On July 21, 2012, my mother made her journey to the other side. When we talk about the other side, it has many names. The only common element is that our loved one has moved from the physical to the spiritual realm. Today, our small family will get together to celebrate her contribution to our lives and share stories. The stories will range of heart wrenching to hysterically funny. It is a day to celebrate her life warts and all.
I thought I would share lessons of the many that have become part of our family DNA.
- Keep Your Sense of Humour When Those Around You Are Losing Theirs. I am sure this is attributable to someone but it sums mother’s approach to life up in a single phrase. My mother had a very different sense of humour. As she aged, it became a way for her to keep life in perspective. My sister and I have been away from home so long that most people didn’t realize that she had three children. When they asked about her children, she would always say she had three, one of each. It usually took them time to figure out what she meant but it certainly stopped the prying into what she considered her personal, private business. She thought it was always better to leave them with something to chew on.
- Give Without Expecting To Receive Anything In Return. If there is a philosophy that she taught us this is the one that has frequently come back to bite me in the butt. Whether it is working for a charity, helping the disadvantaged, or doing something truly altruistic, she was always ready to help someone in need. She was a prolific knitter. Year round, she would knit mittens in all sizes in support for Koats for Kids, a program supported by the Winnipeg Fire Department. I remember bringing two boxes full of mitts back to Winnipeg. Out of curiosity, I counted the contents of the boxes. She had knit 300 pairs of mitts for people she would never meet. To my knowledge, she never received a thank you letter.
- Pick Your Cause and Support It Tirelessly. My mother had a soft spot for veterans. Regardless of the branch of service, peacetime or wartime, she believed that we owed a lot to those who serve. My father was a WWII veteran (British military) and I served in peacetime. She was the first person people called when they needed help with their veteran’s benefits. To put it in perspective, she shoveled snow for a veteran’s widow in the small town where she lived even though said widow had perfectly able offspring to handle the job. My mother, at 77 years of age, was worried the wheelchair bound woman wouldn’t be able to get out of the house in case of fire. So after mom shoveled her own sidewalks, she would shovel hers. During the last year, I have come to understand that her causes were what made her appreciate the blessings in her life.
- Read Every Thing. Both my parents were voracious readers. My mother never met a book she wouldn’t read. Bodice rippers weren’t at the top of her list but books are in short supply in Northern Manitoba. Needless to say, it was tough to get classic literature. Classic comic book came monthly. My sister and I were introduced to Shakespeare through the world of comics. I remember her reading books to my dad when he was badly injured in a mining accident positive that he could hear her even medicated into a coma. Her love for books has rubbed off on her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Reading is truly a gift that you can give anyone. You can read to anyone regardless of their age.
- Music and Imagination Wins Over TV. We lived in a remote mining community. Television was something that you saw when you went to visit relatives somewhere to the south. Radio and music were staples in our house. I remember listening to hockey games on the radio and listening to music on the ‘record player’. The music collection, which my husband is working diligently to preserve, contained everything from Bach to Wilf Carter to kid’s records with lots of artists in between. When I was in high school, my parents bought their first TV. I remember the black and white screen and watching CBC through a snowstorm. It sent me directly back to music and radio. Today, I still play music when I need to accomplish something important.
So today, as we remember her and her contributions to our lives, it is the many small things she did for family and friends that created memory box for today. Each of us will take a trip back through the years, we’ll reach into that box of memories, we’ll each be richer for the sharing and poorer if we don’t.
If you have someone who matters in your life, tell them, show them, or give them something that shows you appreciate their place in your life. If you don’t, they will be gone before you expect it.
To quote Yoda, “do or do not. There is no try.” It was my mother’s motto and she lived it to the best of her ability and capability. Mom, you are missed more than you expected by more people than you thought.