Wednesday, January 16, 2013

What We Owe Our Parents

My mother passed away ten years ago today and I’ve been thinking about how inconceivable it feels that so much time has passed. Yet, I can be caught off guard in a moment and weep as if it was yesterday.

It’s a strange thing that happens when we lose our parents. We are forced to see not only the world through a different lens, but ourselves in ways we never imagined or particularly examined before.

It is easy to canonize those who have passed, but in doing so, we miss both the beauty of their humanity and the opportunity, in examining their flaws, to grow beyond our own. That is what I learned about my mother after her passing as I discovered old letters and photographs and diaries.

In many ways, these things painted a portrait of a woman I never knew, because I only saw the person that was left after certain hopes and dreams were put away forever. But to find out that this part of my mother existed, a lifetime away from the person I grew up with, made me look at how I live my life very differently, because the question I asked myself as I poured over these artifacts was: Do I want to follow in her footsteps or do I owe it to myself and to her not to?

To behave as generations past is easy…and expected. But it is not what we were put here to do. And that was very clear to me. Maybe it was her spirit whispering in my ear, or maybe it was my own soul waking up to something within me needing to be expressed.

Certainly my mother’s generation would not have talked openly about flaws, or dreams long forgotten, or their soul’s purpose. Not for women, anyway. No, there was an expectation of acceptable behavior and occupations and life choices. What one did or did not want to do did not seem to enter into the equation. And maybe we all know that in the textbook clinical sense of looking at it as history. But it is quite a different thing to actually read a young girl’s letters who wanted to go off to Europe and see the world, knowing that she never did.

I couldn’t mourn the things she didn’t do. If she did that herself, I never knew about it. What I saw was the person who loved me and never neglected to tell me so, who wanted the best for me, and who brought music into my life in ways both figurative and literal.

So as I look at where I am and where I’m headed, I can’t help but think she’d be glad for the times I’ve been bold in spite of my fears, and how she’d be cheering for me to buck convention, do something unexpected and follow every last dream until it was blissfully fulfilled. And I know that I will be honoring her memory in the best way possible if I do that.

So thanks for stopping by, and here’s to us living lives that exceed all expectations, create new definitions for what’s possible, and are most of all filled with love and happiness.

Peace and blessings to you.

1 comment:

  1. Ilene! How beautiful. I remember your mother so well and her gorgeous heart and spirit. All her caring. Indeed, she would be so proud of you. I know that she supports you from above! Thank you for sharing and what a stellar tribute by a an equally stellar daughter. xoxo, Jeryl