A friend of mine shared a video of a sermon she preached in her congregation on Mothers Day. She introduced the video with a brief note stating that she wasn’t sure if her mother would approve of her sharing some of the parts of her life. My friend’s mother was a teacher, so I suspect she would be proud of her daughter’s keen insight and love of laughter as well as her ability to turn everyday situations into real learning opportunities for her congregation.
What struck me most about her words was her closing statement: “Live. And I mean really live because your story is never over.”
I’ve not celebrated Mothers Day with my mom since 2004, the year she died. Instead, I spend time reflecting on all the things she was and is in my life. There are some significant things that come back year after year for me that keep her story going.
She nurtured my independent streak.
This is my favorite story about myself from childhood. As my mother told it, the day I started kindergarten, she drove me to school. When she stopped the car, I opened the door and got out. And when she turned off the car, I looked at her and asked in a very startled tone, “Where are you going?” She told me very calmly that she would walk me to my classroom and I responded by saying, “I know where it is. Bye!” I closed the car door and ran off toward the school doors. She burst into tears as she drove to her office, but then what brought her from sadness to joy was her realization that no matter what life threw my way, I’d be fine. She then made sure I learned how to function in the world.
She taught me the importance of laughter.
Erma Bombeck was my mother’s favorite writer. She read every word Ms. Bombeck ever published and played “If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What am I Doing in the Pits?” LP every year as we started decorating our house for Christmas. By the time I was 10, I had every line from that record memorized. And what I came to realize quickly was that finding the laughter in life’s foibles was her chief coping mechanism. I use that same coping mechanism almost daily.
She was the original reigning monarch of the list and used lists for everything.
As a kid, I didn’t always appreciate the crushing burden of a list. But as an adult, there is no greater piece of wisdom my mom could have passed on to me than, “use a list so you get it all done.” Whether it’s grocery shopping, weekend projects, or managing my day, I take great joy in crossing items off my list when they are completed. Disclaimer: sometimes I put things on my list that I’ve already completed only for the delight of crossing them off. This is especially effective on days I don’t feel productive.
She never shied away from showing her emotions.
Growing up a gay young man, I hid a lot of things in an attempt to be like the other boys my age. As I grew up and grew into myself, I stopped hiding things from people with one exception: my emotions. I fought the need to express the full range of my emotions until I was well into my 40s. When I finally gave myself permission to experience all the emotions I was actually feeling, my world changed. I became more empathetic with people. I actually felt joy when they shared good news with me and felt piercing pain when they shared something sad. I’ve even cried with clients during coaching sessions when their experience moved me to the point of tears. I didn’t realize what a gift connecting with people at an emotional level could be, but now I cherish that connection daily.
Each time I connect to the things my mom taught me, I re-energize her story in my life. I also use this metaphor in my coaching practice. Almost every person I coach has experienced the loss of someone close and we visit grief, loss, and moving on. When we talk about ways to honor that person, I see the impact and feel the great joy my clients experience. And we then connect on a deep level that makes me appreciate the gifts my mom gave me even more.
How will your story live on beyond your lifetime? Let’s find out together!