It takes a village…

In some countries of the world, including here in Australia, today is Mother’s Day.

This is my 18th Mother’s Day. What a different day today is from the first one. At that time my eldest was only a few days old (Mother’s Day is the first Sunday in March in England where we were living and my daughter was born at the end of February). I sure didn’t feel like a mother. I had no idea what I was doing and felt pretty sure that I had made a huge mistake. A mother was what my mom was or what my mother-in-law was. Not me. I was so full of insecurity and doubts.

Fast forward eighteen years and at some point during those years, I started to feel like a mother. I have no idea when that actually happened. It was a gradual process; as my children grew, I grew into being a mother.

Hilary Clinton says it takes a village to raise a child. I have had a lot of help along the way and am grateful for the global village of women who have helped me become the mother I am today.

Some of these women are my closest friends. They are like aunties to my children (who have grown up without extended family here in Australia). Being friends with them makes me a better mother; we support each other in the tough times and celebrate each others’ good times. They are the women that my girls know they can ring anytime and they will be scooped up and looked after. (They are also the women that I know I can ring anytime and I will be scooped up and looked after when I need it.)

Others are older women, village elders, who have been like a mother to me. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a number of women in my life who have helped me, guided me, loved me and held space for me as I learn/ed how to be a mother myself. Each of them fills a different niche in my life, enhancing the grounding my own mother provides in my life.

Just over a week ago, two of my village elders died, coincidentally on the same day, within hours of each other but on opposite sides of the world. One had provided me a safe haven, somewhere I could be myself in the early days of my marriage and parenthood in England. She was kind and generous, funny, a real character always with a ciggie in one hand and a glass of red wine in the other. She was widowed and living on her own but adored her family, including people like me who she ‘adopted’. She listened when I needed an ear, gave advice in small doses and encouraged me to be myself. It’s been a number of years since I last saw her but I am still grateful for her friendship and guidance at a time when I needed it.

The other was a woman I only met when she became one of my Life Story clients last year here in Canberra. Within minutes of meeting we formed a deep connection. She had led an active life, running half marathons, biking, gardening – never sitting still. Then she developed Motor Neurone Disease and over a four year period went from super active to wheelchair bound, eventually unable to move any part of her body other than her eyes.

Her greatest fear was losing her voice and we worked fast and furiously for a few months to complete her life story book before that day arrived. After finishing her story, we became painting friends and we would meet to talk about my latest adventures. I dedicated one day of hiking the Cape to Cape to her last November as she dearly would have loved to hike with me and she eagerly followed my progress from home on Facebook.

She also followed this blog; telling me that I inspired her, which of course, blew me away. She inspired me in so many ways in our short but deep friendship. Every visit to see her was the highlight of my day and she always greeted me with the hugest smile. She taught me to not take people in your life for granted. As her disease progressed and she became more and more trapped within her body, she taught me about acceptance and courage. On our last visit before she lost her voice completely, she told me she was grateful for MND — without it she would have never discovered painting, she wouldn’t have learned how to play mahjong and she wouldn’t have ever met a number of her friends, including me. Watching her, being with her, seeing her struggle in her body and to try to communicate and yet remain grateful throughout taught me volumes about gratitude.

And Friday, at her funeral, as her daughters gave the eulogy, she continued to teach me about gratitude and love. I watched her daughters, the eldest dark haired and the youngest blond (just like mine), read the eulogy their mother had written and then give their own reflections. Despite their grief and loss, they were so grateful for the love she had given them throughout their time together. And they were grateful that she was now at peace, no longer hurting or confined by her body that had let her down.

Watching them, I thought of my own daughters and wondered what they will say about me when the day comes. And of course, on Friday (as I do every day), I thought about my own mother.

A few hours before my friend died last week we were able to see each other. I expressed my gratitude and love to her for all she had taught me. I’m grateful that I had that opportunity and as I walked out of her hospice room I thought about the fact that all too often we leave it too late to tell those we love what they meant to us.

So this Mother’s Day, even though I’m half the way around the world from my mom, I want her to know how grateful I am for her giving birth to me 50 years ago, for being my first teacher and guide on this planet, for introducing me to my intuition, for giving me opportunities she never had, for still being there each and every time I ring her (and I’m not taking that for granted any more), for teaching me to be kind and generous, for loving me every day (even when I’ve made it difficult for her) and for encouraging me to be a mother myself all those years ago.

I love you Mom. Happy Mother’s Day.

And to all the other women out there who are a part of a village (whether mine or someone else’s) and are helping raise the next generation, Happy Mother’s Day too. Xx

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