I’ll always remember the things you taught me and how much you loved me. Unknown
My mother died sixty-five years ago today. She was in my life for eight short years. I have mostly defined her influence on my life by her death; the importance of living each day to the fullest knowing that life can be short and how I grew to be independent and self-confident as a motherless daughter. It was only recently, as I wrote my book on mother loss, that I finally began to consider what she taught me before her death.
As she set card tables with linen cloths and handprinted china for her bridge club, she taught me how to be a gracious hostess and value of women friends. When she reprimanded me after I stuck my tongue out at the closed front door as she called me in for dinner, she taught me to show respect. Along the way, she also taught me manners and where to put the forks. I’m grateful for the things my mother taught me and I’m grateful for her love.
Affirmation: I will always remember.
Coaching questions: What did your mother teach you that you’re grateful for today? What are your precious early memories? What will your children, grand children, nieces or nephews remember as they recall your influence in their lives?
My family circa 1948
Researchers have confirmed what parents have known for a long time: Sharing a family meal is good for the spirit, the brain, and the health of all family members. Anne Fishel, PhD, cofounder of Harvard’s Family Dinner Project
Thirty-five years ago, my son, Dan, returned home from junior high and asked, “Did you know that most families don’t eat dinner together?” Apparently, his health teacher had asked how many in the class regularly had dinner with their families and he was only one of about three to raise his hand. He just assumed everyone ate dinner together every night. All these years later, the family dinner is even more of a relic.
Yet, research links family dinner with lower rates of substance abuse, depression, better grades and enhanced self-esteem. Here are a few tips to make family dinner happen.
1. Make the commitment. Start with one meal, find a date that works, and put it on everyone’s calendar.
2. Keep the food simple. Even healthy take-out, when eaten together, is a step.
3. Make the meal time fun. This isn’t a time for grilling kids about grades or family arguments. Stash the phones, look at one another, and laugh a lot!
Affirmation: My family benefits when we eat together.
Coaching questions: What keeps your family from eating meals together? What can you do to change this circumstance at least once a week? How will you get buy-in from the others? How committed are you?
Symbols are the imaginative signposts of life. Margot Asquith, author
Pink carnations have always been special to me because they were the flowers on my mother’s casket and one of the few memories I have from the months following her death. I think they were randomly chosen but perhaps my dad chose them for their meaning. I’ll never know.
In the Dictionary of Flowers at the end of the book, The Language of Flowers, pink carnations (Dianthus Caryophyllus) mean I will never forget you. According to Mr. Google, it’s believed that pink carnations first appeared on earth from the Virgin Mary’s tears, making them the symbol of a mother’s undying love. It’s no wonder they have always held a special place in my heart.
Affirmation: I honor the symbols in my life.
Coaching questions: What symbols do you hold dear? What do they mean to you and why? How do they help you keep your memories alive?
A diagnosis has been enough without being burdened by secrecy and shame. Jane Pauley, television journalist who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Although we have made progress in our understanding, treatment, and acceptance of mental illness, we still have a long way to go. When any other organ is diseased or distressed, there is sympathy, understanding, and readily available treatment.
When the brain is diseased or distressed we frequently say, “Really?” Or “Just get over it already.” Or “You seem fine to me.” Sometimes, we think less of a person because they think or act in a way that is unclear to us. We need to champion those professionals and organizations that serve the misunderstood, unrecognized, and under-treated.
Affirmation: I acknowledge and champion those with mental disabilities and disease.
Coaching questions: I can almost guarantee you know someone with a mental illness. How can you help them come out from under the mantel of secrecy and shame? If you’re deeply depressed, suspect you’re bipolar, or have other possible mental health challenges, I urge you to seek professional help just as you would if it was another type of illness.
Photo by Kyle Broad on Unsplash
You either get bitter or you get better. It’s that simple. You either take what has been dealt to you and allow it to make you a better person or you allow it to tear you down. The choice does not belong to fate. It belongs to YOU. Josh Shipp, youth motivational speaker
Of course, the natural and appropriate response to loss is sadness and grief. However, it’s been my experience that when the focus remains on the one you lost, there is less despair and depression than when the focus remains on yourself. When we get stuck in saying or thinking, “Why me? It’s not fair. How can I possibly cope?” we stymie our ability to move forward. So much depends on how we respond to our experience.
The motherless daughters I interviewed who moved forward with their lives, frequently talked about all their mothers gave them, even if their time with them was short, rather than all they lost because of her death. Both conversations are appropriate but focusing on the former seemed to lead to more joy.
Affirmation: I choose to get better.
Coaching questions: What is your response to loss? Is it working for you? What will help you focus more on the lost loved one and less on yourself?
Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. Melody Beattie, author
Mother’s Day can be difficult for many women, not just those of us who have lost our mothers. It can be difficult for women who are estranged from their mothers, have no children but wish they did, those who have lost a child, or those who are away from their family.
For me, gratitude always helps me cope. I’m grateful for the friendly smile, bright eyes, and sunny personality I got from my mom, I’m grateful for my three wonderful children, three step kids, eight grands, eleven step grands, and five (almost seven) step greats. What a bountiful life I have! And even though it’s a day for mothers, I am especially grateful for my dad who partnered with me to create a joyful childhood and beyond.
There will be a bit of sadness in my celebration tomorrow but mostly there will be gratitude.
Affirmation: I’m grateful.
Coaching questions: What helps you feel grateful on a difficult day? What difference can you make in someone else’s day today?
Me and my mom, circa 1953
Keep close to Nature’s heart…and break clear away once in a while. Climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. John Muir, naturalist and author
I finally took myself to the beach today. I live about two miles from Crescent Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. I hate to admit it, but I rarely get there these days (writing a book will do that to you).
On those rare occasions when I do step foot on the sand, my inner voice says, Get going, you’re walking too slow or You can do another mile. Today, I said to myself, Look at the blues of the ocean and Go ahead, pick up that beautiful shell and Wow, look how that pelican just swallowed his catch! It was low tide and I was literally walking on a carpet of shells. What natural beauty! Today I was at the beach to “wash my spirit clean” as Muir suggests.
Affirmation: Nature is a gift we are meant to open.
Coaching questions: How long has it been since you’ve really enjoyed nature? How does nature speak to you? What will you do this week to allow nature to wash your spirit clean?
Photo taken at Resident’s Beach, Marco Island, FL