Words of Wisdom from My Mom
Ten year ago, I woke up to the most tragic phone call from my father: Maman had died. It was surreal; she was a healthy woman and there were no reasons for her to leave us. But brain aneurysm chose differently… it hits its victims randomly, at any age, at any time, at any place. It could have been anybody but on that day, it was her, she was chosen.
On the morning of June 18, 2009 she was heading to the supermarket. After complaining about a terrible headache in the car and asking for a doctor, Death took her away peacefully at a lightning speed. With no warning or notice, with no time to say goodbye.
I never really understood the impact that she had until her funeral. We buried her in Madagascar, her birth land, and traveled from far away to honor her life. Many people showed up, some whom I had never met or even heard of before, they all knew her and wanted to bid farewell. At that moment her legacy truly hit me: she positively touched many people’s hearts. It had nothing to do with status, career, wealth or even us (my brother, my father and me). It was about the love that she had shown to them: she led a simple yet purposeful life by giving love to her family and her community.
As her daughter, I’ve witnessed how much she deeply cared for her loved ones and for others. She was always one with comforting words, small caring attentions (like thoughtful cards) and compassion. Other kids sometimes told me how they appreciated her. She often treated all kids like her own, and in-between the lines and my childish jealousy, I understood that some envied us for having such a great mom. My brother and I were lucky to have been raised by her. She was an incredibly human, patient, loving and understanding being.
She also imparted a lot of wisdom. In honor of her memory, I wanted to share with you some of the lessons that she has taught me:
On career and money:
You can do anything that you want if you believe in yourself and work hard.
During high school and college, she often reminded me that anything is possible if you put on your heart into it and do the work. If you want it, you can achieve it!
Be an independent woman.
Due to our international lifestyle, we followed my Dad’s job at the detriment of her career. Although she appreciated her life, she often explained to me that earning your own money grants you the freedom to lead the life that you want. As a woman, it gives you the opportunity to make your own choices, without your husband/partner’s approval. Always work and be independent, even if you are in a partnership!
On food and health:
Always rinse out rice before cooking it (until the water turns transparent) and cover the rice with enough water (about half a finger high from the level of the rice).
Back in my rice cooker-free days, she taught me how to make and wash rice properly. Thanks Mom!
Eat chocolate during exams period.
Dark chocolate helps improve your memory. During crunch time, consume it without guilt! She was generously feeding me chocolate even when I wasn’t hungry.
Take care of your body, you only get one body in this life!
Yes, she did handle on her own the sex ed conversation! It was an awkward but short efficient chat with her and my brother, and she landed the message: protect yourself before it’s too late!
Clear space, clear mind!
She often told me that if my physical environment was a mess, then my mind would also be a mess. Clean up your desk and room and then you will see clearly!
Always put things back into their home.
That’s the secret to avoid chaos! Once you are done using an item, put it back immediately where it belongs.
Heard via my brother: When it comes to cleaning, just store your things away (ie hide them) so that it’s not visible. I’m not sure how Marie Kondo would feel about this decluttering tip but it was pragmatic advice for a teenage boy!
Cat Stevens and Patrick Bruel are always good for the soul.
We would often hear these tunes in our home:
It’s alright to not believe in God, always keep the door open!
In her last year, I confessed to her that I wasn’t sure if I believed in God anymore. I felt guilty because she had raised me as a Protestant and I chose to be confirmed. Thankfully, she never judged me for my change of heart. In fact, she accepted my beliefs and doubts. She encouraged me to be at peace with myself and to keep the door open to Faith, to never shut it fully and to always keep it open, even if it’s just a little open!
On love, relationships and family:
Don’t worry about finding love, it will come to you naturally.
I was a bit skeptical about this advice because she married her high school sweetheart. It was “easy” for her, love found her very early in her life. But once again, she was right! It’s when you least expect it that love manifests itself to you. Don’t chase it, it will show up on its own. Love yourself, love others without expecting anything in return, and trust that Love will come and find you.
Cultivate your relationships, do your best to keep in touch with people even if they are far away.
She was very good at maintaining relationships even with the long distance. She would write, call and visit friends and family. Relationships can’t be nurtured without attention, you need to invest time. Her funeral was a testimony to this wise advice, people showed up for her because she had always been there for them in her lifetime.
Try to have kids when you are young.
My mother is the youngest of eight daughters. My grandmother was 47 years old when she had her and my grandfather was in his sixties. She grew up with “old” parents. They were gone by her early thirties, which didn’t give her a lot time to be with them. For that reason, she often insisted on the importance of having children early… to give yourself more time to spend with your children. Consequently, she had me at age 25 and my brother at age 28.
Even if you try to spend your time wisely and plan or calculate your life, you can NEVER control it. Ironically, she left us at the very young age of 47… the age at which her own mother gave birth to her! I was 23 and my brother was 20 years old. We ended up spending less time with her than she did with her own parents, but at least we got to spend quality time with her. Twenty years were better than nothing. And looking back, I now realize that it was a generous GIFT, a blessing. We could have had less time, or worse, no time at all with her. We were granted twenty years to learn from her and eternal time to be loved by her. For that, I am forever grateful to her.
And by leaving us, she implicitly taught us the ultimate lesson: Make each day count because life is too short! Most importantly: Have no regrets. Don’t go to bed angry because you never know what can happen when you wake up! Treat people well, be kind, caring and loving.
While browsing through our family archives, I stumbled upon one of her notebooks from the 80’s. It was full of goodbye messages from her high school friends. She wrote on the first page a quote from a Christian essay:
And that she certainly did! She lived a beautiful life.
To those of you who have been by our side through this difficult decade of recovery, I want to THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. Believe me, I have never forgotten the rides to/from the airport, the shoulders to cry on, the kind messages, the flowers, the shelter and the care and love that you provided us. You lifted us up when we were broken and enduring excruciating pain. Rebuilding our lives and mending our hearts would have never been possible without your support. You hold in my heart a very special place.
With time, we slowly start forgetting the sound of her voice, her touch, her presence… It becomes more distant as we get caught up in our daily life, and the only way to keep her alive in our hearts is by remembering her. If you knew her, I would love to know about memories that you shared with her or lessons that you have learned from her. I encourage you to comment below. Today is a special day to remember, to rejoice and be grateful to have known her.
If ever you are going through a loss or difficult moment, please know that you are never alone, your loved ones are always alive as long as you remember them. I send you my sympathies, some encouragement and most importantly my love.
Allow time to do its work and you will heal.