My mother passed away right about that time in a girl’s life when she needs a mother’s guidance.  While there have been innumerable women in my life who have taken me in as their own, there are still some doubts only a mother can quell, some thoughts only a mother can understand, and some decisions only a mother can support.  In the beginning I stumbled, but in the last few years I have learned from my mother in ways I never thought imaginable.  My faith and my memories of her have allowed me to connect with her in ways I had never noticed before.  The part of her that lives inside me teaches and inspires me every day, and every time I look back on a moment in my life when she made an impression on me I smile and remind myself how much I have become who she was shaping me to be all along.  These are the things I have learned from my mother…

  • Smile no matter how much it hurts.  No matter how sick my mother felt or how much pain she was in she very seldom let it show.  She was always present with a smile or a joke, even when she was in the hospital or having a bad day at home.  The thought of her smile the last time I saw her got me through a lot of rough points in my life, most poignantly the two-year illness that left me close to home bound.  I tried every day to remember a reason to smile, and that may have been the only thing to bring my family through the struggle.
  • Stand tall no matter how short you are.  At four-feet and change my mother stood a good head shorter than most people around her, yet she never backed down from anything she deemed important.  Her family meant the world to her, and she would never let anything happen to any of us.  She taught me to be confident in my decisions and strong in my beliefs.  She taught me that sometimes you have to be a little harsh, and she reminded me that it is perfectly acceptable to say “no” sometimes.  When I forget the impossibility of pleasing everybody and the reality that sometimes the facts make people unhappy no matter how nicely I deliver them, this lesson comes back to me sharply.
  • Greet everyone with an open heart.  The house in which I grew up had an extra room in the basement that was larger than my first couple apartments.  There were very few times when there wasn’t someone living in that room.  Whenever a friend, relative, or someone she stumbled across needed a place to stay, my mom would open up our home to make sure they had somewhere to go.  If they were hungry they would join us for dinner.  If they had kids who needed clothes, we would offer things I didn’t need.  No matter who or what it was, my mom was always there to help where she could.  She taught me a lot about giving and not taking what I have for granted, and when I feel like I have lost everything, I remember that I still have everything I need.
  • There is very little a disability can keep you from if you are determined.  Though my mom was blind, there were very few things it stopped her from achieving.  She taught at a local community college, learned to play the piano, bowled, and played Frisbee.  She could sew, cook, and somehow managed to know everything I thought I could get away with.  With a little determination and creativity she found ways to get and do what she wanted, and that fact inspires me every day.
  • There is no truth in fear or doubt.  My mom loved rollercoasters, thrill rides, and acts of sheer nerve.  She wore stiletto heels and miniskirts, and never apologized for it.  She told me once the way to overcome fear or doubt was not to show you have any.  If it doesn’t appear to exist, eventually it won’t.  There are times in my life when I’ve been terrified of the next step, times when I’ve had no idea what to do or how to keep going forward.  It’s these times when I strap on my mental stilettos, but on a confident face, and pretend I have any clue what I’m doing.
  • The light is always there, even if you cannot see it.  Barring that, make your own light.  My mom required the light on to be able to do her makeup.  She also did it in front of the mirror.  Part of it was force of habit from when she had sight.  The rest was merely a comfort.  She knew the light was there.  It made her feel more at ease.  Just after the 1989 earthquake, the bay area had no power for days.  At the time we had someone staying with us, and he remarked that he couldn’t eat in the dark.  My mom’s response was, “make your own light, or starve”.  Like many things that sustain us, just because we can’t see the sun, the stars, or the light within never means it doesn’t exist.  We must find it…or starve.
  • Money does not make the (wo)man.  One of the greatest skills I’ve learned from my mother is how to look, eat, and live like a millionaire on a scrap budget.  It may require a little effort, but it isn’t impossible to be happy or healthy with any budget.  Life is never about having everything we want, it’s about wanting everything we have.  Decisions, choices, and priorities.  Family, love, and experiences.  These things are what make us rich.  With a little ingenuity we can look good and eat well, too.

This post was supposed to come on Mother’s Day, but sometimes life takes priority to writing.  That’s the last of the lessons I’m going to share today.  Things will happen when they’re supposed to, not when you think they should.  Thanks, Mom.  After all these years you are still always right.

Go, now, listen to your mothers.