January 20th marked the one year anniversary of my mother’s passing. As I was reflecting on the past year and the impact her death has had on my life, I was reminded of three things she always used to say to me:
- You’re made of good stuff.
- Don’t let the turkeys get you down.
- What are you going to do?
It was not uncommon for me to vent to her on the phone after having what I like to call “a day.” Without fail, she would spout off any one of these; dependent on the situation, of course. And the intensity with which the words flew off her tongue, no doubt directly correlated to whatever state of mind I was projecting. And sometimes I cringed because I knew a sharp tongue was headed my way. My mom called a spade a spade and this became more dominant as she aged into her golden years. She was never malicious and always classy; her words delivered with just the right eloquence — with an added touch of spice if needed. Needless to say her words were like a magnet on a refrigerator: quietly resting in its place. Inert, until the day you decide to evict it from its position, but still evidenced by the impression the magnet left behind. Her bestowed advice continues to resonate with me — personally and professionally; especially number three.
For some time, I suspected that she also shared her words of wisdom with my dad, my older brothers and their wives — and likely anyone else that Rosie (my mom) thought needed a little reassurance (or a good swift kick). Yet it was during our greatest sorrow, that I would learn just how much those 6 words meant to so many people.
My mom passed away, suddenly but peacefully at home. After a few years of being challenged with varying degrees of health issues, I like to think that the manner in which she passed was a blessing. At her wake, I stood solemnly by her: a daughter shrouded with sadness and a searing ache so deep within the confines of my heart I wasn’t sure it could be assuaged. Next to me stood one of my brothers. As tears started to well in my tired eyes, he turned to me — and in his quiet, unsuspecting nature with a slight smile on his face and a glimmer in his eye — he shrugged his shoulders and said “What are you going to do?” And just like that we laughed. In fact, everyone near us laughed.
The next day, at her funeral, my sister-in-law gave a heartfelt eulogy. Filled with fond memories and love, she shared one of her favorite Rosie-ism’s if you will. As her story unfolded, she revealed that she too had been privy to number three. Clearly mom had made the rounds; as evidenced from people’s reactions. It was then that my suspicions were validated and I knew just how much mileage and meaning her words had. Her secret was out and apparently we had all been on the receiving end of her rhetoric at some point in our busy, crazy lives. In honor of Rosie’s words, we mourned her, we celebrated her life, we laughed, we cried, we raised a little hell. But above all, we promised to carry on. I bet she never imagined how much those words would change us and comfort us — and that her own inquisitive advice would be shared during her eulogy and here today on a social media platform.
It seemed like such a basic question really and for years I think I dismissed it as such. However, as most of us come to know eventually the dots begin to connect and we have our eureka moment. Understand that I trusted her advice. She was a wise woman. When faced with a partial leg amputation, she breathed those words to me again “What are you going to do?” Her answer was to walk again. And she did. Did I mention she was 80 at the time?
What are you going to do began to take on new meaning; especially after her death. I’ve encountered some challenges of late and it is quite serendipitous that she would be the guiding force even now. Her advice, though short and concise, has seen me through a few prickly bush hurdles. Faced with a situation recently where I was discouraged, fraught with dismay and vulnerable, I was at a loss. While on a run in the brisk evening air, the wind kicked up and swept across my face (hello mom). A voice crept into my head and I heard “What are you going to do?” It was as if she was challenging me and giving me the good swift kick I needed. So what else could I do? I rose to the occasion. I remembered that I was made of good stuff. And I did not let the proverbial turkeys get me down. I realize now just how much of a gift her advice really is.
So I ask you, when faced with your biggest challenge, a difficult decision, a fear, a life change: what are you going to do? It seems like such a basic question, but its rhetorical nature is the part that makes you think. And at the heart of it is the take away. What will yours be?