For many of us, the end of March is received with mixed feelings because, although it’s still winter, we can feel the hint of spring in the air.
For me, it is a time of sadness and reflection. It was on a cold day in March (the 20th to be exact) back in 1998 when my beloved mother, Rose, passed away in my arms at 3:45 in the afternoon after suffering through several devastating strokes.
She was the first person in her family to earn a college diploma and was a skilled and devoted teacher. She was the superintendent of the Julia Day Nursery School in Ansonia, Conn. for almost 45 years.
For me, she was, of course, much more. My mom was the center of my life. She was elegant, intelligent, funny, caring and extremely giving. I never heard anyone say a bad word about her. She loved to sing, paint, laugh and go out to dinner. She was a devoted wife (57 years), mother and grandmother.
Rose connected with me on a mother-son level that is with me even now, 19 years after her passing. Her attitudes, thoughts and beliefs had a profound effect not only on the person I am today, but on the lessons I in turn pass on to my children and grandchildren. Let me share with you the wisdom of her words since they are as important today as they were when she spoke them to me:
1) Be truthful. As important a character trait as there is. It is critical that you gain a reputation as an honest and forthright person.
2) Practice humility and humor. The world doesn’t revolve around you and it is the height of arrogance to act like it does. It is one of God’s greatest gifts that we can see the humor in our lives, don’t squander it.
3) Be kind to others. We are at our best when we put aside our selfish needs and help the less fortunate.
4) Think before you speak. This is especially important when what you are about to say might disparage another person.
From time to time, throughout my life, I have referenced my mother’s four rules as guideposts in both judging my own actions and those of others. I can only imagine what my mom would think today if she were witness to today’s world.
Be truthful. Like never before in our lives, we are bombarded with so many falsehoods that the net effect is that somehow the truth becomes obscured. Alternative facts (lies) and narratives that twist and distort “reality” to suit its purposes now compete with the truth. For example, carbon emissions, according to the new head of the EPA, no longer cause global warming even though many scientists who have studied it know it does.
Practice humility and humor. John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan were adept at self-deprecating comments. Both these leaders combined humility and humor with a style that endeared them to the American people. Seeing our leaders as human and not expecting them to have all the answers are an enlightening revelation. Unfortunately, the present occupant of the White House practices arrogance so extreme that it makes it virtually impossible for him to admit error. That type of rigid egotism can be catastrophic during times of crisis.
Be kind to others. To understand my mother’s directive here, all you have to do is listen to Pope Francis, who has suggested that we have a moral duty to help those less fortunate. To the contrary, the entire thrust of today’s political world is an “us vs. them” mentality. All the initiatives: the immigration ban, the tax proposals, the health care changes, the increase in the defense budget at the expense of Medicaid and Medicare, are designed to appeal to that very mind set.
Think before you speak. As we have all witnessed, there is no hesitation on the part of the president to repeat whatever outrageous allegation he has heard from some dubious source. From baselessly accusing former President Obama of committing a felony, to bizarre claims about the size of his inauguration crowd, this president has demonstrated that he is not cautious or deliberative even when he is speaking deleteriously about someone else. Columbia professor Tim Wu, in a recent piece in The New York Times, suggests that President Trump’s methods have as their goal of “dominating mindshare…classic strategy of influence, because the sheer volume of messaging allows the leader to transform minds, construct alternative realities and begin changing the rules of the game itself.”
If you believe Wu, the author of “The Attention Merchants: the Epic Struggle to Get Inside Our Heads,” President Trump purposefully violates every one of my mother’s rules because, for him, truth is not as important as immersion. Like an annoying advertisement repeating over and over again, even a truly false claim eventually will achieve the desired effect.
As March 20 approaches I find myself reflecting not only on my mom’s passing, but more importantly on her vibrant and loving life. No matter what happens in our world, I will forever cherish and follow the wonderful lessons that she taught me.
Thank you, Mom, for showing me how a life should truly be lived. You will forever remain in my heart and mind!