Live small and dream big. That’s what my mother taught me. She didn’t voice it exactly that way. There was never a moment where she sat down and said, “Son, this is the secret to a happy life.” She planted the concept in my head over time. I never even realized she was doing it. Little by little she would offer me nuggets of information that would drive me in that direction. She hid her message so skillfully that I never even saw it coming.
By living small, I mean to live in the moment. Pay attention to what’s happening in your life. Church was important to her, but she never forced the ritual of attending services every Sunday down my throat. She preferred that my interest in God stem from a natural curiosity. She wanted me to approach it intellectually. She wanted me to discover what she knew instinctively. God is as present in the small seemingly meaningless moments as He is in the big, life changing moments. When you hold a door open for someone, God is in that moment. When you let someone in line ahead of you because they only have one item and you have a cart full of groceries, God is in that moment. When you do something for someone without being asked, God is in that moment. God is never separate from us. God is the goodness that we do and receive. If you only look for God in the big moments or on Sundays, you’re missing the point of God. You don’t even have to call this presence God or believe in God. Call it love or kindness or compassion or whatever. It/He/She lives in that act of thoughtfulness.
It was my mother who first discovered that I wanted to be a writer. I was a jock in high school, and I was terrified to let people know that I wanted to write for a living someday because I was a terrible student. I would write short stories and poetry and hide them away deep in my closet as if they were drugs and I would be publicly shamed if anyone ever saw them. My mother found a box of my stories when I was a teenager and shared them with my father without telling me. She finally came to me after a couple of days to let me know that she had found them. She gushed. She couldn’t have been prouder and she made a point to tell me that my father felt the same way. She encouraged me to write more and enter contests and share my stories with more people. I didn’t think I was smart enough to be taken seriously as a writer, and here my mother was telling me I could make a living doing it. She told me I could be whatever I wanted to be. Dream big.
This woman who taught me to live this way, this wonderfully kind and thoughtful woman, this gorgeous and loving woman passed away yesterday. She struggled with pain and illness the last few years of her life and grew increasingly frail over the months. These last few weeks, she hung on to her remaining time on this planet with fierce determination even though she told us she was ready to go. When we gave her our permission to go, she explained she couldn’t because her little children needed her. True to form, she observed the moment and gave greater consideration to others than herself even on her deathbed.
I love you, Mom.