Life Lessons from Mom
Mom July 2011
Most of you know mom through this website, her pancreatic cancer journey. But she was so much more than just a pancreatic cancer patient. Her life was full to overflowing with warmth, love and laughter.
I wish you could have known her like we knew her…
She was a force to be reckoned with, a champion you always wanted in your corner, and a lover of our very souls. I am blessed beyond comprehension and so humbled to be her daughter.
I would like to share the words I spoke at her memorial service as a way to honor her, a written tribute of love, truth, and remembrance.
“I am coming to learn that we all leave a legacy for those who come behind us. Throughout mom’s long battle with pancreatic cancer, the every day ordinary was peeled away to reveal the very essence of her character, her faith and her strength. And I can see that she has long been weaving into our lives the lessons she values most. These life lessons are a reminder that our legacy is not etched into stone monuments, but woven into the lives we touch every day.
Mom taught us many valuable lessons, and I would like to share 5 that have made a huge impact on my life.
Many of you know that mom was a nurse. What you might not know is that it took her 20 years to get her degree. The problem was that even though mom always wanted to be a nurse, her parents didn’t feel it was an appropriate vocation for their daughter, so they sent her to Lawrence University to pursue a liberal arts degree. She didn’t get that liberal arts degree, but she did meet a tall, dark, handsome quarterback from the local town. And together they pursued a life-long love affair and raised 3 “wonderful” kids. But she never forgot her passion for nursing, and when all three of us were in high school, she went back to class and doggedly went after that nursing degree.
It wasn’t easy. I can remember her cooking dinner with text books propped on the counters, and late nights cramming for tests, and even the times she drafted us kids for injection practice. Ouch! It wasn’t fun. But 2 years later she walked the stage and received her nursing degree. She was the oldest in her class. That didn’t stop her. She continued to pursue her passion in nursing for the next 30 years, excelling in patient care and loving most every minute.
First Lesson: You are never too old to pursue your passion. Get to it!
Mom also taught us that it’s important to finish the job well. We all had chores to do growing up, one of which was taking turns washing the dinner dishes. I can remember how we’d rush through the job so we could get outside to play with our friends. I can also remember mom calling us back in and showing us the soap and food scum left on the bottom of the sink. She told us that the job wasn’t done until the sink was clean and the strainer emptied. Yuck! But she insisted.
Second Lesson: It’s not enough to just get the job done, it’s important to get the job done well.
Lest you think our childhoods were only filled with days of slave labor and tortuous medical practicals, there’s another side to mom that we absolutely adored. And that was her enormous capacity to have fun and laugh.
Really belly laugh.
Our family dinners have always been boisterous and filled with moments of hilarity. We all have millions of stories, but one really sticks out in my mind. For the past 6-7 years, mom has taken all her girls, grown girls, on a ladies getaway weekend right before Christmas. That’s mom, me, Lisa, Katie and Kelli. We’ve stayed in Bed and Breakfasts, seen the Rockettes, and gone to old-fashioned Christmas home tours. We always shop, eat and laugh the weekends away. Pure, girl-time bliss! 2 years ago we decided to go to The Great Wolf Lodge and enjoy the indoor water park.
They have a 13-story water slide that was just begging to be ridden, so up we hiked. Well, all except for Kelli. She was pregnant, she didn’t know how lucky she was! Anyway, we huffed our way to the top and plopped down in the 4 man tube. Just as the attendant was getting ready to push us off into the black hole, mom asked if anyone had ever fallen out of the raft. He smiled and said not yet, but there’s always a first time and then he shoved us into the terrifying abyss.
The raft immediately started twirling like crazy, spraying water all over us, and picking up speed. With every turn in the slide, one side of the raft tipped precariously high, threatening to dump all of us. We screamed a little, laughed a lot, and grabbed each other for dear life. We laughed all the way down that terrifying slide until we plunged into the pool at the bottom, mid-laugh, mouths wide open, practically drowning ourselves in the adrenaline-laced glee. I will always remember in my heart’s memory the way mom laughed with abandon on that slide and held tightly to each one of us.
Third Lesson: Laugh every day, even if you’re going under.
Mom also taught us that people matter. She was a gifted listener and always remembered people’s names, even through-out this last year of chemo and endless rounds of doctor appointments. She always visited with the nurses and techs, talking about their families and their weekends, and always calling them by name. And even on her worst days in chemo, she always thanked the ones who ministered to her.
People Matter. And she preached by example. When we can open our eyes to the people God puts in our path every day, we will find our purpose.
Fourth Lesson: Pay attention, the People in your Life Matter.
The last life lesson many not really qualify as vital, but mom taught it religiously, and I feel compelled to share it. Eat chocolate every day, preferably often each day, and always have dessert, chocolate of course. I truly believe that was her secret to her happiness.
Fifth Lesson: Chocolate is good for the soul.
As I have been grappling with these last few days, there are several verses of scripture that have really comforted me. And it may not be the ones you’d expect. In Revelation, John shares his vision of Heaven. I’d like to read his description:
‘And I saw the Holy City and it shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel... The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold. The foundation of the city walls was decorated with every kind of precious stone, each gate made of a single pearl... I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and there will be no night there.’ Rev 21:10-25
I believe we can all say with assurance that mom never met a jewelry store she didn’t like, and I can only imagine her awe and wonder at entering the gates of pearl and walking the streets of gold. The brilliance of our Lord and Savior promises everlasting light to those who believe. Mom is basking in His unspeakable Glory now and that gives us complete peace even in the midst of our overwhelming sorrow.
We think Heaven has gained a jewel in mom and we know the streets are ringing with her laughter…
Her legacy now continues in us.”