Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Mother's Heart

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.


  1. My earliest memory of my mom is standing at the front door, looking out, and her pointing out a robin, telling me that meant spring was here. I was a toddler and it was a moment of joy shared. It was a discovery. Perhaps even an algorithm - that to see a robin = spring. I still think of that moment and my mom when I see a robin at the end of winter. Perhaps it isn't so much a lesson as a touchstone.
    Thanks for your post, Mackenzie - I am so happy that you have come to feel your mom with you and with your kids. I'm lucky to still have mine and am thankful for every day I have with her.

  2. Mackenzie, what a beautiful essay to share with us today. Thank you for letting us get to know your mom, just a little bit, through your words and your life.

  3. Marjanna ~ What a wonderful memory. There is a lesson there, you mom taught you to notice the little things. Take time to "smell the roses" so to speak, or, in this case, notice the robins and the unfolding of spring. It's a great lesson, and I am so glad that you do still have her around teaching you lessons and helping you navigate through life. It's a blessing! Thanks for commenting. <3

  4. Thank you, Nichole! Hope you were able to enjoy your mom today. ;0)

  5. I lost my mother way too early, too, Mackenzie. She died 24 years ago at the age of 56 after a ten year battle with breast cancer. The hardest day for me is her birthday. I always give my father a call on that day and together we shed a tear for her.
    The two lessons she taught me was 1)it's important for women to be smart and independent -- she was a university professor and one of the top women in her field. And
    2) to love Regency romance. She gave me my first romance novel -- Friday's Child by Georgette Heyer and then every single book Heyer wrote. If it hadn't been for her I wouldn't be doing what I do today.

  6. Merry ~ I am sorry to hear you lost your mom early, too. Yes, her birthday is hard for me as well. I love that your mother was a university professor. You get your teaching genes from her then. And so awesome that she was the one who gave you your first romance novel. My mother, too, was an avid reader of romance and a huge influence in my love of the genre. I can't help but think she'd be proud of me today. Your mother would be amazingly proud of you, too! You are smart, independent, and a wonderful romance author. An awesome legacy of your mother's heart. Hugs.

  7. On of the best lessons my mother has taught me is to look for and appreciate beauty in all things, and in the least likely places. She's the kind of person who could look at a junkyard and say "Look at those weeds over there. What an interesting shade of green! Isn't it pretty? " That quality is something I've always tried to emulate.
    Mackenzie, thanks so much for sharing these beautiful memories of your amazing mother! ♥

  8. Misha ~ That is so wonderful. I love it! It's not only an appreciation for the beauty in the small things, but also a lovely optimism that will serve you well all throughout life. That's a great one. Thanks for sharing your life-lesson with us.

  9. A beautiful and heartfelt essay, Mackenzie. Thank you for sharing your mother with us, further reminders that we live as long as people speak of us. She sounds terrific, but I knew that already because I know her daughter. And Marjanna is right to remind us to treasure every day with our loved ones. I lost my mom after her 12 year battle with Alzheimer' last conversation with her was five years before she died because she no longer knew me, but I spoke to her up to the minute she left us. Lorraine taught me kindness is always the best response to everything including your own unhappiness with someone, because through that you can reach a person and make them see your point.

  10. Emelle ~ What valuable wisdom you gained from your mother. Thanks for sharing that with us today. I'm sure losing your mom slowly over the course of many years like that to Alzheimer's was extremely difficult. I'm sorry. Thank you for stopping by today to share your mother with us. ;0)

  11. A beautiful tribute to your mom, Mac. Through your words, I feel the loss of her too.

    One lesson I learned from my mom was not to expect any ONE person to be ALL I needed or to meet ALL my needs ALL the time. And the corollary - that I can't be that person to another either.

    What a relief! And such an important insight to remember that no one could survive that kind of single-minded relationship pressure.

    Bless moms everywhere!

  12. Keely ~ What a brilliant lesson. Thank you for sharing that one. It's one we each absolutely need in life to survive happily and with our sanity. ;0) And thank God, because that's a lot of pressure. Thanks for sharing your mother's heart. <3