Sunday, 8 February 2015

Things Our Parents Teach

Family Day is now a statutory holiday all across Canada, as times are different and both 'family time' and roles have changed. Our parents remain our first and most influential teachers and mine taught me many things, even if I was not always the best student. Mom was a head nurse on a surgical ward in a busy urban hospital. A resilient, intelligent woman, she was also the cook, fixer, mender, launderer, homework helper and chief organizer for a family of five children.  She did not make grand speeches, give unsolicited advice or tell us how to live, rather she modelled for us how to make a good life.  She showed us that wisdom can be found in listening and not always having to express your opinion.  She taught us that life is about doing things – with your mind and with your hands.  She was a caring mom and loving grandma; she was a dedicated professional; she read; she tackled the New York Times crossword puzzle; she travelled; she volunteered; she created, constructed, quilted, dug, composted and planted her whole life.  Mostly, she loved, welcomed and was slow to judge.  She was glue.

As a father, as a husband, as a brother, as a friend and as an educator, I hope to be more mindful of what my Mom showed me. Most often, it is not what you say, but what you do; what you model over your lifetime (or your career), that is most important. Being genuinely interested in understanding, rather than being understood, is a quality to be nurtured and practiced. Patience and reflection are the keys to wisdom. There is a difference between needs and wants, and our needs are simple.  Noticing things and surprising people with little acts of kindness is a good way to live. Being curious, learning, exploring and helping are good for your mind and your heart.  Most importantly, getting up, getting out and doing your best, regardless of your circumstances, is the path to fulfilment.

My Mom passed away recently and I was reminded that when someone dies, people are kind. We reach out and express warm and sincere condolences.  We take time out from our busy lives to visit, to ask how others are doing and offer to help in any way that we can. Families come together and just as often, friends not heard from in many years will get in touch.  Perhaps we reflect on our experiences and consider our own mortality and are able, even if only fleetingly, to put life into perspective.  These are all very good things, and we should live every day as if someone is dying, because we are.

Thank you Mom, you were a wonderful teacher. I will do my best to live the way you showed - actively, generously and kindly - and always remember to put my family first. 

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