Thursday, May 5, 2011
Some random things I want to tell my daughter before I die.
I am the Mother of one daughter, Catherine. She was born on March the 9th, 1999, after many years of infertility, miscarriages, and dashed hopes and dreams. It was clearly the best day of my life.
But I am a mother just like you. I have other things I do with my day. I am busy running errands. I am preoccupied with other things and I am certainly not perfect. I try to be a good mom, but I know that sometimes I fall short of the mark.
One of the ways that I fill my life, besides being a mom, is by being a hospice nurse. I did not actively seek out this job, it sort of found me. I have been a nurse, in one form or another, for 30 years now. I had never worked in the hospice field before. But it had touched my life. My own Mother had hospice in 1997 when she died. So did my young cousin, who died too young in 2001.
So I became a hospice nurse. Most of my patients are seniors. The ending of their lives has touched me for sure, although they seem to follow the normal course of the universe. I was saddened, but felt that I was helping them and their families cope and I could go home and continue my life without too much distress. Things were ok. Then one day, I received the name of a patient to see at a large teaching hospital in Boston. When I looked at the chart, I saw myself reflected back. A woman, age 44 at the time. A wife and the mother of a 4-year-old daughter. She had struggled for years with infertility and this child was a gift. She was diagnosed with cancer during her pregnancy, but refused treatment as not to harm her child. She fought hard against the disease. But in the end, it had won.
I went to see her with a feeling of dread. This is one of my worse fears, to leave my daughter. As I entered the room, I could sense her full presence. Her daughter was playing in the room, talking to her, like any normal child would. Her mother did not respond verbally, but I definitely sensed a charge in the room, a warmth. I cannot describe it, but it was there. When the patient’s sister came to take the child to lunch, all that energy left with her.
I sat there with the patient, she was comatose. I told her what a beautiful daughter she had and how proud she must be of her. It was hard for me to be there, I wanted to run away. I held back my tears until I got to my car, then I couldn’t stop crying. I cry now, years after her death, as I write this.
I had to see her many more times, as we see patients who are hospitalized every day. Each day was difficult for me, but I had to remember that I am the one having the good day. There is no reason for me to feel sorry for myself. All my energy needs to be directed to the patient and the family.
I brought the patient’s daughter some princess stickers at one visit. She proceeded to place them all over her “sleeping” mother. The mother looked ethereal lying there. She still had all her wonderful, beautiful red hair. The floor nurses had lovingly brushed it. She did not look as though she were ill. She did indeed look as though she were only sleeping.
The patient died a few days later. I read about it in the paper and heard it in report. A sad day, indeed.
Months, years have passed since then. But I still, to this day, think about her. She has, without knowing, made me a better wife, mother and nurse. I thank her.
I have now seen many young mothers who are dying and many who have died, leaving children behind, motherless and alone. It still saddens me, but it has not impacted me quite the way that first young mother did
I still think about how it felt the first time I looked into the face of my own mortality. What if that were me? What would I want my daughter to know?
Surely, we all think we will be here until we are 100, having grown children and grandchildren to love and make cherished memories with. But the truth is, we may not. And we are all going to die. Many times without saying the things we always thought we would have more time to say.
So I decided to write down at least a few things I wanted my daughter to know. Ten turned into thirty, thirty into many more. I write it not only for my own daughter, but also for the daughter of my patient and all daughters that need a hug. And a mom.
Catherine, this is for you.
(From your mother.)
Love you always.
1. I will always be your best friend. Even when you hate me, even when you feel suffocated by me, I will be here.
2. Respect your father, even if I don’t always provide the best example.
3. Blue hair, tattoos and multiple piercings are, quite frankly, ugly. You may want show your independence that way, but I think that you know deep down, it is not the most attractive look. And I will love you no matter how you look anyway.
4. The world does judge you by your appearance. I know it is unfair, but it is the truth.
5. Girls can be really mean. They will hurt your feelings, betray you and make you cry. Have girl friends anyway. Stick with your true friends, don’t worry if they are popular or not.
6. Mean people suck, they really do. Try to avoid them. Stay away from malcontents, too. They take the oxygen out of the room.
7. Please talk to me about things. I know this sounds like a cliché, but not only was I young once, I still feel the same way now that I did then. I just have a different perspective on it.
8. I know that sometimes I will embarrass you. Sometimes I embarrass myself. And sometimes you embarrass me, too.
9. You will never go far unless you are willing to work hard and do your best. I know it sounds like I just read a bumper sticker, but it is really the only formula for success that works.
10. Make sure that you read the washing instructions in your clothes and that you separate the whites from the darks. I always do a separate load of pinks, as well. They are neither white nor dark.
11. Don’t have a loud cell phone conversation in a public place. No one, I repeat, NO ONE wants to hear your private conversation.
12. Read books. Everything you could ever want to know is written in some book. Your bedside table should always be filled with books you are reading. Go to the library often.
13. Make sure you have fun everyday. Make time for it. It is that important.
14. Smile at people. Acknowledge their presence. It solidifies yours.
15. If you don’t have change for the homeless person on the street, tell them that. Don’t just walk by and ignore them. It is rude.
16. Learn, hopefully from me, good manners. Use them even when you are going through the drive-thru window at the fast food joint.
17. Always thank people.
18. Pray. And when there is no response, keep praying.
19. Accept the fact that you are going to make mistakes in life. It is how we learn.
20. Accept the fact that I have and will continue to make mistakes as well.
21. You know the line, “Beauty is more than skin deep?” It is not true. Either you are beautiful or you are not. Most people are quite attractive and should make the best of what they have got. That is why we have the Bloomingdale’s cosmetic department.
22. I think you are the most beautiful girl in the world. I know that you will never believe that, but it is true.
23. Learn to cook. Know a few recipes that will become your signature dishes.
24. Learn to speak French. At least a few good phrases, and pronounce them properly.
25. Travel and see the world. Dorothy was wrong; everything is not in your own back yard.
26. Be tolerant of other’s views. Allow them to express themselves in non-violent ways. But make sure that you maintain your own thoughts and your own feelings.
27. People die. Wear your seatbelt at all times. Wear your helmet when cycling. Do not speed. Do not become distracted when you are driving. Do not drive drunk and do not get into a car with a drunk driver. Look around as you walk at night. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Talk to strangers, but do not get into a car with them or arrange to meet them from a chat room conversation.
28. Be patient with the old.
29. Be kind, be kind and then be kind some more.
30. When you date, please do not try to get back at me by dating someone that I would hate. Date someone you like. That is all that matters.
31. Stay away from boys/men who berate you, hit you or are aggressive toward you. Run away as fast as you can.
32. There is no such thing as a normal family.
33. When you plan your wedding, include the groom’s mother in the planning. She is going to become a very, very important person in your life, whether you want to believe it or not.
34. Marry a man who treats his mother with genuine respect.
35. Run from a man who puts his mother’s feelings before yours.
36. Have a really good financial plan and stick to it. You have to save some money. Period.
37. Make sure to own a dog. They provide unconditional love and true comfort. They are always happy to see you and always want to play.
38. Have lots of framed pictures of your family, friends, pets and travels all over your home.
39. Get a pap smear done every year after you turn 18. Do a self-breast exam every month. Make sure that your gynecologist is a female. Men may be good doctors, but they really don’t know what it feels like to be a woman, no matter what medical school they went to. And get a second opinion always.
40. Please continue to let me hug you, even when you get older. It gives me such joy. I promise not to do it in public.
41. On a rainy Saturday, lie in bed with me and watch a movie. Or lie in bed with your own daughter or son and watch a movie together in my memory. (Remember the popcorn and soda.)
42. Please stop rolling your eyes at me.
43. Every day is a gift. Do not forget that.
44. Keep a quarter in your car at all times for a phone call. Cell phones don’t always work.
45. Education is important. Make sure you do your best in school. I wish I had paid less attention to the boys and more attention to my grades. Or at least equal amounts of both.
46. I was a cheerleader in high school and it was fun. Make sure that you are part of something at school. It doesn’t matter what.
47. Know the proper utensils to use.
48. Know how to do minor repairs. There are many books at the library to read or you can ask someone. Have your own toolbox, even after you are married.
49. Put stuff back where it belongs and you will always be able to find it.
50. Always use a napkin.
51. Do not use green or blue eye shadow. I don’t care what the “experts” say, it looks ridiculous.
52. Every day is a new day. Move Forward. Try something new.
53. Treat yourself special. Do not depend on others to do this. You will always be disappointed.
54. Everyone has bad days. Don’t feel alone.
55. Keep up with current issues in the world.
56. Don’t litter, ever.
57. Listen to music. But don’t have one of those ipods in your ears all the time, especially if someone is trying to talk to you. It is rude.
58. Have fresh flowers in your home. Treat yourself to a fresh bouquet every week.
59. Enjoy “things,” but don’t let them define who you are.
60. Just because something is more expensive, it doesn’t necessarily make it better. Conversely, you get what you pay for. You will have to figure that one out for yourself.
61. Listen when people are talking to you. Don’t think about what you are going to say next, just listen. The best gift we can bestow on others is our presence.
62. Call me on Mother’s Day and my birthday.
63. Dad, too.
64. Don’t do things just because everyone else is. I know you need to feel as though you fit in, but try to hold tight to some things that are true only to yourself.
65. Rituals and traditions are can be wonderfully comforting. Just don’t let them become oppressive. Create your own traditions and don’t feel compelled to do things because “Mom did them every year.” My feelings will not be hurt.
66. I am your Mom. Help me become a better one by telling me what you need from me (or don’t need). Although it seems so at times, I am not a mind reader.
67. After you marry; ok, no pressure; if you marry, continue to surround yourself with women friends. Too often, these friends get pushed aside. Don’t do it. Maintain them, cherish them. They stabilize the pressure in our lives, like a jet cabin does at 33,000 feet. If the cabin pressure in a jet didn’t do that, we couldn’t breathe. Think of your friends the same way.
68. Never forget, no matter how old you are, how holidays and birthdays delighted you. Celebrate grandly.
69. Be mindful of what you say. Sticks and stones may not break bones, but words can break a heart.
70. When your heart gets broken, there really is no quick fix. It will hurt. The only known cures are a good, long cry, a hot bath and a lot of chocolate. And the passage of time.
71. Take care of your teeth by brushing and flossing two times a day. Teeth are important. And go to the dentist every six months.
72. Know that I will worry about you until I take my last breath, and maybe well beyond that.
73. Buy yourself beautiful lingerie. Just for you. It’s a nice thing to do for yourself.
74. When you have children, tell them you love them every day. Hug them frequently. Let them sit in their jammies on a Saturday and watch cartoons for hours. Join them. Do not fill their lives with too many activities. Kids these days are over scheduled.
75. Find a great hair stylist and stick with them. Yes, a bad hair day can make you feel awful.
76. Pick up your home a little every day and it will never become a huge mess.
77. Do not be petty. It is a waste of time and energy.
78. Take care of your health. Walk every day, as much as you can. Breath deeply. Release stress.
79. Remember this; there is no magic solution to losing weight. The ONLY thing that works is eating less and exercising more. Period.
80. People will disappoint you. It is a fact. Get over it. Do not dwell on it.
81. People do things because of how it makes them feel on the inside. It is never really about you. Remember that.
82. Someday, when you are missing me, think about all of the fun times we have had. Smile. Remember how much I loved you and what I said to you every night at bedtime; “I love you more than the sun and the moon and the stars in the sky.”
If you smile when you think about me, I will know I have done something right.
Some of my Favorite Quotes:
“Life’s a banquet, and most poor sons-of-bitches are starving to death.” ~~~Mame
“Three things in life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.”
“Enough is as good as a feast.”
Never think you’re not good enough yourself. My belief is that in life people will take you very much at your own reckoning.”
~~~ Anthony Trollope
“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger then death.”