As I sat by my mother's bedside
this past week as she prepared to go to her heavenly Father, I reflected on how
deep a love can be between a mother and son. She was there when I took my first
breath, and it was only fair that I be there for her last. Although so terribly
sad, it was also joyful and humbling to reminisce on her life, family, friends
and happy memories. Dorothy Rifenbary was a woman of principle and conviction,
and had a sense of humor that was with her to the end. As I shared with her
that she would be forever healthy where she was going, she responded,
"Which way am I going up or down?" Of course laughter was shared as I
held her hand, and assured her that it was most likely up. She had a passion
for life that included her love of family, service to her community, and
enjoying as many rounds of golf as possible. Of course, her day wasn't complete
without a little nip of her Smirnoff martini.
Mom was 44 years young when her
husband, my father, passed away from cardiac arrest. From that moment, she was
determined to not permit the loss of a husband and father to be used as an
excuse not to persevere. She dedicated her life to exemplify strength of
personal character, and a devotion to her children. Mom was committed to
instilling manners in her children, and had an expectation of respectfulness
from all she encountered. Her enthusiastic spirit and infectious zest for life
will be remembered, and treasured beyond her mortal life.
As the priest
administered "last rites" with family at her side, she participated
with a faithfulness of optimism and peace that was spiritually comforting to
herself, and all who were present. The strength of a family's love conquers all
opposition to the goodness of humanity. If you consider intestinal fortitude to
be a core value, than my mother was the queen of that personal characteristic.
What values do you admire of those you love? Have you ever shared with
them your appreciation for those values they exemplify? Every day is a day to
be giving, to be thoughtful of others, and to be thankful for the blessings you
have. She lived a full life with joy and sadness, success and defeat, confidence and self-doubt, but she never gave up on her quest to make a
positive difference in others and her community.
As I reflect on my childhood,
I remember my mother supporting me in every endeavor, yet with a strictness of
ensuring I was respectful of others, and lived up to what she felt to be the
standard of our family. Although I did not always comply with her expectations
by my actions, her expectations and what she felt I could achieve, were always
part of my mindset. As Mark Twain stated, "My mother had a great deal of
trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it." It was that consistency of
expectation and belief, that was a catalyst for me in striving to be the
best husband, father, professional, and person I could be.
Our final days
together were a time of reflection, apologies, forgiveness, smiles, tears,
laughter, understanding, respect and most importantly mutual love. During the
course of our relationship there were times the past would surface and result
in emotional impatience, but the love between mother and son was always
present. Our love was strong and genuine enough to endure all that we had
experienced together. To say that her children and grandchildren respect her
would be an understatement, and her love will forever be part of each of us.
As a son, I could not have asked for a better role model in regard to
experiencing the strength and endurance of a woman's determination. True grit
was truly Dorothy. My memories of your beautiful maternal spirit I will always
treasure. Thank you for giving me life, and the opportunity to experience what
it means to genuinely live. Please say hello to Dad for me. I know the both
of you are already enjoying a round of golf, and are making up for the many
years of love that was lost so long ago.
I will forever love you.
would you like your legacy to be, or what might you want to be remembered for?
Two questions whose answers have a profound impact on the decisions you make,
and the direction your life will take. Simply, what is it that you would like
to leave behind? Who do you remember that had a lasting, positive impact on
your life, and what behavior or characteristic of that person generated that
impact? It is never what someone owned that is everlasting, but rather the
content of their character and what they gave more than what they took that
survives the test of time. Although there may be something materialistic given,
the enduring memory created by that gift has little to do with the actual gift,
and more with the nature behind the giving.
Your legacy is created by your
behavior, and how that behavior influences those around you. The goodness of
anyone’s legacy will stem from having been more selfless than self-centered,
and having an attitude of service to others rather than solely to oneself. I
believe that understanding has been lost in many powerful elements of our
society, and the consequences are evident socially, economically and
politically. The majority of us are not in the halls of power, but each of us
has the opportunity to mentor, and be an example to those around us. As William
Shakespeare so simply stated, “No legacy is so rich as honesty.” Your legacy
does not have to be in the history books, but more importantly in the hearts of
those you have impacted. A social worker may never have a Wikipedia page, but
the child she saved will always remember. The caregiver may never get a
headline, but the patient aided back to good health will always remember. An
ethical and loving parent may never make the tabloids of the rich and famous,
but the legacy of the love they showed will forever be remembered, and passed
down generation after generation.
Mentor is defined as, “a wise and trusted
advisor, counselor or teacher; an experienced person in a company, college or
school who trains and counsels new students and employees.” With each day of
life experience we all have the potential to be in some way a wise and trusted
advisor, counselor or teacher. You are a
mentor in more ways than you may realize. The very core values that you believe
in will structure the strength of your mentorship. It will form the resiliency
of your character, and be a symbol of integrity to those you influence. In all
my travels, I consistently witness a yearning for leadership, and a yearning
for those who have the capacity to mentor others both personally and
professionally. Who have been your mentors, and do you wish you had more to
help you become a better you? Having my father pass away when I was 11 created
an irreplaceable loss in my life, and a significant absence of mentorship. It
took me years to realize that although my father could not be replaced, I
needed others who could teach and guide me to support me in becoming the person
I could become.
When was the last time you reached out to someone who could
mentor you in an area that you are interested in, or to support you with a life
challenge you may be dealing with? It demonstrates strength to acknowledge
weakness, and humility rather than egotism. It is challenging to be a mentor to
others if you are not capable of being a mentor to yourself. To successfully
mentor yourself is accomplished by living a life that is honest and aligned
with what you believe in, and consistently demonstrating that belief.
Always remember you teach best in life what you want to learn the most. If you have a passion for something in your own life, you will find one of your greatest joys will be to share it with others. We all have a passion for something, what is yours? Are you willing to share that passion, and be a mentor to others in what you are passionate about? As William Arthur Ward said, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” Substitute the word teacher in that quote with most any person in a position of influence, such as a parent, coach, officer, leader, and its meaning will reign true. Enjoy creating your enduring legacy.