On Hard- Learned Lessons



I’ve been thinking of my mother so much lately, reminding myself of the many lessons she taught me throughout our time together.  Not just the obvious ones, the “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar’s,” but those that she taught me through example, some of which I am just beginning to comprehend.  I’ve been dealing with some difficult things personally in the past weeks- nothing catastrophic- but it has led me to do some major soul searching. I have caught myself wishing countless times that Mom was here with me, that she could hold me in her arms, wipe away my tears, and say the wise things that would help in the way that only she could.  She isn’t, though, and so I’m having to listen to my heart and remember her unspoken lessons. They have been there, always inside of me, waiting until I was open to learn. The teacher appears when the student is ready.

imageThis was taken right after her divorce. I see such sadness in her eyes.

I was a toddler when Mom went through some huge life-altering events. She lost both of her parents instantly in a terrible head-on collision, and had to pick out their caskets.  On top of this tragedy, she went from living the life of a Colonel’s wife to a life of near poverty when my father left her for another woman.  At forty-one years of age, she had three children still at home and no job skills, as my father would never let her work. I can’t even imagine how she must have felt, how devastating all of that was to her heart and her sense of self as a woman.  I went through a divorce at the same age that Mom did, but, thanks to her, I had a great education and a career in place to be able to carry on and take care of myself. I was fortunate to find love again and a truly happy marriage, while Mom clung to Dad’s promise that he would come back and “court” her again.  I also didn’t have children to raise in the midst of such heartbreak and challenge. Mom’s death was the most profoundly painful thing I have ever experienced, and I can’t imagine losing both parents and an almost twenty-three -year marriage- a life– all at the same time.  Lesser people have crumbled with just one of those things.  My mother didn’t crumble, though…she let the pain wash over her and she kept on going, continuing to seek happiness in her life until her last breath- literally.

IMG_0587Each trip to the doctor’s was another opportunity to be fashionable. 

With the vantage of time and experience, I look back and see her lessons layed out for me.  I see how she created a home for herself that energized her and reflected her joy, bringing beauty into her life with the people and things that she loved- not just once, but each time life dealt another time of change to her; the old house on Westwood Lane after the divorce, the mobile home in the nice senior community when she reached a time that she could no longer take care of the house, when she moved to Birmingham, and then her final home at The Home for Wayward Seniors. I always loved walking around her spaces, seeing her heart in every piece of furniture, every decoration.  She took such pride in her nest.  I remember her careful attention to her personal appearance.  Even when she didn’t have two nickels to rub together, she dressed with class and dignity. I hear her laughter, even when times were terribly tough, can hear her tell so many people, “Being silly is how I’ve gotten through everything.” I think of the countless people to whom she showed such kindness, always thinking of others. I remember the value she placed on being a good and true friend, no matter what. Each and every time something hit her in life, she held her head high, put a smile on her face, fixed herself up, and moved on with living her life.


I miss her so much, miss her daily words of love and unwavering support. However, I know that she is still with me, still teaching me each day. Perhaps now I am finally ready to learn more from her as I face my own challenges.  She was not perfect by any means, but then again, who of us is? She was an amazing example of resilience and strength, as well of the power of humor and perspective.  When I remind myself that it is her blood that runs through my veins, her lessons that echo in my mind, and her love that will always reside in my heart, I know that I can face anything and land on my feet- just as she did. I am deeply grateful to have had Heavy D as my mother and friend, grateful to be able to think back on her life and her lessons and smile. The job of each generation is to help the next be better, and Mom did everything she could to set me up for success, working to help me avoid many of the tough things she faced. She couldn’t save me from myself and the mistakes I had to make to learn and grow, but she gave me a wonderful foundation.  I don’t know if I can be a better woman than my mother was, but I will follow her example and do my best to take her lead.  And I know that when I need her, need to feel her love and have her help with facing the not-so-good things, all I have to do is close my eyes and go inward.  She is always there, waiting for me with love.


2 thoughts on “On Hard- Learned Lessons

  1. A beautiful, and thoughtful, tribute to your mother, Denise, to all the wisdom she left you,
    and the lessons that will stay with you, always……..
    All that she had to offer to others, you are offering, now. Thank you.

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