What Matters Most: Reflecting After Loss

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I’ve done a lot of reflecting lately. I know a lot of people in my community have. We lost a good man. A friend of mine lost a husband and three little boys lost a father. Many of the people who attended his funeral walked away saying the same thing: 1. We want his minister friend to give our eulogy and we want to go to his church. 2. Are we doing enough for our children?

Being a single parent is hard. It’s hard to be the mom and the dad. It’s hard to run and grow a business and make clients happy while being a mom, a friend, a daughter, a taxi driver, a scheduler, a tutor, a mentor, a cheerleader and all of the other hats one wears while being both parents.

This isn’t a plea for sympathy. I chose this life. I chose to leave, to become a single mom, and my only regret is that I didn’t have the courage or strength to do it sooner. But it doesn’t change the fact that it’s hard. And I have it easier than many because thankfully, I have the help and support of so many friends and family members.

However, the passing of several of my friends’ loved ones recently has given me pause. I learned young that nothing in life is promised, let alone that you will be here tomorrow. So, it made me ask again, “What is it that I want to accomplish? When someone gives my eulogy, what do I want to be known for? What is really important? Given that I only have so many hours in the day, what do I need to accomplish in each one?” My number one priority is my children. It’s an easy answer for parents.

I know that I don’t do enough to support my kids. Some days I fall into the standard task master role, you need to do x, y and z. But I do make an effort to praise my children so that today’s to-do list isn’t all they hear from me. I will never have the time or energy to give my boys everything they need or want in life. But my hope is that when my time comes, they will have the tools to succeed in life and be happy. My boys know resiliency. They know grace. They know love and forgiveness. They know manners. They know hard work. They know (though sometimes forget) that the latest toy isn’t going to fill their cup with happiness but that experiences with loved ones does.

Tonight, I asked my oldest if he wanted to eat again between his hockey pictures and his game. He was standing with several of the other players when I went over to ask. They were joking around and he finally figured out where he wanted me to get him food and what he wanted. I started walking away and he called out to me, “Thanks Mom!” I threw back a “You’re welcome” over my shoulder. Then, in front of his teammates, my almost 16-year-old boy said, “I love you!” It made my heart swell. I did my best to not act like a spazz and gush back. So, I threw back over my shoulder, “Love you too!” and gushed to one of the other moms instead.

Any mom of a teenager knows how precious that is. That my son has the courage to express his feelings and to be genuine in front of his friends and it not affect his “cool” factor or care what others think is huge.

I am by no means the perfect mom and they are not perfect children, but that moment made me feel like I was doing something right. Like most parents, I’m proud of my boys. Yes, there are days when they do things I’m not proud of and I do things I’m not proud of. There are days when I want to bonk their heads together Three Stooges-style and tell them to knock it off. But, I’m proud that they help out around the house (no, it isn’t always perfect and sometimes there are more than one or two reminders), but they do it. They helped decorate the house today while I had to wrap up some things for some clients.

My reflecting has reminded me again that I want each of my days to be guided by purpose. Each thing I do during the day needs to be a step toward my vision for my life and what is important to me.

A friend texted me over Thanksgiving to wish me and my boys a happy one. He said, “I am thankful for you today and hope you have a great holiday. Your strength humbles me and reminds me that family comes first. You really do an amazing job of leading your family. Thank you for your friendship.” It was truly the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. “You do an amazing job of leading your family.” Wow, just wow. Those words couldn’t have been more powerful. There are days when I think I do a lousy job of leading and shaping my boys to grow to the men they should be, for them to have the character and strength they need to be good, make good decisions and be able to lead healthy, happy lives while leaving this world better than they found it. For my boys’ friends, I want those friends to have gained something from being their friend.

I’ve gained a lot of clarity in the past couple of years. Clarity of purpose, clarity of vision, clarity of what is important to me and what I want out of life. It makes it easy to cut out the things or say no to things that don’t add to that or propel us toward that clarity. It makes it easier to draw boundaries.

Maybe because of the death of a few and because we all seem to rush around these days, time seems to be a big topic of conversation lately. There are a lot of great quotes about time. “Time is not measured by clocks but by moments.” “Time has a wonderful way of showing us what really matters.” “The greatest gift you can give someone is your time.”

The last one is one that I live by. I value my time as well as others who give their precious time to me or my boys. One of my favorite times is Christmas and this quote by Thomas S. Monson sums up my feelings toward the holiday quite well, “Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting. It is happiness because we see joy in people. It is forgetting self and finding time for others. It is discarding the meaningless and stressing the true values.”

Merry Christmas and cheers to what truly matters most!