Love, Sacrifice, Security – A Mother’s Greatest Gifts

Mom & boys

“Her deathbed confession was more like a selfless revelation – an ode of love to her children.”

 Happy Mother’s Day!

Every Mother’s Day our thoughts roll around to the gratitude, appreciation, love, and respect we hopefully feel, and should be expressing, to our mothers, wives, sisters, and others all year round. Only this day we feel an obligation to show how we feel, and fill the coffers of card-making companies with purchases that articulate our feelings in ways many of us could never imagine.

I feel guilty saying clear memories of my biological mother are relatively few, even though she was an amazing and committed mother. The epitome of love and grace. A stable and self-sacrificial woman who routinely put her children’s needs in front of her own wants and needs well into my high school years…and that’s when we lost her. She died way too young. My memories of her do not do justice to the parenting pedestal she deserves.

I could chalk the fading memories of my mother up to years gone by – it has been more than 25 years. But even though specific memories of times and experiences shared may be fading, there is something far more powerful I can never forget. A feeling so ingrained in my being that I experience it daily. The passage of time can never dampen in my spirit how my mother made me feel – loved, sacrificed-for, and secure. Those are the foundation elements, the cornerstone building-blocks, upon which every positive character trait and confidence I exhibit today has been built.    

People may forget what you do, but they will never forget how you made them feel.

Selfless. Even in her final days, for months prior to her transition my mother was bed-ridden and hospitalized, but I never heard her complain for herself. I remember my father spending every waking moment by her side. He slept in her hospital room every night on a narrow, hard, roll-away cot, holding her hand, spending time, making sure she knew she was loved.

Every day after school I would visit her for hours. Just sitting, spending time, sometimes praying, telling her about my day. Rarely did she speak back. In her final days she did not have the strength to say much. Just occasionally open her eyes, force a faint smile, and acknowledge appreciation for the company.

Then a day or two before she died I remember her struggling to speak the final words I remember her saying. Simply she said, “I don’t want to leave you. You and your brother are too young. I need to make sure you’ll be okay.”

Her deathbed confession to me was more like a selfless revelation – an ode of love to her children. She was not thinking about herself at all. Rather, her thoughts were for her children. She wanted to express love and concern for her two sons. Wow! The briefest choice of words summarizing the deepness of a mother’s love. Selfless. Even as her end drew near, showing more concern for the future well-being of her children than for own terminally-ill situation.

My mother gave me the irreplaceable building blocks of love, sacrifice, and security. The building blocks of everything I continue to grow into and become. For that I can never repay her, and I highly doubt she would ever expect repayment of any kind. Still, it would be nice to tell her how incredibly much I will forever be grateful. Her early belief in me allowed me to grow greater belief in myself.  A belief that continues to grow, succeed, achieve, and evolve. Invaluable traits. Just a few of the gifts my mother gave me.

It is impossible to truly know something until it is experienced.  For example, I could describe to you how to swim, but you could never truly know how to swim until you get in the water and swim. Certain things can only be known through experience. Such it is with a mother’s love.

No child can truly know the deep sense of love a mother has for her children, except that mother. We can attempt to know. We can express our gratitude and try to reciprocate that love. But a mother’s love for her children is more powerful, deeper, and more expansive than we can ever authentically know. It’s a love beyond human comprehension, expanding into the spiritual.

Shortly after my mother’s passing I stumbled on an old, dusty book in the basement of my parent’s house. It had been there decades, untouched. Later I discovered what a classic it truly is. The book is The Prophet by Khahlil Gibran. In this book I found a verse that struck me in the greatest way. The verse reads:

“Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you.

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”

Amazing words, and I somehow believe all mothers know, whether realized or not, the truth in these words.

Mothers are like great vessels, in a spiritual, physical, and psychological sense, through which each of us are born, nurtured, and developed. A mother’s most basic gifts begin with love, sacrifice, and security, then evolves into countless other attributes that cause us to grow into the individuals we eventually become.

Mothers often consider children their greatest blessing, but the reality is the reverse. Mothers are our greatest blessing. The gift of a loving, caring, and sacrificing mother is greatest gift of all. We should make a commitment daily to treating our greatest gifts as they deserve to be treated.

Thank you for reading…wishing wellness and empowerment your way,

Dr. J

 Legacy Lives Forever…and We Can All Leave a Legacy

Minneapolis downtown purple

“Write your eulogy while you’re alive…then go out and live a life that will make that eulogy 100% authentic, accurate, and proud.” –Dr. Juneau Robbins

Minneapolis, April 21, 2016 – It was one of those rare moments in life when you will remember exactly where you were, what you were doing, and who you were with when you heard the news. A surreal moment in time, shocking to your core. Every detail will be remembered as long as you live, with extreme vividness, as if you could re-live the moment in real-time, anytime.

A prideful city learns the loss of its greatest son. The nation and world is dazed, saddened and surprised to learn the loss of an amazing musical icon. By nightfall powerful pictures of cities and buildings around the world (some expertly photo-shopped by mourning fans blurring lines between fact and fiction) are bathed in a peaceful glow of purple light, paying tribute to the loss of purple royalty. Prince Rogers Nelson has transitioned to the other side. The artist known as Prince has died.

Living in Minneapolis, specifically North Minneapolis where the Artist was raised and matured, makes the loss feels incredibly personal. It’s more than the simple loss of a musical icon whose creative genius we all grew up with, evolved with, through the last several decades. In Minneapolis and immediate surrounding areas the personal imprint and touch of Prince’s influence is everywhere. From family and childhood friends, to legendary night spots, to eyewitness accounts and tales that would be difficult to believe if they involved anyone other than Prince. But the greatest tribute of all exists in the countless stories of Prince’s humble, personal, and generous giving spirit.

During the course of our lives each of us will experience several of these rare, captivating, and time-freezing moments. They will be very personal in nature. Not intentionally chosen by us, rather chosen by our era, upbringing, greatest influences, and values. Many of these time-freezing moments will revolve around death. The death of a loved one, the untimely death of an acquaintance, or the passing of a major public or social figure whom we revere. The strongest memories of the lives of people who die, once the shock, mourning, and healing run their course, lives in the legacy of how these people contributed to the betterment, or detriment, of humanity.

 Have you ever thought about how you want to be remembered?

Legacy is an interesting concept. Obviously Prince’s most visible legacy will be his forever musical gift to the world. The way he impacted countless lives worldwide, including my own, through his gift. He was a genius-level talent. An original, innovative, never-satisfied perfectionist who elevated all around him to another level versus settling for anything less than achieving the full potential of his vision. That’s a powerful legacy in itself, without even mentioning the seven Grammy Awards, over 100 million records sold, Academy and Golden Globe Awards, and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Right now there are just over 7.4 billion people alive on earth. Statistically, greater than 99.9999% of the world’s population will never stand a chance of leaving a creative-genius legacy approaching anything near the level of Prince. But there’s another side to Prince’s legacy. A quieter, less glamorous side that most of the world will never know. His legacy of giving.

Whether gifting a small, inner-city school $200,000 to continue educating an under-served community, or paying a fellow musician’s medical bills, or helping outfit low income home owners with solar panels to decrease their monthly energy bills, or financing a program to help low-income kids learn computer coding, Prince was a generous philanthropist. Not only in the sense of giving money, but in the giving of his attention and time to identify worthwhile causes, imparting his influence and love to the betterment of people in need. The anonymous and selfless manner in which he consistently attempted to help people in need is a form of legacy that can be pursued, and achieved, by each and every one.

How do you want to be remembered when you die? What do you think others will say about you?  How are you treating other people? Not just people you like, but also those with whom you have disagreements? Will your legacy be one of living, giving, and love? Or one of selfishness and pettiness, known only for personal pursuits.

There is nothing wrong with personal pursuits. We all have selfish ambitions and goals we wish to pursue, but a full and fulfilling life requires balance, including what we receive and what we give. Our everyday actions are contributing to memories that will outlast us and the legacy that will outlive our physical existence.

I’m recalling the words shared on my father’s funeral program just a few short years ago. He was a servant-leader, humble to the core, a retired high-school teacher and small-city politician, who positively impacted the lives of many people daily in a very modest way. Some of the last words written about him were:

“A Life Of Abundant Love, Service to Fellow Man, Calm in the Midst of Conflict, Inspiration and Wisdom Shared, Is a Life Well Lived. You Will Be Missed. Thank you.”

Simple. Beautiful. If you’re struggling with thoughts of what your legacy may be, begin with being kind. People may forget what you do, but they will never forget how you make them feel. In the big scheme of things life is short and can be very unpredictable. Make a point to enjoy the time you have, tell those you love how you feel, and have no time for long grudges…either forgive or forget (that doesn’t mean repeat!). Plan for the inevitable (life insurance, will, etc.), and don’t die with your music within. If you have a dream, make every effort to pursue it. Don’t leave this life wondering what if?

Today Minneapolis held an incredible all-day block party in honor of our fallen Prince. It was a celebration. His untimely death was a hurtful loss for the city and an unfortunate loss for the world at large, but we are grateful for his existence. Grateful for his life and grateful for the way he shared his talents and benevolence with humanity. It is impossible to exist in sadness when gratitude is the greatest component of an equation.

It is said that which is unchanging is most real. The more we remember our memories, the stronger they become. When memories bring joy, they can still be enjoyed. They live on in the present. In great deeds something timeless abides. That’s a potential legacy available to everyone.

Thank you for reading…wishing wellness and empowerment your way,

Dr. J