|Mom and me, 1972|
She had lived with excruciating pain. Her quality of life was minimal. Yet for many years she summoned daily the strength and willpower to live.
In August, she asked for her loved ones to visit. She was ready to let go.
And so we gathered. In the middle of that nursing home visit, one of my best friends texted me unsolicited yet wholly welcome advice: “Today would be the day to tell your mom anything that’s been on your mind that you want her to know.”
And so I did.
For the rest of my life I will be thankful for those last moments with my mom and for the gentle advice that reminded me to speak of love, gratitude, forgiveness and grace.
As I’ve been mourning my mom’s too-short life, I’ve also been considering the best advice I’ve received — whether taken or ignored — from Mom and others. And I asked some friends to share some wisdom they rely on themselves.
Listen (from Julia): When I was a teenager, I was arguing back and forth with my dad about something, and he stopped me and said, “Are you listening to what I’m saying, or are you just waiting for your turn to talk?”
I didn’t understand it at the time, but as adult, I’m very aware that in most conversations, people aren’t really listening. They are just waiting for their turn to talk. A lot of people think I’m quiet, but I’m not. I’m just listening.
Love (from Angela): My mom told me that you can’t spoil children with too much love. My kids don’t get everything they want, maybe not even most of what they want, but they get all the love they want and then some!
Take risks (from Melissa): The best advice I’ve ever received is the advice I didn’t take when I should have! Don’t be afraid to take risks. I did not take enough risks when I was younger relating to my professional career. I will always regret that.
Be you (from Rodney): My dad told me to find out who you are early and be that person. It’s been a great thing for me because you really just be yourself and don’t worry about anything else. You don’t spend a second of your day worrying what anyone else thinks about you.
Good credit (from Kelli): My dad always told me good credit is something that can never be taken away from you — not very fun, but great advice that I appreciate now. When I bought my car, the salesman told me I had the credit of an 80-year-old.
Attitude (from Kalvin): “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude,” from Zig Ziglar.
Journey preparedness (from Stephanie): Never embark on a trip, regardless of distance, on foot or in a car, without emptying your bladder and filling up your water bottle. And always carry your own toilet paper. (From years of camping with the Boy Scouts.)
10 years (from Jen): On the day my 12-year-old was born, my mom said, “You get 10 good years to pour into him, that is it. Use them wisely.”
Forgiveness (from Kristin): Forgiveness is a gift you really give yourself (especially if it’s yourself you are forgiving).
Keep connected (from Katrina): Don’t leave the workforce 100 percent. Always keep connected to your profession and keep an updated résumé. You never know what life will bring.
Be (from Tammy): “Wherever you are, be 100 percent there,” from missionary Jim Elliot. This quote totally changed the way I look at each day and each moment. I don’t want to be 50 percent present and 50 percent checked out. Attempting to give 100 percent of my focus to each moment has allowed me to enjoy the little and big things in life, and also recognize that God is in the center of it all.
Let go (from Roger): I tend to let my disappointments hang around, thinking about what I should have done or what might have been instead of focusing on the present, and making the rest of my life better. I was on a Seattle vacation recently, and lost my camera — my wonderful, expensive, digital camera — on the first day.
I was in a funk for two days before someone told me to shrug it off and not ruin the rest of my vacation. It took some effort on my part, but I put on a smile, stopped dwelling on my loss, and made good use of my limited-function cellphone camera, and certainly enjoyed the remainder of my time in beautiful Seattle.
Lip gloss (from Valerie): I remember hearing as a little girl, “Always wear lip gloss, it lights up your face!” It’s a Southern thing! I have always taken this to heart. A few years ago I slipped in my kitchen and my kneecap popped out of the socket.
My older son tells the true story that while lying on the floor waiting on the ambulance, the only thing I cared about was him bringing me my lip gloss to put on before the paramedics arrived!
Loose ends (from Shannon): My wonderful father said, “Remember, life is a series of loose ends.” It let me know that nothing will ever be “all done” or neat and tidy. It releases me from performance pressure.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.