This is a tribute to my mother who died one year ago. The poem sums up her presence, and what follows is a reprint of a blog post I wrote three days before her death.
I reprint it here in loving memory of Eileen Grace Wilson. (1920-2020)
The Gift of a Smiling Face – By Mitsu Aida.
With just your being there,
The atmosphere somehow brightens.
With just your being there,
Everyone feels at ease.
I yearn to be just like you.
What is most precious that money can’t buy? To love and be loved
Gabriola Island, BC
“I have had a chance to re-discover this secret during the past ten days on Gabriola Island. We are here as a family, with My Mother, whose hospital bed has the place of honour in the living room, overlooking Georgia Strait, on the west coast of Canada.
Here, each day begins for Mom as she opens her eyes to the splendor of the rising sun, eagles soaring against the ever-changing palette of pinks, reds, oranges, and gold, as the sun brushes a path of gold, directly to the foot of her bed.
The commonplace sounds of a door opening, water running and grinding coffee beans, are experienced anew, as the house slowly awakens, and people tread lightly, not wanting to disturb each other. One person slips into the study for a zoom meeting at 5:30 AM (8:30 ET) while another notices “Grandma” is awake and stops for a chat.
As for me, I slip out to the deck with a steaming cup of coffee to admire the wonders of nature unfolding before my eyes as I gaze anew at the bald-headed eagles circling in front of me. And always the light. The way it strikes the lavender or hi-lights half the clump of daisies. Sometimes I glance and see, at that moment, the bark of the tree is aflame with morning light.
Shortly afterwards I go inside and laugh with my mother over something silly. It is wonderful to be able to find so much levity as her life nears the end. And even more to hear nothing but words of gratitude, love and how lucky she feels to have such a loving family.
The sheer ordinariness of daily life, blind spots, and all, heightened by the knowledge of mortality has me looking with fresh eyes at absolutely everything. Daily life is out of this world profound! We may not notice unless we really stop and pay attention. What we often do is take the ordinary for granted, until we don’t have it. And we won’t have it indefinitely. Death focuses the mind.
My Mother’s legacy in our extended family is simple. Lead your ordinary everyday lives extraordinarily well in all the ways that count. Do what needs doing and always be kind.
As her great-nephew, Derek, wrote to her: “Your kind to everyone, and you treat all with love, kindness, and respect… I’ve been reminded, by observing you, there is a form of humble leadership rooted in love, respect, and sacrifice that is vastly more powerful than most of what I see in the world right now. This is comforting.”
My Mother receives many calls and emails from family young and old. As I read these letters with her, I see that unbeknownst to her she is seen as the anchor of the family. Everyone likes to be around her, and they make sacrifices to do so. Why? Because she radiates strength, peace, acceptance, (not passivity) love, and action, while always being kind. They respect what they see as her wisdom, curiosity, and joy in learning, and they tell her so. They like how she takes risks and puts herself out for others, while never looking for credit. The way she thinks, and acts anchors them. But that’s not all.
They also see her as a springboard. A person who doesn’t waste time on the uncontrollable but looks for the things we can do within our circle of influence. Creative, resourceful, and fun. Turning over every stone. Convinced that obstacles have solutions. Expecting the best around the corner. Always inspiring and encouraging others to dream. We all see this through her actions. and they inspire ours.
They also see that life is not an endurance test for her. She loves life and her extended family squared. She knows when to say yes. She understands that no is an acceptable answer. She sees when her work is done, and others can steer the ship.
Discernment – the ability to judge well.
This is the quality I see shining through in my mother throughout her 100 years, and in particular at this time. Her courage to choose her own way, time and time again.
I am convinced that in the end it is the simple acts of daily living that have the biggest impact. None of us really know what the impact is. That’s not our job to know. It is our job to do our part and to do it kindly. And in the end to be surprised and delighted with how it turned out and bask in all the love surrounding us.”
Note: Keep your eyes open. There is beauty everywhere and kindness is rampant. Warmly, Trudy
Originally published on Living Well with Illness July 23, 2020
PS I love the little tree frog whose home is in Vancouver.