I was 16 when my mom passed away. I don’t remember much about her and often the tough memories cloud my mind over the good, but nevertheless, I still reflect. February 13, 2014 was the 15th anniversary of her passing and now is the perfect time to do that reflecting. Here are 15 things I’ve learned from her that I take with me every day.
1. Give, give, give
My mom was a giver. Getting a gift from her didn’t require a birthday or holiday or even an A+ on a test. Whenever she shopped, she thought of others, and would never leave a store without a gift. She’d give her own jewelry to my friends, send cards to those she hardly knew, and made sure to always give her time and energy to my school and extracurricular activities.
I believe she found joy in giving to others more than anything else. She seemed to live for our smiling faces and thought nothing of getting something in return. Perhaps all she wanted in return was our happiness. That was her greatest gift of all.
2. Give it your all
My mother directed high school plays as if they were Broadway musicals. She would go bigger and better each time. There couldn’t be enough glitter and glamor. Starting at age three, I was on stage dancing and acting with my mom in the wings, cheering me on.
She pushed me to do my best and perform like I’ve never performed before. There was no such thing as rehearsing too much. I believe that’s why I’m so driven and passionate about everything I do in life. She’s constantly in the wings, pushing me into the spotlight and telling me to go for it.
3. The show must go on
No storm, no sickness, no big hurdle could stop my mom from making something happen. Once she put her mind to it, she was 110% in. It goes back to the mentality of show business. No matter what, the show must go on. Today, whenever I think about stopping, I remember that I can do it and I must do it. Keep going until the curtain closes.
4. Dress to impress
My mother could have a 103-degree fever and she’d still put on her best dress and walk out the door with her head held high. She knew that if she showed weakness, others would feed off of it. Everything had to be perfect. I push myself everyday to get up and face a new day with vigor and excitement. If I am excited about each and every challenge, those around me will be just as excited, too.
5. Don’t sweat the small stuff
Perhaps she didn’t mean to teach me this, but when you experience a major loss in life, everything else seems inconsequential. I remember as a teenager finding it hard to understand how other teenage girls could get so upset over trivial things like curfews and boys. I was forced to be wise beyond my years, but I felt that if I put life into perspective, many of the small things would be no sweat at all. Even 15 years later, I think about that to avoid stresses over minute things.
If my mom wanted something, she went for it. She found my dad and got him. She wanted a masters degree and got it. She wanted to raise her family in a great area, and she got that, too. Her passion and drive were some of her most admiral traits. I think about my passions and how I can push myself and others to do great things and break down barriers. If my mom could do it, I could too.
7. Blaze new trails
Compliance wasn’t in my mother’s vocabulary. Sure, she wanted to please my grandmother, but she wasn’t about to sacrifice her big ideas and desires. My grandmother wanted her to become a teacher, and my mom did. My grandmother wanted her to marry Jewish, and my mom did (twice). But my mother found ways to grow and experience new things in life that my grandmother never dreamed of. She had a vision and passion for the way she wanted to live her life and I believe she achieved that. I’d never want to leave this earth thinking that I didn’t do that, too.
8. Family first
No matter how tough things got, my mother always put her children first. She quit her job to raise us and worked hard to keep me and my brother happy and healthy. She was dedicated to us more than anything else and loved us unconditionally. As a mom with my own family, I think about this everyday. I question my every move to make sure it’s exactly the right step for my son.
9. Go lay in the sun
My mom always had a great tan and that was from her beautiful olive complexion combined with her love of the sun. She could sit on a lounge chair for hours baking in the Las Vegas summer heat and love every minute of it. Meanwhile, my brother and I have my dad’s fair and freckled complexion, so hats and sun tan lotion were big staples on our family vacations.
This great memory of her leaves me with one big takeaway: relax. Amongst all the stresses and craziness in life, sitting in the sun with a good book is the best way to just forget it all. We all deserve this. We all need this.
10. Go dance
My mother loved to dance. I remember my parents dancing in the kitchen as Willie Nelson played in the background. My brother and I would dance too and we’d all end up laughing. 15 years later, I’m still dancing. I think about the fun, little things I can do to have a good laugh.
11. Have animals in your life
We always had dogs. The most we ever had was four Maltese at once and we hardly had fewer than two. I’m sure my dad kept the (not-so-small) quota on the animal population because my mom would have had 20 dogs and cats if she could. Animals are a big part of my life and my Border Collie, Cooper is focus in our family (I blog about him often).
12. We live on
My mother believed in reincarnation. It’s reassuring to think about loved ones living on. I think about my mom often in a positive, happy place by my side. No matter what we believe, it’s all about the passion for your beliefs.
13. You always have support
It’s tough to be a mom without having a mother. I see my friends asking their moms for help and I sometimes wish for it, too. But I’ve learned to look beyond that. I have an amazing mother in law, a dedicated husband and a strong support system. We can’t focus on what we don’t have because that doesn’t allow us to open our eyes to what’s front of us.
14. Perfection is not always realistic
The extreme need for perfection led to my mother’s demise. It affected her physically in the end. As children, we learn great lessons from our parents in terms what to do and what not to do. In this case, while I strive to have her passion and dedication, I know that 100% perfection, 100% of the time is not realistic. We can’t always be going to the extreme.
15. Never stop writing
My mother was a writer. My old house had countless notebooks filled with her stories and poetry. Her creativity was inspiring. I’ve always loved to write. I got that trait from my mother. I write for myself and I write for my job. I’m the luckiest person in the world to be able to have that opportunity. I will never stop writing.