I think Shakespeare had it right.
When we lose someone we love, there’s such a sweetness to be gleaned from reflecting on who they were and what they instilled in each of us along the way.
My mom was an incredible woman with an equally incredible spirit that could light up a room with her warmth and joie de vivre. She was bold and self-assured, had a twinkle in her eye and a fire in her belly. When she set her mind on something, she was a force to be reckoned with. She approached life on her terms. She was not afraid to take charge and go after what she wanted with determination and vigor.
She had her share of hardships, but she never lost sight of her ability to choose. She always knew in the end, she was the one who got to choose — how she would react, how she would feel and how she would choose to move forward. In times of struggle, instead of becoming a victim, she used her resolve to propel herself forward.
As her health began to decline, when her medical and physical challenges seemed insurmountable, she would bounce back with resilience that was so typical of her personality. Everyone around her learned to embrace these extra moments as a special gift to relish in her wit and mastery of putting people at ease.
As I was visiting towards the end, she was sitting in a chair with her eyes closed, struggling with each breath. We were all on edge and feeling helpless. One of her aids walked over and asked “Mrs. Vene are you ok?” She opened her crystal blue eyes and said, “Oh, I just love all the attention.” Even as she struggled to take her last breaths, she found the strength to say something to make other people smile, to put them at ease and make them feel like they were making a difference.
She was also an amazing nurturer and caretaker. She fiercely protected the people she loved and was not afraid to take a stand for what she felt was right. You knew where you stood with her and people gravitated to her inner strength and authenticity. She was the real deal. What you saw was what you got. She was a lover of life and appreciated the people around her. She had the uncanny ability to see through to your core.
If you were lucky enough to be taken under her wing, she’d find out what was most important to you, then gently nudge you by holding you to your desire, innocently asking questions like what’s going on and how are things progressing to keep you on course.
Over the years, several people have told me, “Your mom is amazing. She has a unique way of making everyone feel special.”
She was a romantic and an optimist. She would often ask me, “are you doing what you love Lisa?” Or with the grandkids, “Are you dating anyone? Are you happy?” She would then revel in the details of any new venture, romance or the sheer power of our independence.
She was passionate about figure skating, dancing, musicals and not so surprising — reality TV — with the Bachelor, Celebrity Rehab and Dancing with the Stars being her most recent favorites.
She loved to eat and had been known to skip her main meal for dessert. Her favorites were chocolate covered peanuts, spaghetti with meat sauce, garden fresh tomatoes, corn on the cob, pomme frittes and a nicely charred piece of steak with a slice of apple pie.
She was a cool hip grandma. She loved to read. She kept young and free spirited always on top of the latest news on celebrity romances, coolest toys and gadgets, newest movies and tv shows. She loved to be informed. She loved culture and travel and was always planning her next trip. She loved experiencing new places and adventures and the finer things in life. She loved to flirt and had a special twinkle for the men in her life. She had charm and grace and didn’t hold back in her adoration.
To say the least, she was a woman of passion and character.
But the biggest gift she shared, aside from giving me life, was a lesson I’m still learning — the art of letting go.
Throughout her life, she possessed the natural ability to detach — to let go — knowing everything would work out just fine. I never fully appreciated this raw talent until now. As a matter of fact, it used to drive me crazy. How could she pursue something she wanted with such gusto, then just back off for no apparent reason. She just changed her mind. It puzzled me to no end. She was amazingly gifted at releasing all attachment and simply enjoying the moment for what is was, a talent I now wish to master.
And in the end, this incredible strength allowed her to be fearless as she prepared for her final journey. True to form, she got to decide when to let go and that’s what she did. She was talking and then she wasn’t. There was no fanfare. There was no pomp and circumstance, she simply let go. She was free from a body that restricted her from shining and moved on to the next adventure, the next awesome journey.
While I am sad that she’s gone and allowing myself to grieve, I am also allowing myself to let go. I am releasing the attachment to her physical being and know that her spirit lives on in me. I see parts of her in my sister, my kids, my niece and the many lives of people she’s touched throughout her life.
In her honor, I embrace her strength in character and challenge you to do the same—to be bold and stand up for what you believe in; be true to who you are, doing what you love with a passion and zest for living; and most of all, master the art of letting go so you can enjoy the ride every day.
In memory of you mom, the ultimate teacher and inspiration.