Forget CNN, Fox News or your local station, Facebook is the way to keep informed. When you live 1500 miles from your native roots, Facebook is also an avenue to keep in touch with loved ones. As most people do during the day, they check their Facebook account getting the news of politics, funny anecdotes, relationship drama and updates on people’s lives. This past week was no different for me; however, my news feed sadly contained news of the death of the mother of one of my dearest friends. Her passing was not unexpected, yet, it was heartbreaking nonetheless. While I was not close to my friend’s mother, I was close to her prodigy, her daughter.
In the fall of 1984 I had the distinct pleasure to meet a woman would give inspiration to my life that lasts to this very day. My friend is funny, smart, and stunningly beautiful, yet her deepest influence has been on my walk of faith. Bravely she undertook the role of mentoring me as I was a young Christian, who had a tough upbringing. It was during that time an eternal friendship was forged. It was also during this time that her mother’s influence touched my life. Not having any true bond to my biological mother, I learned life lessons from my friend, who had learned them at her mother’s knee. Her mother’s legacy did not stop with her own children; but is going forward like a baton in a relay race. Although there was a wealth of knowledge, to this day I remember one of of her funniest pieces of advice. That counsel came to me as I was concerned about something I was trying on for an event. When I asked my friend the age-old question, 'Does this make me look fat?' Her reply was advice from her mother, “Canaries wear yellow; elephants wear grey.” To this day I remember that when I am trying on clothes and giggle every time.
Several months ago, I wrote an article entitled, “The Dash” which spoke about what we do to fill the time marked between our birth and our death. How do we influence, invest and inspire the people we have in our lives; even more so for those of us who are parents? My life is so much richer for knowing my friend who generously shared her mother’s influence. Not long before her mother’s death, my friend wrote a blog that touched me deeply. With express written permission, I am quoting it in its entirety here. As you read, you will see the baton being passed forward.
“When Your Mother is Dying…
You watch countless hours of Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune and HGTV because it makes her happy.
You actually start to care about a couple on Dancing with the Stars.
You cry at TV ads because they allude to celebrating life’s moments.
You put down your smart phone, tablet and other distractions while she’s watching TV because she enjoys it more when she thinks you’re engaged.
You encourage her that stopping chemo isn’t “giving in,” it’s living the life you have left on your own terms and with dignity.
You hold her hand when she’s tucked into bed and help her recite the Lord’s Prayer, night after night in faltering, whispery tones.
You tell her it’s okay if she only wants to eat ice cream or chicken bouillon.
You eat a lot of ice cream yourself and then can’t remember having eaten.
You dress for the weather—85 degrees in her condo because she’s cold.
You want to hug the person who started the hospice movement, what a relief to be in her home and no more needles and tests!
You ask about silly things that you want to know- her favorite meal her mother made, her first kiss, her last dance with your late father.
You help her put on makeup even though you want to ask, “What’s the point?”
You help her order that gorgeous sweater in the catalog even though she won’t have but two weeks to wear it.
You tell her she’s beautiful, even though she looks like a walking skeleton. Because you remember when she looked like a movie star, and anyway, she’s still beautiful in your eyes.
You remind her of all the funny memories and good moments you can, so she can be reassured she did a good job and her life had significance.
You toss and turn on her guest bed exhausted but unable to sleep. Will it be tomorrow? Will it be a week from today? Memories of growing up flash through your mind like a movie trailer making you alternatively giggle and cry.
You tell the hospice nurses that if they don’t get strong enough pain medicine, you will buy it off the street in some scary alley, because you refuse to see her suffer.
You pour through old photographs together and marvel at how young we all looked, how full of life, how brazenly we faced the future.
You fight with your siblings and then regret it.
You look at things you want to take from her house and place in your own and then despise yourself and feel like a vulture.
You secretly clean the incontinence off her favorite leather chair and don’t tell her what happened to preserve her dignity.
You give her that suppository even though it grosses you out and you’ve never done it before because she’s suffering.
You look at her blotchy, swollen, misshapen legs and remember her glamorous movie star legs she used to have.
You notice pumpkins ablaze in the late afternoon sun, and laughing, careening toddlers with new delight and awe. Then you burst into tears because she won’t get to see this.
You want to shout to the world what an amazing woman your mother was and make sure she is not forgotten. You want to brag about her teaching blind kids to swim, starting her own business, going back to college, hostessing Norwegian royalty, shyly starting a Bible Study in her new retirement community and so many other things.
You want to talk about how gracious she was, how self-effacing, how she could always find a kind word to say, what Grace Kelly natural beauty she had.
You remember how she was the first one in the neighborhood to take food to the family that was new. Or be the first one to invite the lonely person to join in.
You determine to finish that book and not to waste your talents or your life, because it would make her proud.
You realize how much of life’s stuff you’ve worried about or collected or hungered after is meaningless.
You cry with her and hold her hand when she whispers: “I just want to die.”
You pray that God would take her soon. And you remember all those nights she prayed with you when you were afraid.
You hope there’s a tender hand to hold when it’s your turn at the gates.
You understand that towards the end, most of what’s sacred and holy about life can be messy, scary and difficult. But it is good. It is an honor to witness and walk with someone down that road.
You take your Bible more seriously and remember that it all boils down to this: Have I got a place reserved in Heaven for me?”