My mom recently turned 80.
As with my dad, we took this opportunity to let my mom know how she has impacted our lives. Each of her 10 grandchildren, her 3 children and their spouses wrote her a letter expressing our gratitude for the ways she has played a role in our lives
When families do this themes start to emerge. The measure of a life is seen. Influence is more easily traced. My mom, a fierce advocate of family, loyalty, intergity and kindness, a person who never seeks the limelight, who never draws attention to herself, is a veritable giant when it comes to having influence on those in her innermost circle.
I had the privilege of gathering all these letters and reading them, often with tears streaming down my face.
These are a few the lessons I picked up:
1. Your family sees you clearly. This cannot be helped.
Here is how one grandson put it:
"I look around at our holiday gatherings and see a whole family that is enjoying their struggles. All of your offspring are happily and confidently pursuing lives that are meaningful to them. They love their lives, and they love each other and they love spending time together. This cannot be an accident. You are clearly doing something right. The way you have lived your life has resulted in a clan of thriving people."
"You have taught me how to work hard and how to rest, how to love and be loved, how to speak and how to listen, and how to serve others and be served."
"You have shown me how to be strong when things are difficult and how to treat everyone I meet with kindness."
2. Showing up matters. Show up as often as you possibly can.
A few quotes:
"For as long as I remember you have been on top of every activity and event that we had going on. Even now I am almost positive that you know my soccer schedule better than I do."
"One of the greatest lessons you have taught me is that you can show people you love them by simply being present. For me, that meant you came to everything from my 2nd grade youth soccer and tee ball games, middle school band concerts and track meets, piano concerts, high school swim meets, track meets, softball games, marching band competitions, my auditions for all-state band, spring training in Orlando to see my first college hit ... You taught me that if a person you love is doing something they love, your presence at that event is the ultimate expression of love and support ... your presence gave me even more joy in what I was doing because I knew you were sharing it with me."
3. The little things are always the big things. Don't be fooled.
Again, a few quotes:
"Every year I look forward to your twice-baked potatoes, banana bread, and Sunday school rolls, because no one is able to make them quite like you."
"I will always remember our Friday afternoon hot dog picnics ..."
"Thank you for showing me how to rock a simple hairdo."
"I will always remember when I was a little boy and you drove me to the end of Hammond Road to see what was there."
I will spare you the rest of the details and lessons from these letters for they are many ...
I simply wanted to share a bit of what I learned through this poignant family exercise.
Your family sees you clearly, you cannot help but impact them. For better or for worse ...
Your presence really matters.
Do the small things with great love, for in the end, the small things are really the big things.
If you see my mom, wish her a happy 80th year - she is truly one of a kind.