A Week, An Anniversary, A Legacy

Last year, I sat down and wrote about the details of Mama's death for the first time in this post: An Anniversary.   Today begins what amounts to a week-long anniversary for me now every year.   It has been seven years now since I lost her.   She may be gone, but she passed down so much to me.   Here's just a few I've been thinking of lately.

Her perspective was formed by her suffering.   People outside of our family who knew Mama are shocked to find out how much suffering Mama experienced in her lifetime.   I think that was a reflection of her generation along with her as an individual.   Many times, she pointed out people to me whose troubles were far worse than mine. 

Mama knew both the heartbreak of not always being able to help her medically fragile son and the pain of losing him.   It seemed to put all other suffering in perspective for her because she had endured that ultimate pain.   I think she probably found strength in the fact that she survived it, even if it changed her forever.    

Friendship is an important gift to be treasured and nurtured because we are fed and nurtured by friendship.   Mama was such a loyal friend and she loved making new friends.   She would have been a different person without the wonderful women in her life.

Mama and Mrs. Carmel on one of their almost daily twice-a-day walks
 All life is precious.   Mama was not especially happy when I became Catholic, but what warming to the Catholic Church she did was due to the Church's adamant defense of all human life, especially the life of the elderly and disabled.   As the mother of a disabled child, she was horrified by suggestions that such a life was less worthy than others or that my brother was ever a burden for her.

Gregory Lewis
 Love your children unconditionally.   I have written before that my mother loved me just because I existed and told me many times how wanted I was.   It's a tremendous gift to give your children.

Hang pictures at eye level.   On a lighter note, it was a pet peeve of my mother's to see pictures hung inches from a ceiling.   I try to "think like Louise" whenever I'm hanging things on my wall.   With the move, I've done that a great deal recently.   I'd like to think I inherited a little of her "knack" for decorating.

Childproof your home for safety only; don't sacrifice beauty and hospitality.   Our house looked like it came out of the pages of Country Living or Southern Living and most of the items came from garage sales, thrift shops, flea markets, etc...   Mama stripped and repainted items others passed over.   She created vignettes of her collections, many of which were very breakable.   She refused to stop doing this for her own children or visiting children.   She kept dangerous things out of reach, but we were taught to respect the decorative items in our home and to keep our hands off them.

She always said parents should go buy something inexpensive, but pretty and breakable, put it in the middle of a table or shelf and say, "This is our pretty _________.   We do not touch it; it is here to make our home look pretty and it is not a toy for you."   She wondered how children would learn to behave toward things in other people's homes if they didn't learn in their own home.  

Let go of perfection.   Our home was always clean and pretty neat, but I remember the mad dash before company: straightening the magazines on the coffee table, cleaning dirty dishes and stashing the mail pile among other things.   When I was older, my mom told someone how she used to work so hard to keep things perfectly neat until she was diagnosed with melanoma when I was only a few months old.   She didn't know if she would live to see me grow up and suddenly, a floor that rivaled a Spic and Span commercial didn't seem so important to her anymore.

Do not argue or try to reason with unreasonable or irrational people.   It will not accomplish anything and you will only be drawn into their turmoil.   Silence is a hard lesson, but it really is the best response in such situations.   Excellent and oft-turned-to advice when I entered the workplace!

Help others while maintaining their dignity.   Mama helped so many people, usually in quiet ways of which only I knew.   I learned of even more stories from those she helped after her death.  In my classrooms, I sometimes had students without supplies, especially by mid-year.   Due to Mama's example, I had a classroom supply store where students could spend their classroom reward dollars.   Five pieces of paper were one reward dollar, a pencil was two, etc... The children were so proud of buying their supplies with money they earned.   I also collected items all year so they could buy presents for their parents in our classroom store.   Mama loved hearing about that store.   Of course, she always felt like my students were adopted grandchildren.   I won a local Teacher of the Year contest sponsored by Wal-Mart and I had to write an essay.   Mama was so proud to read that it was her influence that caused me to create my classroom supply store.

Never forget from where you came.   Even after my dad became a professor, they had bought a nice house on acreage and Greg's medical bills were paid off, Mama never forgot what it was like in the early years, when she had to figure out how to make food stretch until the end of the month.   She still managed money wisely and she was not judgmental about people because of their financial situation.   She had known too many noble country people and struggling graduate students to make rash assessments based on a person's possessions.  

Lying and laziness are not acceptable.   We were always told that we would get in more trouble for lying about not having done something wrong than the actual misbehavior.   Those were the two worst sins in our home and the older I get, the more I understand not only how wrong they are, but also how toxic.    We were always shown role models who were honest and hard-working and I am thankful for the examples.

Share mistakes with children.   My parents told stories of mistakes they made growing up and how they learned from them.   They also shared stories of family and schoolmates.   It always gave me a "there's life after high school" perspective as a teen on those difficult school days.

Set your priorities.   When I was in school, designer jeans were such a huge deal and I did not have them until I was in high school.   By then, the designer names had changed and they were easier to find on sale.   Plus, I didn't outgrow them in a few months.   Mama didn't say, "They're too expensive."   She said, "We don't think designer labels are important and we would rather use our money for other things."    

I still miss her terribly, but I am thankful for all the memories and the legacy of her wisdom and example.   We can't guarantee we'll always be around for our children, so what we leave them by word and example is important.

I love you, Mama.


  1. Awe! I miss her too! I cannot believe it has been that long.

  2. It's so wonderful you are recording your thoughts and memories. One day your kids will not only read about their childhood, but yours as well and they will know what wonderful women (and men) have come before them.


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