In May 2017 I began finding daisies sprinkled throughout our property, daisies we did not plant. They were my mom’s favorite flower. I think she left them for me to remind me of the journey we took together, especially the lessons learned through her cancer and death. I’m sharing them now in the posts labeled “Daisy Chronicles.”
I’m two posts into the Daisy Chronicles and my mom has arrived to let me know she’s not in love with the way the storytelling is going. I need to show myself in a better light. She doesn’t want me to focus so much on how I got it wrong, because I got so much right.
These are her words, not mine.
Today’s story is for her. It’s the story of her greatest regret and one of our finest moments together…
A few weeks before my mom passed I was visiting with her. She was nodding off as she often did and I could tell she needed to sleep. I asked her a few times if she wanted to take a nap and she insisted she didn’t. Finally I said
Mom, why won’t you go nap? You’re so tired.
She answered: I don’t want you to leave. I want this time with you.
So let’s take a nap together.
When I look back on the journey with mom through her cancer and death that is my very favorite moment ever and here is why…
My mom laid down in her bed and I laid next to her. There was an exquisite level of peace around us. Maybe it was the simple joy of resting or something else but I remember just loving that moment so much.
I held my mom’s hand. I have always loved my mom’s hands. When I think of my childhood I see my mom’s hands… stirring cake batter, applying lotion, reaching to hug me. Everything that was good in my childhood included those hands.
I thought about how much I loved those hands as we lay their quietly.
She asked me to talk to her so I did. I asked her the question I had been wanting to ask her since I realized she probably wasn’t going to be with us much longer.
Mom is there anything you wanted to do that you never got to do?
My mother had put everyone in her life first. I suspected there were a few dreams left unfulfilled because she had spent so much time taking care of others.
She answered quickly: Oh! I never wrote my book!
My mind whirred … a book? I had never heard her mention a desire to write a book. I’d never seen her write more than a birthday card or a recipe card in my entire life. An ache started to fill my heart. My mom had this big dream to write a book and now it was too late.
I knew it! It felt so unfair that she had spent her life caring for others in such a big way, loving so many and now she was dying with this dream left unrealized.
What book mom?
My Book of Love. She said simply. The Book where I tell you and your brother and your sister how much I love you. How much I have loved being your mother.
That was her regret: That she had not written down what she showed us every single day of our lives. Her regret was simply that she wouldn’t have a way to keep reminding of us of her love after she was gone.
I kissed my mom’s hand. I didn’t say anything. It didn’t matter that I already had all the memories that would have been written in that book. It didn’t matter that I knew that love story by heart. I let my mom cradle that regret because it was hers.
My mom’s regret made me smile because it opened up a world of knowledge about my mom and also what it looks like to live a full life.
I had always wondered if my mom ever felt like she lost out because she had spent so much time taking care of us and our extended family. But she didn’t. Her only regret was that she didn’t have a way to love us more or for longer.
My mom had fulfilled her life purpose … it was to love. It was that simple. And as I watched her drift off to sleep I looked at the hand I still held. The hand I loved so much. The hand that had given me 5 million caresses, the hand that had baked hundreds of cakes and thousands of cookies, the hand that had always smelled of Vaseline Intensive Care lotion.
That is when I realized that hand belonged to a woman who did not miss out on anything because of the way she loved. That hand belonged to a woman who had the privilege of leaving the world with a single regret – that she couldn’t love more.
And that is the moment when my heart broke open to a single truth – accolades and achievements are wonderful and fun – but a successful life will never be defined by what we achieve or how famous we become – a life’s success will be defined by how big we have loved.
Right now, five years later, I still have many
moments days (or weeks) where I wonder am I doing enough, creating enough, being enough. When that shadow of doubt starts to wrap itself around me I use that day with my mom to bring me out of it. I just think “How can I put more love into the world today.” And whatever answer my soul gives me, I know that is my north star to success.