This is a tribute to mothers everywhere and a tribute to my mother who died almost sixteen years ago at the age of forty-nine after a prolonged battle with juvenile diabetes. Now, at almost forty-seven myself, I realize just how young she was when she died. It was hard on all of us and I think this is the first time I’ve ever really been able to write about her. For many years, Mother’s Day was difficult, almost unbearable, for me. Even though I had babies of my own when my mom passed away, Mother’s Day had become a painful reminder that I’d lost mine. It was a memorial day reminding me of the spectacular, loving woman who was no longer part of my life. A touchstone to my grief.
However, as I thought about it this year, I see that my mother does live on. In me, and in my children, because she gave me a mother’s heart. So I wanted to share with you what I learned from my mother. And everything she gave to me, I have passed on to my three boys.
First, my mother taught me to love. Honestly, she was the most sensitive, intuitive woman I've ever known. It was from her that I learned to navigate the sometimes scary, often riotous, always complicated mine fields of personal relationships with my friends, family, boyfriends, teachers, and my husband. It’s from her I learned that you must always tell someone you love them and never take it for granted. People matter. Every single one of them. Do what you can to let them know how important they are in your life. And if you've got a problem, you talk it out. You didn't hide.
Second, from her, I learned emotion is good and passion is healthy. Emotion wasn't something you feared. Being human gave you the ability to live life passionately. She didn't hide her emotions from us--her compassion, her generosity, her love, her joy, her sadness, her anger, her bitterness, her gratitude, her courage. None of it. So I learned not to stuff those emotions away when they came along. To never fear them. I could experience them and learn to understand them. Bottom line, she taught me emotional intelligence and the importance of authenticity. And that passion was the life-breath of the heart.
Third, I gained an understanding that what you do with your emotions is important. Even though you were allowed to experience and express your emotions freely, you weren't free to hurt others. You had a responsibility to take care of those around you, those you loved. And, most importantly, you didn't use those experiences as an excuse to wallow or stagnate. You pushed through, despite your circumstances.
Fourth, I learned to fight for what you want. My mom was the consummate feisty, strong-willed woman. She was a fighter. Even to the end, with all the complications she faced and the suffering, she fought hard for what she wanted--to live life fully. From her, I've gained a tenacity to keep fighting for what I want most. Life takes a lot of courage. Fighting for what you want is not easy, but it’s necessary for your happiness.
Fifth, and finally, I was taught that strong women work hard but still know how to enjoy life. My mom was the oldest daughter in the family of eight kids. From an early age, she helped take care of her siblings. She married young--right out of high school. So work was not foreign to her. She’d always known it, and labored hard over the years to help my dad provide for us--to give my brother and me everything we needed to succeed. But there’s not a time I don’t remember her being there with us, sitting on the front porch, talking, enjoying the moment, and really listening. So while she worked hard, she lived in the moment. Always fully present. That’s a great lesson.
So here’s to all the mothers out there who give so much of themselves every day without even realizing they’re instilling a mother’s heart into their kids. Thank you. Thanks for the lessons you provide that carry us through a lifetime. We love you and thank you!
Tell us a treasured lesson you learned from you mom.