2021 has been a pivotal year. During the ongoing universal challenges of managing the insidious COVID 19 pandemic, my 91 year old mother left this walk and entered into eternity with God. As for many who have endured the loss of a loved one, her death has led to a complete "remaking" of my life. As her proxy and caretaker, my everyday decisions were made as an extension of her needs and I have experienced (and continue to do so) every primal emotion that grief brings and is the result of loving the way we do.

As I was thinking about writing this post as another year is upon us, I continued to reflect on the teachings of a childhood friend who I will refer to as "the gift". I did not want to find some "catchy happy new year" tips but rather outlining the "Four Ps" which are a "blueprint" for our daily existence and have meant so much. Without a doubt, I know my friend provided these from his heart and I want to do the same.

Here they are:

  1. Purpose - our reason for "being". When we understand the "why", the "how" will come naturally. Of all the P's, our purpose fuels the other three. This usually involves a greater understanding of our existence here and we have to ask ourselves "what are we willing to do to find our reason for being here"...and then do it.

2. Peseverance - Our ability to "stay the course" and endure the most painful or difficult life circumstances. When we understand our purpose, it will become clearer on who and what matters.

3. Patience - There is usually a difference in what we "want" versus what we "need" in both timing and circumstance. We live in a "jacked" up world where our "MO" has become laddened with regular bouts of adrenaline and noise. Learning to "be" and "rest and digest" are equally important for the body and the feeding of the soul. Having unrealistic expectations of others or assuming anything can lead to chronic disappointment and becoming disillusioned. The answers come in the silent whisper of the stillness

4. Passion - To live with chronic "apathy" or "not feeling anything" for prolonged periods eventually will cause the body to become unhealthy and the soul to whither. While this emotional state is completely normal in surviving overwhelming life circumstances or traumatic loss, living in a state of continued "stagnation" will take an inevitable toll. Passion is the "fuel" the "zest" and "effort" in which we tackle anything Prioritizing our sense of balance is critical for us to function well.

My mother exemplified her daily existence through living all of the Four Ps based on what and who mattered to her. Her final "hurrah" involved a fractured pelvis which was the result of an insistence on remaining independent and stoic..regardless of whether her aging body was able to maintain. Quality of life and my mothers right to self-determination was at the core of everything she did, said or thought.

Who can deny that when it is your mom or a loved one?

In closing, I am grateful for the opportunity to share the 4 Ps and to my mom for the permanent imprint she has made on my soul. And the story and seeds will continue. ..

In the words of the beautiful McDonalds worker who fixed my son's chicken biscuit this morning, I will finish in sharing her wisdom:

"Have a beautiful day and year"

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A piece of my heart just walked out the door. With a smile and a hug, my grown man/child just said "See you, Mom" as he leaves for his job as camp counselor in the beautiful North Carolina mountains. I hide the tears..tears of pride, joy and yes sorrow ...because my boy needs me differently now. As the song says "I have watched you grow in order to let you go"..WAIT...the song lied! As a mother, do we ever let our child go? How do we do that when they are such a part of us at a cellular level, our heart, our primal love that does not begin to understand rational.

Despite trying everything I can to hide the tear in my eye, my grown man/child asks "What will you do, Mom, when I leave for college next month"? As any of us might answer facing the empty nest syndrome, the simple words "Survive and Thrive" say it all. We fall down on our knees out of gratitude for the gift of the moments. I ask over and over "Can I come every once in awhile to have lunch with you at college"? "I promise to not get in your grill"...My grown/man child smiles "Sure Mom..and out the door he goes..again.

Now, I understand those tears that I saw in my own father's eyes as I left for college at age 17 years old in a completely different state 500 miles away from home. I understand the meaning of loss and growth at another level now.

Yes, we let our children grow and go..and when they are smiling and walking out the door with their head held is because our job has been done well.

That is another meaning of freedom and a word of encouragement to all of us who are facing our kids "walking out the door with a smile and head held high".

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When I was in grad school obtaining my Masters In Social Work, one of the recommended reading books was "Necessary Losses" by Judith Viorst. As I devoured the information on each page, it was evident that from the time we enter into the world 'losses" are inevitable and necessary. Our discomfort and pain is part of the process of both the healing and strengthening. Grief is another physiological process and we feel the "consequences of survival" in our body and altered existence. Yet, let's remember that all of us as humans have the instinctual drive to survive. In the current state of our COVID pandemic world ,we are seeing first hand how uncertainty grips us as human beings. We want answers, comfort and "our share of what we believe is deserved". Human beings have endured "necessary losses" since the beginning of time and have survived. Research shows that 75 percent of people exposed to chronic traumatic stress will recover well with support. A much smaller portion 25 percent will have longer term problems and those usually had prior mental health conditions or risk factors and didn't get the support required. Yes, our current world is requiring daily adapting and is changing rapidly. "Fear" based thinking results in stagnation and paralysis of our mind, heart and nervous system. "Strength " based thinking enables us to remember what and who really matters, find healing in our pain and grow from every obstacle. The path of choice is the sole responsibility of each one of us.

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