I went from I. AM. SAD to just spinning out in what seemed like the blink of an eye. Mom’s illness progressed much more quickly than any of us thought possible and she passed from this world peacefully on Easter Sunday. She was surrounded by the people she loved the most (and who loved her back) and she really did go out on her own terms. If death can be beautiful, then her’s most certainly was.
She didn’t want a funeral, so we held a Celebration of Life in her honor. I wrote this reflection on my Mom and her greatest (of many) gift to me.
A REFLECTION ON MY MOTHER
(April 14, 2018) During the last two weeks I have been asked countless times by friends, colleagues, and family members “How are you?” and I guess my answer is that it’s all a matter of perspective. I’ve been reflecting on my Mom a lot over the past few months as I’m sure you can imagine… How much I love her… What a special person she is… What an awesome “Ga” she was to Josh, Will, Maggie, and Sabrina… What a wonderful gift she was to all of us. Thinking about it, I believe one of the greatest gifts she ever gave me was the gift of perspective.
The glass was always half-full for Mom – she understood the power of positive thinking intuitively at the soul level. When things happened throughout her life that anyone looking in from the outside would consider to be negative, or obstacles, or even tragic, Mom would always get this thoughtful, far-away look on her face and just smile and say, “Oh well, everything will work out the way it’s supposed to.”
She always told me that if I wanted something badly enough and was willing to work for it, I could have it, without question. She never cautioned me to dumb down my dreams or to fashion a “Plan B.” She was my biggest fan and most ardent cheerleader.
Mom was my very first life coach, although I didn’t realize it at the time, and sadly, for much of my adult life I viewed her as somewhat foolish and impractical – a dreamer. But what I failed to notice for a very long time was that my mother – that wishful thinker and pie in the sky dreamer – was actually a very competent “DOER.”
Behind the scenes, without a lot of fanfare she raised two pretty amazing daughters, working multiple jobs to make sure we had everything we needed (and most of what we wanted). Then, once we launched out into the world, 25 years after most of her peers, she reclaimed HER life. The amount of courage she must have had to summon in order to shed the comfortable cloak of a Virginia Tech secretary and go back to college in her 40’s must have been incredible. But she did it and she did it with passion and she created the life that she had only dared to dream for all those years while she was raising her babies.
How many of us do that?
How many of us have the guts and the courage to follow our dreams when EVERYTHING in our outside world tells us that we are being foolish, including the people who are closest to us?
When I ponder the legacy of my mother – my son’s grandmother – I hope that she will be remembered as the eternal optimist who lived by the Quaker creedo – “Pray, but move your feet!” I hope that whenever any of us think of Mom we remember her steadfast belief that we can have ANYTHING we want badly enough if we are willing to have the courage to rise above our circumstances of the moment and go to work for it.
My perspective of my mother’s life has shifted dramatically over the years and I am oh so grateful that God chose her to be my Mom.
So when people ask me how I am or if I’m sad I hope I’m able to muster up that same far-away look and wistful smile and tell them that everything is just as she wanted it to be – just as it’s supposed to be. That we should all be so lucky to live our lives on our own terms all the way to the end.
Before I sit down, I’d like to read a poem I found that really speaks to the gift of perspective – a gift my Mom gave everyone she ever encountered.
“She’s Gone” by David Harkins
You can shed tears that she is gone
Or you can smile because she has lived
You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her
Or you can be full of the love that you shared
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday
You can remember her and only that she is gone
Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on
You can cry and close your mind,
be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what she would want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on.
I look out at all of you gathered together in this sanctuary and the common thread that binds us all together is Alice. You call her “friend,” “colleague,” “teacher,” “cousin,” “sister” and even “Ga,” but Anna and I have the happy privilege and honor to be able to call her “Mom.”
On a fun note, my sisters and I got to spend some quality time together and even recreated an old childhood photo. (No Old Mil was consumed in the re-enactment of this photo… blech)