A Mother’s Gift From Heaven

My dear friend from high-school, Moira, honored us with this story about her mother….My mom passed away nearly 6 years ago after a courageous battle with breast cancer. She was a wonderful mom in many ways and she taught my three sisters and I many lessons. Some hard, some easy, but all unforgettable Towards the end of my mom’s illness, I was in awe of the way she owned and accepted her own imminent mortality. With At Home Hospice, she began tying up loose ends putting sticky notes on jewelry, explaining the pieces history, planning her own funeral – a graveside farewell with no black allowed! One day she told me to get a large wrapped box out of the spare bedroom closet. I went right away, as usual, doing what I’m told. I brought the box into her and she said, “No, you keep it.” I joked and said “You shouldn’t have!”, having no idea what was inside. She said “No, it’s not for you…it’s for Elle”. Elle is my daughter who was 1 1/2 years old at the time. My mom proceeded to tell me to keep the gift in a safe place and to give it to her on her 5th birthday.

My mom passed away a few short weeks later. I did as I was instructed. I kept that present in a safe place though I checked on it and wondered about it over the years. Finally, I presented it to Elle on her 5th birthday. Elle tore it open…pretending to read the card that said “Happy Birthday Eleanor. Love,  GaGa”. Inside was a beautiful American Girl Doll that looked just like Elle…long blonde hair, blue eyes, just beautiful. Elle was aglow! She jumped up and down hugging the doll and then began thanking me. I told her that it was from her grandmother, GaGa. Now, Elle knew that GaGa was my mom and was in heaven and although she met Gaga , she didn’t remember her she was just a baby. Elle looked confused and asked me “How did GaGa get this to me from heaven?” I kept it simple and told her that GaGa was very smart and knew that  you would love a doll that looked just like you!” Again, she beamed and asked “How does she know what I look like?” And I replied, with a lump in my throat, “Because you look just like me”.

Are You My Mother?

Remember that book about the baby chick that embarks on a journey to find its mother? In the book, the chick asks a dog, a cat, a cow and many others, “Are you my mother?”

I have been that chick. I severed my relationship with my mother when I was 17. For many years, I made many of the women in my life my ‘surrogate’ mothers and projected every unresolved mommy issue I carried onto those poor souls. That’s a lot of baggage to dump on someone, but somehow most of them put up with me, helped me realize that they were not my mama bird, and loved me through my struggles.

Long after I became a mother myself, I realized that I wasn’t really searching for my mother. I was searching for my ideal mother—the one I wanted and expected, but never got. Through the process of motherless mothering and a perennial search for a person that existed only in my unrealistic, unmet expectations, I traded in my militant self-pity for feelings of compassion, forgiveness, comfort, warmth and love.

In recent years, I have reconnected with my mother, who I now not only accept, but appreciate. I am very grateful to the proverbial dog, cat, cow and others who set me straight and led me on a path back to my own mama bird.

Each relationship that forms between a mother and child is unique and special in its own way. What is the relationship like between you and your mother?

Kindness Family Values

Our parents modeled kindness (or, the lack of) in relationships, informing our basis for how we relate to others. Are you more often kind or unkind? Reflection and integration of past lessons can transform how we choose to be today. Every day will not be a perfect day in your family. However, if kindness is an important family value it’s worth the effort to cultivate it, right? How do you cultivate kindness in your family? 

Be Right or Be Kind

Came across this quote this morning from a woman who has been a huge influence in my life; 
Anne Lamott

“You can either practice being right or practice being kind.”
― Anne Lamott
When it comes to shining a humorous and glaringly accurate light on family dynamics, Annie has literally written the book. The relationship between righteousness and kindness is, dare I say, incestuous.  Kindness is often preached more than taught.  Righteous kindness is an oxymoron. Sure, we can all wax philosophical on what kindness means and how it should be practiced.  But in the moment, when we are touting the importance of being kind, isn’t there a faint (or repugnant) smell of righteousness? And does that illicit kind reciprocity or righteous repulsion?

Kindness Mends the Family Tree

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “Family quarrels are bitter things. They don’t go according to any rules. They’re not like aches or wounds; they’re more like splits in the skin that won’t heal because there’s not enough material.”

No kidding! Despite our best intentions, all of us, whether we are a parent, sibling, child, aunt, uncle, in-law or a combination of these, often engage with our family in unkind ways. Sometimes we don’t even know why or can’t even see it until someone points it out. Fear and judgement cloud our vision such that openness and compassion have a hard time breaking through. Maybe the family member we have the hardest time with is the one we most need to find kindness for.  But how?