There is a quote from Nelson Mandela that I love. “What counts in life is not the mere fact we have lived. It is what difference we have made in the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” He said this on October 15, 1993 when he received the Nobel Peace Prize.
Exactly 28 years later to the day on October 15 2021, my mother passed away. She was with us for 80 years… and, in my opinion, she too deserved some kind of award for peace keeping. Mother Teresa once said, “Not all of us can do GREAT things, but we can do small things with great love.” She was my Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela all rolled into one.
My mother lived by Mother Theresa’s 10 Paradoxical Commandments:
1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
3. If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
5.Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
6. The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
7. People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
9. People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
10. Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.
I want to share with you some significant lessons she taught me by the way she lived her life. I hope the truths and principles in what I’m going to share with you will have a lasting impact on you. It certainly has for me.
My family and I all got sick in the summer of 2021 with a variant (Delta) of the Covid-19 virus. My parents, who were 79 at the time, also got the virus soon after. We were very worried due to their age, but they got better after a week or two. My mother had a nagging cough, but it seemed harmless. She eventually went to the doctor, who confirmed she was negative, but thought she had bronchitis and treated her for it. It eventually turned into pneumonia.
As I was with her in the hospital, we got to spend some amazing time with each other. There came a point that she couldn’t speak much, and she would tire after just a few words. Most of her words were about how much she loved us- and to take care of each other while she was away in the hospital.
I had my i-phone continuously by my side… and in a moment of extreme clarity she told me something so profound that I had to quickly make a note of it on the phone so I wouldn’t forget it. Now, we were told to not let her speak because it robbed her of the oxygen that was keeping her with us, but there were a couple of times that I knew to be quiet and let her go for as long as she could. There are times in life when RULES don’t matter. This was “our time.”
This is what she told me.
“I love you all so much. I’m sorry that I didn’t appreciate you enough. I really didn’t… but now I do. I wouldn’t know what to do without you all. We all have to look within ourselves before we can appreciate others the way we should. Everybody has to do this for themselves, and I’m still a work in progress.”
After this, I decided that I would keep the i-phone Note App open so that I could write down the things I learned from her, and share them with her as I would do most of the talking from this point. It was a great opportunity to tell her not only how she encouraged me in life, but most importantly a way for me to tell her- “Thank you.”
She valued every person no matter what they believed. She valued people because God created you for a purpose, and you are a person of worth. You have the divine touch on your life and it matters not what your personal beliefs are, but you are a person of value because of who you are.
Here are the lessons in no particular order:
- Always be kind to other people. Mark Twain said, “Kindness is the language the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”
- Turn the other cheek. She was a master at this. I actually learned this from her, and not the preacher or at Sunday School. The lesson isn’t about weakness. No- it’s to show others that they do not have the power to control your emotions. When you maintain emotional control, that’s real strength.
- Be honest in everything you do. In all small things, be honest and the big ones will take care of themselves.
- Always do what is right. It’s not about who’s right- it’s about what’s right.
- Put others first no matter what. Service to others is the greatest thing you can do in life. It took me years to understand that giving is better than receiving.
- Work hard on the job. Do what you were hired to do to the best of your ability. Other people rely on you and you place an undue burden on others if you are not reliable.
- Keep a positive attitude. We may not be able to control what happens to us, but we can always try to control what happens in us. Attitude isn’t everything, but it sure is important. John Maxwell says, “Your attitude determines your actions. It’s our best friend or our worst enemy. Your attitude is like the mind’s paintbrush, It can paint everything in bright, vibrant colors- creating a masterpiece. Attitude is a choice, and people may hear your words, but they feel your attitude.”
- Humility is a strength and not a weakness. Want to be better looking? Be humble and you’ll bring your looks up a few notches.
- Family comes first. I once chose a charity to be a beneficiary of a large portion of my life insurance. I was so proud that I told my mother about it. She simply replied, “Son, charity begins at home.” I went back the next day and lowered it to 10% and added the rest to her. It was a wise move.
- Loyalty is important. It doesn’t mean that you excuse your loved ones for doing ignorant things, but you can support them despite their mistakes.
- Always be ready to give- especially when you have a surplus. Give to family, friends, and even strangers. Live a generous life. She lived this policy- just ask any server at a restaurant she dined in. True generosity is when you give your all, and yet it feels like it costs you nothing.
- Live a life based on principles. Find a set of beliefs and then live them. There is no need to make excuses when principles guide your decisions- it’s easy to determine what to do in any situation when you live by what you believe. We could always predict what she would do or say.
- Be unwavering and take a stand- don’t apologize for following what your heart tells you even if it is in conflict with what your mind is saying. Your heart knows things the mind can’t explain. “It’s impossible said pride. It’s risky said experience. It’s pointless said reason. Give it a try whispered the heart.”- unknown.
- Live beneath your means. Save something for a rainy day. I’m still a work in progress on this one.
- Be simple. Any fool can make something complicated. Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication.” Longfellow said, “In character, In manner, In style, in all things the supreme excellence is simplicity.” Her simplicity was her beauty.
The bottom line about these 15 lessons: It’s about loving people. It’s about serving people.
Mom’s gift was support, or servitude; basically to be there for people. That’s what made her an excellent mother… she was born for that and was great at it. I always tell people, “Play to your strengths”… and she certainly did. She never tried to be something that she wasn’t suited for. Some have artistic gifts, beauty, or intelligence. Some have a divine gift of making others laugh. When we remember that these gifts were given by Our creator, we realize that in his care for you- and his purpose for you, he freely gave them- that’s why they’re called “gifts.”
These gifts are greater than we are. We didn’t earn them, we didn’t deserve them. They’re not yours, they’re his. When people compliment you on your gift, they are actually complimenting your Heavenly Father. Your gifts aren’t a reflection of you, they’re a reflection of him.
Furthermore, we have a hard time distinguishing the gift from the person, but when someone compliments you on your gift, they’re seeing our Lord work through you with the strengths and abilities you have been given. My mom had the ability to recognize this fact of life because of her humility. She had an appreciation and thanked God for the gifts he gave to her loved ones.
Since we all have gifts, we should steward them and manage them well. If we don’t, we need to remember that they can be taken away. It’s your duty to multiply them and use them for a good purpose in service of others. My mom did just that with hers.
So the next time someone compliments you, remember the true source, and give our heavenly father credit. The moment when you get confused and it becomes about you, that’s when things go downhill.
Be intentional. Good intentions have to be turned into good actions. Most people don’t lead their life, they accept it. When you accept it, you don’t get the most from it.You have to be purposeful, willful, and focused. My daughter, Madison has a saying on her bathroom wall that says, “Live life with intention.” Prepare daily- write down the things most important to you. Remember simplicity: It’s 2 steps. Identify the most important, then eliminate the rest. So prepare.
If you’re not preparing, you’re repairing. If you mess up today, you’ll repair it tomorrow.
My mom has always been one of my mentors. I’ve learned so much from her tutelage. Most recently, I witnessed the importance to “Not give up, and never give in.” She was so inspiring during her time in the hospital. She never complained- not once. She exhibited grace and dignity; so much so that every nurse told us she was the easiest patient they ever had, and she was also their favorite patient.
My mother was our Angel. Her care and influence shaped me and continues to shape me… and her legacy will be that she will always be a part of me and will continue to shape me until the end. She had the ability to bring out the very best in others… and I’m still a work in progress.
-Eulogy given on 10/19/2021 by Geoff Kirby
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next system of things.