I realize that I’ve been quiet for a long while. Last year was hard for me. Amid the hustle and bustle of teaching full-time, raising two elementary kids, being a partner to my husband, running a household, and sneaking in writing, I was stopped in my tracks—my mom took a turn for the worse.
My mom had suffered for a long time with PSP (Progressive Supranuclear Palsy), think Parkinson’s disease on crack. There is nothing more heartbreaking than to watch an independent person be robbed of the things that they love most. My mother was an artist who made everything she touched more beautiful. This disease stole the use of her hands, then all motor function, followed by her ability to speak, and ultimately her life.
My multiple trips north to Oregon were to help my dad and see my mom as much as possible. In July, I flew up to help transition my mom to hospice care. They said she had a few months, but after I flew home, it was only a few days. My dad had tirelessly taken care of her. He meant it when he said “for better or worse, in sickness or in health.” This month would have been their 50th wedding anniversary.
It has been five months, and it has taken me this long to process enough to write about…well, much of anything. It is hard for me to be this open in public. By nature, I am very optimistic and upbeat, but I tend to keep my pain private. So, instead of not saying anything, I wanted to honor my mom and share a glimpse of her wisdom.
- Be nice.
The old adage, “You catch more flies with honey, than you do with vinegar” definitely applies here. She believed that people get angry far too soon. There is a time for it, but try to be nice first. You would be amazed at what that woman would get by just being pleasant and understanding. But honestly, what does putting people on the defensive right away do? Nothing but make another person cranky. If everyone was a little nicer, the world would be a better place. Compassion needs more emphasis in our society.
- Go to Those Who Know.
Put away the pride and ask an expert. In the age of Google, this may not seem as important, but never underestimate the value of good old-fashioned human connection. Not only can you gain lifelong friends, you may pick up more inspiration than you would have from Wikipedia.
- You Aren’t Entitled to Anything.
Roll up your sleeves and put in the work. No one owes you anything. You are responsible for yourself. If you fail, learn from it and try again. If you fail again, fail better—and try it again.
- Learn Something Everyday.
My mom never knew what she wanted to be when she grew up, but she loved learning. Consequently, she was always taking classes to push herself, whether it was china painting, quilting, or something else to fuel her creativity.It was also important for her to grow that in her children. From a young age, she dragged my brother and I to plays, concerts, and anything else we could afford. My parents toted us all over the country and into Canada towing a tiny tent trailer. She wanted well-rounded children with a wide variety of experience. I can’t thank my parents enough for that.
- Be Present.
If you are going to be somewhere, actually be there. You aren’t doing anyone any good if your head is elsewhere. Take a deep breath and enjoy yourself, even if you are at work.
- Be Still and Listen.
My mom was master of the cozy chat. She knew when to talk, when to listen, and when it was time for a truth bomb. Yeah, some of those hurt. Too often we run from one thing to the next. We need to practice putting away distractions (and our phones) and listening more.
- People Matter.
When people needed help, my mom was there. I can’t tell you how many people stayed in the spare room for days…weeks…and even months when they needed it. My mom taught me that it is important to be there for people and to have a warm and welcoming home.
- Stop and Smell the Roses—Literally.
My mom knew the name of every flower. When we would go on walks (and later when I pushed her in a wheelchair) she would stop and point out all of the beauty around us. It could be the smell of sweet peas growing on a low lattice, the shape of a wisp of clouds moving in a silvery blue sky, the unique striations in some tree bark, or the iridescent beauty of a seashell.
- Step Back and Look at the Big Picture.
She had an ability to put things in perspective. My best friend recently recalled when my mom asked her why she was going out to lunch at local restaurants everyday at work. My mom pointed out that the cost of her lunch was an hour and a half of her wages that day, so wouldn’t it be better to bring a bag lunch and only go out on special occasions. Whether you are trying to save money or navigate a relationship, it is wise to take a step back and look at a practical view of situations.
- Surround Yourself with People Who Make You Better.
I think this is probably one of the best bits of advice my mom brainwashed me with, I mean, gave to me. It is especially important when dating, but also for life in general. If you surround yourself with people who only make you feel good, but don’t challenge you in any way you will stagnate as a person. Don’t be an evil dictator who surrounds yourself by sycophants. Ha.
My mom wasn’t perfect, but she was a good person who made the world a better place.