It’s been about four years since I hugged my mom, heard her say my name or stayed up late watching Friends with her. My mom passed away in 2007; some days it feels like yesterday. It never gets easier to tell people. When I’m sad, all I want is her shoulder to cry on. When I get good news, all I want to do is call her and hear her voice.
On birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and of course, Mother’s Day, it’s much worse.
I know anyone who has lost a parent understands this. But instead of getting too mopey, I want to share a brief list of things my mom taught me. Note that this is a selection from what could be turned into a large book.
1. People are just people.
No matter if you’re talking to the guy ringing the Salvation Army bell outside the supermarket or the Queen of England, we’re all people with the same hopes and fears. When I was a shy kid, my mom taught me not to be intimidated to talk to (terrifying) grown-ups: “They’re just people, too.”
2. Be generous.
My mom is remembered as someone who gave the most incredible gifts. She’d pick some special theme for a gift and put together a big, beautiful basket all wrapped up in cellophane and ribbons. Every year, she sent my cousins who live in Utah a new pair of pajamas and slippers that fit them perfectly and matched their personalities, despite the fact that we didn’t see them very often.
3. There’s only one way: through.
My mom had to deal with some things no one should ever have to. She never became bitter at her situation or anyone. She never whined, or said “Why me?” She never let her circumstances define her. She just did what she had to do, one day at a time. She was the bravest person I’ve ever met.
She reminded me to forgive even those who had been cruel, and give people the benefit of the doubt.
She taught me that no matter how hard you cry at night, the sun will still come up in the morning.
4. Make time for fun.
My parents and I would go on weekend day trips all the time when I was a kid and teenager: to the funky vintage shops of Melrose Avenue in LA, a deli in Studio City or downtown San Diego. We never had a lot of money, but they always took a little bit of time and money to make these memories. Now, I cherish them. I remember when we went to that nursery, aquarium, museum. A Saturday spent on the couch is a Saturday wasted.
5. Never try to clean eggs or cheese off a pan with the green scrubby side.
Seriously, it’ll never come out.
Although I only got 20 short years with my mom, I know I’m one of the luckiest daughters alive. My mom taught me to be independent, confident, nurturing and driven. She raised me to believe in love, hope and myself.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mamas out there.