A few years ago I learned an invaluable parenting lesson in the most unexpected of Life Classrooms: a funeral.
From the time I met her in the hospital, Teresa had always been in poor health. In the few years I knew her, she visited death’s threshhold multiple times, always fighting back for more time. She and her family had come to terms with her illnesses likely cutting short a long life, but because she was doing relatively well, the timing of her passing came as a surprise.
Her precious daughter, a classmate of my daughter’s, spoke at Teresa’s memorial service. I was touched by her eloquence and composure during her affecting eulogy, a beautiful tribute to her mother.
Later, I was talking to my daughter about how impressed I was with Cara’s ability to speak with such confidence and composure at the most grievous and emotional of times, especially since she was only 16 and she and her mom were very close.
Rachel understood why, learning the secret to Cara’s strength when she had visited her the night before: there was nothing left unsaid between Cara and her mom.
Said another way, Cara and her mom were current in their relationship.
Cara and Teresa’s situation wasn’t typical; Teresa was confined to bed, or on good days, a wheel chair. Cara was by her side as often as possible, giving opportunity for on-going conversation.
Most parents and children aren’t beholden to one another in such an intimate capacity, but we can learn what they practiced:
- expressing hopes and dreams
- reconciling differences
- quickly forgiving offense
- encouraging and believing the best for one another….
Due to my husband’s job, I’ve crossed the Atlantic half a dozen times during the past year. Sometimes physically separated from my children for months, we did our best to plan wisely to minimize time apart.
Never before have I been more aware about remaining current.
My actions and intentions were governed by this awareness, and with every email or Skype conversation I made sure our children knew how I treasured them, the qualities I valued about them, how proud we were to witness their increasing maturity and sense of responsibility while we were away. To the best of my ability, I didn’t leave anything unsaid, and I never missed an opportunity to tell them I love you.
In my experience, holding a grudge gives root to bitterness; withholding praise, encouragement, or affection can be the seed of passive-aggressiveness. I believe it is our responsibility and privilege as parents to lead by example and to make right what is wrong, to extend forgiveness, and offer apology…even when we don’t feel like it.
I’m sure the Simple Mom community is divided when it comes to making New Year’s resolutions – I happen to fall into the side of list makers. But whether you call it a resolution or simply plain ol’ resolve, would you join me in making this an intentional practice?
To speak those things that will make a difference in the lives of our children (and maybe even our spouses, extended family and friends)?
To leave no words unsaid.
Because we can’t predict what tomorrow will hold.
Are you current with your children and the important people in your life? While reading this, did unfinished conversations come to mind? What steps will you take to get where you want to be?
Bonus: my Simple Mom niche is Parenting Teens, but for those of you who are interested, I recently shared a fantastic prayer guide for parents of college students. It’s a great help as students begin a new semester (and you’re welcome to pass it along to others who might be interested. ~ Robin