from Mexico at the age of 11 crossing the border illegally for a better life with his mother. He planted roots here in the US, never attended school but self-studied. I was very proud of him and he was a true patriot becoming a citizen, reading and studying about world affairs, working hard in the fields and sacrificing to raise his family. He had 14 children but never sought or received any kind of assistance from the government or anyone else. He was extremely proud that five of his sons served in the US military. He felt it an honor that he contributed to this country. He taught us to study hard, work hard, and be good human beings. He died at the age of 96 from a broken heart, as my mother had died the previous year. They had been married 72 years!

— Frances D

What I know is that if you truly love someone, if it’s actually real, then 1) nothing they will ever say, do, or be can change how you feel about them; and 2) nothing is ‘too much’ to be or do/give up FOR them, including, if need be, your life.

I know this from first-hand experience. The only person I ever loved more than life is gay. But when I found out, it changed nothing. Though I’ll never get a chance, there’s nothing I wouldn’t gladly do for him. And if losing my life would save his, I’d lay it down in less than half a heartbeat!


— Robbi C

My aunt was a respected woman by her peers and her daughter. However, she was concerned her daughter was at risk of committing suicide. She walked in on an attempt and forcibly took her to the hospital. My cousin never forgave my aunt, but I suppose that is what she sacrificed for her daughter’s life — her daughter’s trust.

— Isabellah F

I’m a woman from NY state and am 50 years old. When I was 14 years old, I was diagnosed with a mental illness. When I was 17 years old, I signed myself into a psychiatric hospital because I was a mess. My family came together. My dad took control of the financial part of it, and my mom quit her job so she could visit me every day. My sister, who was 14 at that time, became a lawyer because she saw my pain and wanted to be able to achieve what I could not. It humbled my whole family. Today I’ve been able to live an independent life on my own because of the support from my family.

— Sari L

For almost 30 years, my late father’s decision to accept a job contract to work overseas in order to provide us with quality education. For learning is the root, the seed and the first principle of all that is good.

I witnessed firsthand the personal sacrifice my parents had to endure for the sake of their children. My late mother raised us and helped support eight of her nieces and nephew and three siblings — she basically took her responsibility without any complaint. She was a strong woman with a high moral authority.

— Lourdes C

My experience is of a time when our nation seemed to be kinder and less onerous.

I came from a communist nation at the age of 12. I came unaccompanied. My parents sent me because of a fear I would be indoctrinated by the communist regime. These were the early sixties. For a variety of reasons, my parents could not follow me. Borders were closed and the escape was risky.

I never thought much of my experience from anyone’s point of view but my own. Then my two sons reached the age I was when I came to America. Instantly I understood what sacrifice for love meant. The sacrifice out of love my parents made 15 years earlier was repeated when they left everything they have known in their life to be with their loved son.

— Carlos C

I am a caregiver for my husband. He is 87 & was diagnosed with Dementia last year. Today is our 59 anniversary.

— Doris Kay S

This may not sound like much to some. But to me as a high school student it was everything. And still today at 63 I realize what a huge sacrifice it actually was especially since I have new information on my family history. My parents always had very used cars that were not so reliable and not at all attractive. My parents were finally in a position to get a nicer used vehicle(a Galaxy 500)and it was even parked in our garage for one night. The same day I had been to the orthodontist and found out I needed to have major, and for us, very expensive work done. The next day the Galaxy 500 went back to the dealer and I got my braces. I have been thankful ever since for that sacrifice.

— Bev P

My father died very young, leaving my mother with three young children to raise & with a falling-down house they had purchased & he was fixing up. She worked full time & several times took a second job to support us & provide us with an education. She was a Canadian immigrant, first working as a domestic before marrying my dad. No doubt her story is only one of many that depict a story of love & personal sacrifice.

— Mary Cheryl S

I do this every day, as many parents do when we care more about our kids and their well being. I have a husband who was willing to get a home that would provide enough room for my kids so they would have a place with us if ever needed and working hard to provide for me since I had to stop working in 2011 due to a disability.

— Jeryl S

My daughter and I have gone without so that I could ensure that no student ever has to go through what I have in order to successfully complete their education.

We have lived and worked in our community in a manner that allowed us to give a voice to women and children living in poverty, articulate the needs of low-income and disabled individuals, and support an American future that offers safety and growth of opportunities for our fellow citizens.

— Terri V

When my mother was diagnosed with kidney disease, she chose to refuse dialysis. Without a word being said, I knew why she had made that choice — it was out of love for all of us who would have had to take care of her and get her to the hospital every other day. Her last words to my brother were “it’s time.” I plan to make the same choice if my time comes.

— Charlotte K

My grandparents left everything behind in Italy to emigrate to this country in the early 1900s so they could provide a better life for their family. They raised seven kids in this country. They had a fairly large house and took in boarders. My grandma made them meals of their choice, as if it were a restaurant, rather than making one big meal for everyone. She did their laundry by hand. All this on top of caring for seven kids. She also loomed rugs for income, and did that at night after all the kids were in bed. My grandpa worked several jobs at a time. Each of the seven kids did very well, and all their kids (my first cousins) are professionals — doctors, lawyers, and I am an RN. My grandparents instilled the importance of education and hard work into their children, and the values of our Italian heritage. Their sacrifices, which were huge, were done out of Love for their family. I will be forever grateful.

— Paula L

My parents are my heroes. I was sick a few years ago and my parents never stopped supporting me. Without them I would be living on the streets right now. Or even worse. I owe them so much. They sacrificed a lot just to give me and my sister a good life. I hope, one day, I can give something back. Something that equals all the sacrifices they made.

— Tobias L

Mom mommy-tracked for years because of my autism. She always planned to wait until I was able to talk to work. She just had to wait longer.

— RK

Every rally and march shows Americans who care about not only our democracy but the people who live in this country. Many people did not even have ObamaCare, however they came to support the ones that did. To me it is an act of kindness and love to support your neighbors and families affected by the insults of the current administration.

— Gregory R

My parents are an inspiration to me. They have sacrificed so much for their family. My father was disabled with Muscular Dystrophy and I know that he was in a great deal of pain, but he never complained and he went to work every day. My mother was in a motor vehicle accident and was disabled when I was 8 years old — and she also continued to work for many years after that. In fact, both of them continued to work for decades and showed us that you never give up. My parents supported me emotionally throughout my whole life; they were my biggest cheerleaders and believed in me when I didn’t necessarily believe in myself.

I remember that my dad was so nervous when I got married because he was so afraid that he would stumble and cause me to fall; it was the first time that he leaned on me. My husband and I had three children, which were the pride and joy of my parents’ lives. My parents loved each other deeply and were not afraid to show their love for each other or their love for all their children and grandchildren. They always taught us to say “I love you” when you say goodbye to someone, because it may be the last chance you have — and you don’t ever want to miss an opportunity to let people know that you love them.

I know that family meant the world to them both. They were so proud that all of their children went to college; my brother has an associates degree in accounting, and my sister and I have doctorate degrees. Before my father died, he told me that he couldn’t believe how lucky he was in life; to have lived such a full life and to have had such a wonderful wife, children, and grandchildren. My mother believes that she was equally as lucky to have shared her life with my father. They really complimented each other very well. They taught us a great many lessons over the years; from carpentry work with Dad and sewing lessons with Mom, I learned a lot of life skills that have helped me out over the years.

But what they really did was show the rest of us how to overcome adversity and live with dignity despite our physical limitations (my brother and sister both have Muscular Dystrophy, too). They taught all of us many lessons in life: 1) to never give up on yourself or what you believe in, 2) never stop helping others, 3) take time to spend with your family, because they are what life is really all about, 4) love in great abundance, 5) don’t spend time on the things that are not healthy for your life, and 6) live life to the fullest degree that you are able to.

I feel very lucky to have been born into my family. I was given parents that sacrificed everything that they had so that their children could be given every opportunity to succeed.

— Ronda S

Wow, that’s a very good question. Not to make any mistakes, I’ll have to nominate myself. I’ve sacrificed a lot for others during my lifetime. I think part of my job on Earth is to help spread love and goodwill wherever I can. Three months at my health club, people are now coming up to talk to me. This is good stuff. They show their love through encouragement to achieve my health goals, or at least that six-pack I’ve been dreaming about. What you give you get back. Connect the heart and mind, then possibilities become endless.

— George B

I am 65 — a child of the 1950s. My mom was a working woman at a time when most other mothers were “Leave it to Beaver” stay-at-home moms. My dad worked also. Mom could have stayed home, but they both worked so that we might be able to afford a better life that included things like a home and a college education for me and my brother. This was before the sexual revolution when men and women’s roles in the home started to be redefined. It was an adjustment for my dad, who I am sure was seen by other men as less of a man because his wife worked. But it was an even bigger adjustment for my mom, who worked all day and then came home to do a wife and mother’s work.

This was also before the days of electric dryers. I remember my mom on cold, windy winter’s nights hanging out the diapers and other clothes on the line in the dark backyard so that we would have clean clothes to wear. There were many other sacrifices large and small, but this one always comes back to me.

— Henry B

Years ago at my father’s auto shop, a man stopped in and asked if there was anything he could do to make some money to feed his family. My father gave him some work on the lawn of my grandparents’ home, which was next door. When he was done all he could, he asked if my dad could find another hour of work so he could buy a 50-pound bag of potatoes to feed his family. He got the extra time. The work ethic to care for his family, and my father’s willingness to help, stuck with me all my life — and now I’m 70 and will never forget that lesson.

— John H

When you have a selfless love, you do things without expecting anything in return. I took care of my parents for 17 years. My mom was disabled and felt hopeless.

I couldn’t have just any career like everyone else. Therefore, I made jewelry — and once a month I would go to a nearby flea market and sell it. In this way, I had money to spend on my parents and be near my children. I was 31 when my life stopped. I was also self-learning many topics so that I would not be behind science.

Life is unpredictable. But we have to enjoy it to the fullest.

— Farideh D

When you get lemons you make lemonade. I started working part-time at 16, then after high school I started working full-time, married, and four months after our daughter was born I went back to work — and I have been working ever since. My last job I worked almost 30 years. In 1989 (while working), I made three pairs of earrings for a co-worker, and everyone wanted at least three pairs of earrings. From then on I was in business. Then, for my best friend I sewed a lines jacket — and after that I was an arts & crafts vendor. Now I am 70 years old & I’m still selling my wares at craft shows and I LOVE IT….

My mother was my role model. She never let anyone walk over her, and worked hard all her life. I don’t have her personality but I do have her work ethic.

— Mona J

And a word of advice for us all to keep in mind:

Give as much time as you can to someone who needs it.

— Paul V

Originally published at www.ofa.us.