Gifts From Mom©

Sunday, May 11th is Mother’s Day and in that spirit I am dedicating this week’s newsletter to mothers, with a special dedication to my Mom, Sandy Nischwitz. A couple of weeks ago my Mom suffered a stroke. The good news is that it was not life threatening, she still has her mental faculties and her speech is intact. The challenging news is that her left side has been affected, she currently cannot walk and her left side vision has been impacted. At the young age of 77, Mom’s ongoing independence is at risk. She is recovering at a rehabilitation center and working hard every day to recover her mobility and to reclaim her independence.

I have been blessed to have the freedom to choose to spend a lot of time with Mom over the past couple of weeks, including two trips to Dayton to be with her. What I learned on these trips and from my time with Mom is an even deeper understanding of the impact of being fully present with people to listen to their stories, including especially the impact that being present has in creating a fertile environment for people to share their stories. I was also reminded of the stories that each of us carry within us just waiting for the opportunity to be shared.

A friend asked me when was the last time I had that much uninterrupted one-on-one time with my Mom. The honest and initially sad answer was never. On my first trip I spent roughly 8-10 hours every day in a hospital or rehab center room with Mom. While she occasionally napped or had other visitors, I was with my Mom, talking to her and listening to her for the majority of 5 straight days on my first trip. I had never had that much one-on-one time with my Mom.

When I thought about it, I realized that this is probably true for most of us. While we may have time with our parents or other family members, it is typically with other family members. Think about it – when was the last time (if ever) that you spent 5 straight hours alone with and talking to one of your parents.? My guess is that your answer is not often if ever. While I initially felt bad that this had never happened before, I quickly shifted to appreciating the gift of the time together.

Despite my many potential distractions (e.g. work, clients, life, etc.), I chose to be fully present for and with my Mom. We talked about her stroke, including her fears about how this might impact her independence and her life. We talked about her many other emotions related to the stroke and her recovery. We talked about how the unexpected can jump up in our life at any time. We talked about some rallying points for her on her recovery and rehabilitation road, which I dubbed the 4 P’s:

  1. Patience
  2. Prayer
  3. Persistence
  4. Positivity

These were helpful, valuable and potentially healing conversations, but my choice to be fully present with my Mom also opened the door to storytelling and story sharing.

My Mom is in the midst of preparing to move to condominium after living in the same house for 50 years. At the age of almost 55, I know that is a long time. Like most people she is struggling with memories and the challenges of letting go of things as part of downsizing her home. As someone that has few attachments to stuff (except mostly for my addiction to books), I was encouraging Mom to think about her many memories that have nothing to do with the items or things that are in her house. Specifically, she was struggling with letting go of a painting that her father had given her as a wedding present. However, when I asked her to share with me her top 3 memories of her dad (my grandfather), not one of them related to an item or piece of property. While this was not news to me, it was a little bit to her, and it was a great reminder that memories live in the heart, not in things.

The other great gift from this one conversation is that I had never heard any of the 3 stories that Mom shared with me about my grandfather. At that time in her life, they may not have seemed like a big deal, but they are at the core of her best memories of her dad. One of them involved my grandfather driving her home one night after playing cards (gambling) with some friends and having a few beers. When her brother (my uncle) found out that his dad had driven home while somewhat intoxicated, he let her dad know that he was never to drive my Mom again when he had been drinking. I had never seen my grandfather drink, so this was all new stories to me. In sharing these stories I learned more about my grandfather and much more about my Mom. What an amazing gift!

In another conversation while sitting with my Mom I learned (or re-remembered) that she was born at home and that, in fact, both of her brothers were born at home. I did not know or remember that, which is a very big part of her life. Even as a I write this article I think about how different the world was with children being born at home, rather than in a hospital (and not that long ago).

Stories and memories are such a gift and treasure, but they do not happen without time together and without being fully present for the people we are with. Certainly, I wish my Mom had never suffered this stroke, but I am SO grateful for the time that I have had with my Mom over the past couple of weeks – just being there and listening. We know that life is short, but do we act like we know it? Frankly, I wonder. I know that I have not made time to be with Mom over the years, but I chose to be with her in this time of crisis and illness, and I have received many gifts and blessings.

This article is dedicated to my Mom, but the lessons for each of you are these three:

  1. Life is short and you may not get the gift of time handed to you like I was. Make time to be with the people that you care about before it is too late and do not wait until the crisis comes.
  2. Be fully present with everyone that you meet and interact with. Full presence is a rare gift and the magic of stories, storytelling and story sharing ONLY happen in the context of full presence.
  3. Ask more questions, especially of the people you care about and those who are aging. None of us know when our time will come or when another person’s time will come, but we also know the odds that come with aging. Ask the people you care about to share their stories, listen and prepared to be amazed and uplifted.

In a world that is usually moving way too fast and which is filled with so many distractions (television, cell phones, social media, busy lives), take a breath, slow down, be present and just listen to people and their stories. The only way that I can describe the moments that we create with the foregoing is Magic Time!

Happy Mother’s Day to my Mom and to all the mom’s out there. While you think about the cards, flowers and gifts that mom’s love, remember most the gift of time and your full presence.

Comments

  1. Hey Jeff – Great article about your mom and the power of listening to others. Your mom is quite a lady. Hope she is doing well. Regards, David

  2. What a beautiful tribute to your Mom! You are so blessed to have been given this time with her. 2 years ago, I made the conscious decision to spend more time with my “long distance” parents. Taking the time to go visit them when no one else is visiting has proved invaluable. I spend weekends going to car shows with my dad and sitting with him for hours talking. Then I sit up late nights and talk with my mom. Talking with them away from each other has been very good too! I have LOVED hearing all the great stories from yesterday and today. My next trip to see them is next month. I encourage EVERYONE to really take the time to get to know their parents while they can.

  3. God bless your mom. God bless you and your time with a woman who has helped form you to be the man you are today

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