Alert! This is one of my more philosophical and spiritual writings!
My 91-year-old mom died recently. As you can imagine, it’s been a lot to feel and process. I had the honor of sifting and sorting through boxes upon boxes of memorabilia. And, I saw my mom’s entire life laid out in pictures and letters.
My mom was a product of The Great Depression, which, for her meant soup lines, her father’s abandonment of the family and, therefore, her mother’s rush to a factory job; and, consequently, a lack of a true childhood for her. She was the oldest of three siblings. Her grandma lived with them, but my mom would recall having much responsibility in managing the family for many years and at a very early age. She worked very hard and actually was able to go to college and become an elementary teacher. Teaching was her passion. She never thought she’d marry. Independent as she was, it wasn’t even important to her back in the 1940s. Her school kids filled her days, she would say. But, at age 28, she did marry my dad and they went on to have eight children in a happy and loving home.
Processing the loss of my mom, I am even more acutely aware of just how much we touch each other’s lives in great and small ways and how poignant and necessary our time is following our dreams and sharing our gifts. Looking at those photos, I could see how my ancestors, my mom, my dad, my siblings, my own children, fit into the grand scheme of things. We all matter. We are all interconnected. Nothing is by chance. And, the domino effect of our choices is always in place.
If my mom’s dad hadn’t left so early in her life, she may not have married a man whose strongest desire was to be a father and to have a large family; hence, my birth as the sixth of eight children! For both of them, their religion was very close to their hearts and cemented their belief system (she had other suitors who did not possess this and she passed on them). Education (and teaching) was another driving force behind who they were and the decisions they made. And, fast forwarding a bit, it was important to them to send their children to Catholic schools, choosing a particular part of town to settle in, which, eventually sent me to the high school that hired one of the best art educators in our city. He greatly encouraged me to pursue Art as a career. And, despite my parents’ limited understanding of this genre and their hand-to-mouth upbringing, they did not dissuade me from attending college in Fine Arts. Were they fearful of my employability? Of course! But, I graduated. I worked many clerical jobs for a while to appease, I suppose. And, then, eventually started my business of art making.
Which brings me to the point of gaining clarity of our worth and following our dreams. It is truly up to us to define our purpose in this life, despite the naysayers, even if that naysayer only exists in your own mind. On my own zig zaggy road to figuring out the following —What motivates me? What is my “secret ingredient”? What skills do I have that enhance the lives of those around me? How am I my most authentic self? How can I best serve others? How can I bring joy to me and to others? — I have defined and redefined the questions and the answers that best fit. In my experience, it’s an ongoing and ever-changing process of discerning and becoming more and more aware.
These last few weeks, something in the middle of my grief has spoken to me. Through the grounding exercise of updating the copy and photos you see here on my own website, stories of each project flooded my memory — the nursery I painted for the adoptive couple’s long-awaited arrival of their baby from Colombia, the master bath painting for the woman who started all over again after 45 years of marriage, the mural design for the underprivileged kids at the Child Crisis Center in Mesa… and that’s only a few. And, I realized my vocation as an artist has more meaning to me and others than I ever allowed myself to believe. I stood up to the naysayer that doubted my worth or was fearful of failure… or success, for that matter. Instead, I allowed opportunities to receive goodness and generosity from others and made incredible alliances in the human exchange. And, now quite consciously with great support from The Divine, I am sending healing, joy, love and light to each and every client, every student, every recipient, with all that I create. The thing is, I know you are too!
My mother’s primary gifts were Love, Empathy, and Mindfulness of “The Golden Rule.” She taught it so well I could see it in the eyes of every photo in that box! And, she showed me very well how to pass that along.
What are your heartfelt gifts and what choices will you make to deliver them to others?