Life Lessons From Our Mothers Live On

This is my 10th Mother’s Day without my mother. And my husband’s eighth without his.

It’s always a time of reflection. Sometimes it seems longer, and sometimes it doesn’t seem that long.

For many of you, this may be your first, and those “firsts” are tough — whether it’s Mother’s Day, a birthday, an anniversary or that first holiday. These are powerful triggers that start building before the event — and endure after it’s over.

Like the old saying reminds us, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” We rush to fill up those empty spaces. It’s a rude awakening when we realize we can’t. Others can step in to fill roles — a relative, a blended family member or a close friend. As we all know, though, it’s not quite the same.

Those ‘firsts’ and practicing patience

If this is a “first” for you, you may be feeling numb. In the aftermath of my loss, I remember thinking, “Nothing I do today will be of any significance.” I wondered if I’d ever regain my zest for life.

As trite as it sounds, time did heal some things. I’m now able to look back and remember my mom with more nostalgia and less grief. One thing I’ve found ironic is that the things my mom did that used to irritate me at times are the very things I miss the most. Which is a good lesson for the here and now.

Whenever I start to get impatient over some habit of a loved one, I’m going to stop and reflect on this. When they’re no longer around, the small annoyance will stop. But so will everything else. Is it really worth getting that upset about — or wishing away?

As an alternative, how ‘bout giving some thought to those specific things that bring delight to your loved one? Rather than the traditional observances, you may want to dig deep to come up with customized ways to honor her.

When the relationship is strained

For many of you, this will be a day of celebration and joy. And, for others, it could conjure up feelings of sadness. This may be further complicated if you have — or had — a strained or dysfunctional relationship with your mother. Or, perhaps, you never knew her.

There’s a tendency to buy into all of the “Hallmark” happiness that starts to swirl weeks before Mother’s Day and think that’s the only perspective. As a reality check, though, it’s helpful to realize there is no “one size fits all.”

Heartfelt wisdom from readers

Speaking of perspective, I want to share some of the wonderful tributes I’ve received from readers over the years. Many arrived after I bared my soul in that initial column after my mother’s passing, “What do you do when your world suddenly stops?”

If you had a healthy relationship and lost your mother this past year — or even if she departed five, 10 or 20 years ago — you can likely relate to some of these sentiments:

  • Be gentle with yourself. Act like you’ve just had open-heart surgery. This is a significant life event.
  • You’ll never forget. You’ll always honor her every day — by how you live and who you are.
  • Rest assured in the knowledge that your mother’s love for you will never, never, never die.

A whimsical approach to life lessons

For another perspective, I’d like to share these words of wisdom from my niece, Caity, upon the death of her grandmother.

“This truly is a celebration of one of my favorite people — my friend, my mentor, my coach, my Grandma (most recently upgraded to “GG” for Great Grandma).

“Grandma was very wise. Through this wisdom she has taught me some of life’s most important lessons. She conveyed these lessons, not through lengthy lectures … rather, by example.”

  • Treat others as you want to be treated. If they don’t treat you the same in return, forget about them.
  • Take good care of your teeth.
  • Never let your gas tank dip below half full. You never know when you could run into car trouble.
  • Speaking of car trouble, make sure you’re always wearing nice underwear. If something happens, you don’t want the emergency team seeing your old underwear.
  • Be willing to do whatever it takes to help someone in need. However, don’t ever let helping someone else hurt you.
  • Treat your body with respect.
  • Listen to your children.
  • Clip coupons — and find a store that doubles them.
  • Treat material objects with respect. Whether it’s your clothes or your car, someone worked hard to make a way for you to have nice things.
  • Be the best mother you can be. Know that children are a blessing. Love them with everything you have.
  • Wash your hands — at least 37 times a day.
  • There’s always an alternative to something that isn’t good for you. Instead of alcohol, fill your glass with ginger ale once in awhile.
  • Make those around you feel like the most special people in the world.
  • Look nice — even if you don’t feel like it. It makes a difference.
  • Tell the truth, even if you think it will upset someone you care about.
  • Do what it takes to keep your marriage strong.
  • The only person who can stop you
  • is you.
  • Leave everything a little better than you found it. This may take a few bottles of Clorox and boxes of steel wool, but it’s possible!

Caity’s grandmother — and my mother — certainly did leave the world a little better than she found it.

Today — and for generations to come — her wisdom will live on.