In an essay for Guideposts, actor Courtney B. Vance opened up about what it was like to take care of his mother as she battled ALS, and how his faith in God helped him through it.
“It was heartbreaking for my mother to end up so helpless when she’d always been a helper. She was a librarian, involved in groups all over Detroit, our hometown – literacy programs, homeless shelters, Habitat for Humanity, book clubs, a recycling center, and more,” Vance shared, talking about his parents’ sacrifices for him and his sister and the work ethic they instilled in him.
The actor discussed his early life and education at Harvard University, where he discovered that acting was his passion.
“I learned to channel my emotions into a character, a scene. It was so freeing. I’d discovered my gift,” Vance said. “I didn’t realize it then – I was just taking my first tentative steps toward faith, drawn to church though I didn’t quite understand why – but through acting, God would bring me an even greater gift.”
That gift? Vance’s wife, actress Angela Bassett. The two met when Vance visited her school, Yale University, after he was accepted into their graduate program.
“She was graduating that May. I wouldn’t start school until fall. I had a meeting with a financial-aid officer, and then Angela and a couple of other students took me around,” he said, detailing their fast friendship. The two were both dating other people at the time, so they didn’t go out until years later.
However, the date was a disaster: “Angela is shy, I’m shy, and now that we weren’t just hanging out as friends, we didn’t know what to say to each other. It was a relief when the evening ended.”
The two ended up trying again years later, and this time, it stuck.
“We were married in 1997, on a beautiful October day. The ring I slipped on Angela’s finger has ABVGODCBV engraved on the inside – to symbolize that the two of us will keep God at the center of our marriage,” Vance shared.
His relationship with Bassett helped him through tough moments in his career, and his mother’s ALS diagnosis. Bassett was the one who encouraged Vance’s mother to move in with them so that they could take care of her.
“Even with around-the-clock nursing care, I needed time to help my mother, to do for her what she’d always done for me. Angela gave me that time, so the rhythm of our family wasn’t disrupted,” Vance said. Still, it’s hard. It’s been three years since she stopped being able to speak, and I’ve forgotten the sound of my mother’s voice. There’s not much more that can be done for her except manage her pain.”
Even though the situation is bleak, Vance and Bassett’s faith in God has helped them come to terms with her illness.
“Pain is part of life,” Vance shared. “The days that are rough, that I struggle, that’s when I’ve learned not to question God but to lean harder on his unchanging hand, his ever-present help.”
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