Friday, May 6, 2011

Lessons I Learned Watching Mom: A Mother's Day Tribute

Mami lives on... through the power of love
I was blessed to have a loving encourager and peacemaker as a mother. On this Mother's Day, I'd like to share some lessons I learned by watching her over the twenty years I had her. Though breast cancer took her from us way too soon, she lived so abundantly that her life continues to bear good fruit that endures. Mami's life goes on in those she loved and blessed. Here's some of what she taught me: 
I Have Dignity and Worth.
How I Choose to Live Matters.

Mami waltzed through life, her quiet confidence and inner beauty permeating everything she did. She knew who she was and did not live to fulfill others’ expectations of her. I watched her face hardship with dignity, never losing her sense of purpose, her joy or her radiance. Her strength inspires me to face adversity deliberately and with grace, showing through my choices that I know my worth and value what God has entrusted to me through the gift of life.

Laughter and Joy are the Best Medicine.

I grew up watching Mami laugh. She loved to laugh with her family, her friends, our neighbors (especially Yiya), and her coworkers. On cleaning day, she'd often drop the mop, take my hand and lead me to our living room, where we'd dance to our hearts' delight. In the car, Mami would always sing along with her favorite ballads on the radio. When I think of Mami, I picture her laughing with her whole being. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” I think laughter was Mami's favorite drink!

Encouragement is Powerful.

To en-courage is to infuse others with courage, and who doesn't need that? Mami was my greatest cheerleader; her belief in me helped me to become a doctor. Proverbs 11:25 teaches that “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” As we offer encouragement to those who need it, we, too, are invigorated, finding fortitude for our own trials. So I, too, strive to be an infuser of courage, a giver of hope.

Share Your Life and Your Heart With Those You Love.

One of my best memories is going for long drives with Mami. During the two hours we spent driving through the countryside to visit Grandma, Mami shared stories with me. Stories about work. About her childhood. About her parents and siblings. I learned what she valued by hearing each story and noticing the threads that tied them together: her passion for integrity, honesty and truth. Her love of family. Her desire to make a difference in people's lives through her work, by staying involved in the political process, and through acts of kindness.

Mami shared her heart through stories and actions that still teach and feed me twenty years later. As I recognize the impact of all this, I feel compelled to live with the same intentionality, for I know that my kids are listening to me, too.

Sometimes Life Deals you a Tough Hand. Play it Well.

So sometimes life deals you a tough hand. And if it does, you must play your hand, and play it well. Others are learning from you, even as you figure out your own way. So whether you waltz through your troubles or sink into pot holes, the way you navigate your challenges impacts more than just your life. So play your hand well, getting help if you need it.

I still have Mami's copy of Desiderata, the anonymously written reflections found in Old Saint Paul's Church in Baltimore in 1692. “Go placidly amid the noise and haste,” it says, “and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons... in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.”

In times of trial, stay close to those who love you well. Depart from all that steals your hope. And call on God as your lifeline. Then, you will never be alone.

Think About the Next Generation.

Mami was Assistant Secretary of Labor for Puerto Rico. One of my best memories is when she addressed the media during a special event at her office. I was the only person younger than twenty in a room full of news reporters, bright lights and cameras. I don't recall the subject of the meeting, but I remember her words. She spoke about young people, whom she called “the hope of the land” and “the future of the world.” She emphasized her belief in the young and spoke about us in a positive way. Thirty years later, her words still touch me deeply.

I learned many more things from Mami. She taught me to work hard, to believe in myself and to help those in need. She taught me to be relentless in protecting those I love. And she taught me to love deeply and to show it. As I remember beautiful Maribel this Mother's Day, I rejoice in her: her beauty, her joy, her life. And I smile as I recognize threads of her stories weaved into my children's lives - even though they never met her.

Still, they meet her every time I take their hand, play some merengue and teach them a new dance move. Or when we're driving around and I share about my day and enjoy every detail they share about theirs. They meet her in every endearing word I use to show my love, as she lovingly did with my brother and me. And they meet her in my commitment to teach every second, aware that my children are learning from everything I say and do.

So laugh and rejoice no matter what, and find people and things that strengthen, inspire and help you rise each day. Life is for living. Hope is for giving. And love heals all things. Today, embrace those you love. Rejoice in your family and friends, and laugh. Or dance. It's a great way to say thanks – for life!

Be thankful!
Dr Mari 

* This tribute was featured in Hope Matters.

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