Nobody likes to think about their mortality, but the untimely deaths in 2012 of two Birmingham moms – both younger than me – really made me consider mine.
I never met Laura Black or Elliot Williams in person, but they inspired me. They were the moms/friends/wives everyone knew and loved. For months I followed their stories on Facebook, praying as our mutual friends posted updates and bawling my eyes out at my computer. Whenever I started to complain about my life, I thought about Laura and Elliot. Compared to two moms losing their earthly battles to cancer, my problems suddenly seemed small.
What Laura and Elliot made me mindful of was that good health is a privilege. All the ordinary events I take for granted – driving carpool, grocery shopping, taking care of my kids – would seem like amazing blessings if one day I woke up and couldn’t do them.
Because of Laura and Elliot, I became more grateful. I realized what an honor it is to be able to serve the people I love.
After these amazing women passed, I sat down and did what I’d thought about doing for years: I wrote down long-term advice for my daughters. I thought about what I want them to know when they go to college…start working…get married…begin a family. Just in case I’m not around.
Below is a list I’ve made as a starting point, something to add to over time. I’m sharing it to encourage other parents to do the same. Yes, this was hard to compose, but it was also a relief because with a written legacy comes a small peace of mind.
Please know that you don’t have to be a writer. Should something happen to you or me, our families wouldn’t be looking for perfection. What they’d be looking for is anything that sounds like us and reflects our unique filter. What they’d want is a keepsake that keeps our memory alive as accurately and poignantly as possible.
With that said, here’s my list. Here are my pointers for my daughters:
*Genuine interest in other people will attract you friends quickly. If you learn to be a good listener, you can find friends anywhere.
*Nothing done out of love is a waste. Love is the best gift you have to offer.
*You’ll spend half your life waiting – waiting for a test result, waiting for a relationship, waiting for a chance. But remember: What happens to you while you’re waiting is often more important than what you’re waiting for.
*The world is full of talent. It’s not a lack of ability holding most people back – it’s attitude.
*People will push you as far as you let them. Set personal parameters, and learn to say NO.
*Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s all right to be the only person in the room not doing something.
*Be grateful. This alone puts you ahead of the game.
*Character is who you are in the dark. It’s doing right when no one sees. Character enables you to smile at yourself in mirror. Seek it.
*You will make mistakes. You will feel ashamed. You will know the sting of regret. Own your choices and accept your flawed nature, using the past to your advantage. When you learn from mistakes, you wind up in a better place.
*When misfortune strikes, see it as a chapter, not the story of your life. A storm in one chapter can lead to a rainbow in the next.
*Practice forgiveness. Forgiveness is about letting go and releasing anger. Not everyone who wrongs you will ask for forgiveness. Forgive them anyway, and move on without them.
*Don’t judge. We all need mercy, and you never know what someone’s going through.
*Be real, be authentic, be you. Wear your skin proudly.
*Stay away from toxic people, and don’t enable or justify bad behavior. People must hit rock-bottom alone. You can love someone without them being in your life.
*Find a job that pays the bills. If it’s not your heart’s desire, pursue that on the side. Not all passions immediately churn profits.
*Beware of white liars. Small liars become big liars.
*Trust your gut, and value your loved ones’ opinions. When they all tell you the same thing, it’s time to listen.
*Speak the truth, and deal with the consequences. Sweeping the truth under the rug aggravates it, creating explosions down the road.
*There’s no disgrace in falling down. The only disgrace is not getting up.
*Believe in goodness. Don’t let the bad seeds in your life ruin your hope in mankind.
*Stay close to your siblings. Your sibling relationships will be the longest relationships in your life, so nurture the ties. Should the world desert you, I hope your sisters are your last friends standing.
*Don’t keep score in love. Keeping score is exhausting and breeds competition. Nothing about love should be competitive.
*In both friendship and love, it’s better to be alone for the right reasons than with someone for the wrong reasons. If someone treats you poorly, or puts you on an emotional roller coaster, drop them. A relationship is not about you keeping another person happy. It’s about two people making each other happy, being better together than apart. (Think of it as synergy, where 1 + 1 = 3.)
*Say what you mean. It’s unfair to expect others to be mind-readers.
*When you’re upset, ask yourself if the issue will matter in one year…five years…twenty years. Chances are it won’t.
*Clean up your own mess. You earned the job.
*Keep God first. He loves you madly and has plans for your future. Problems often begin when people drift from God. A strong prayer life can keep you anchored.
So how about you? Are you ready to begin? All it takes is some pen and paper or a date with your computer to get the ball rolling. Reflect on your past and empty your heart and mind until there’s nothing left to tap.
Don’t edit yourself either – not until the end. The point is to get it down. What your family wants most is YOU. As long as you capture that, you can’t go wrong.
And while your motivation to make a list may be external, for the benefit of your loved ones, chances are you’ll discover intrinsic rewards, too. Writing is cathartic, and with that comes a magic that flows two ways, blessing the reader and the writer. Words are powerful, and the words that come from you – well, they’re the most meaningful words on earth to those who know you best. They’re the torch to be carried into the next generation, a slice of your existence that can’t be bound by time.
On Aug. 18, my new book Love Her Well: 10 Ways to Find Joy and Connection with Your Teenage Daughter releases. It’s gaining fantastic early buzz, and by pre-ordering now, you’ll receive amazing incentives like downloadable prints and prayers. Simply redeem your receipt here. Pre-order through Amazon, and you’re guaranteed the lowest price between now and Aug. 18.
I’ve also written books for teen girls, 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know and Liked, used widely across the U.S. for small group studies. To keep up with future posts, subscribe to this blog or join me on Facebook, Instagram, and the Girl Mom podcast
Posted by Kari on September 16, 2013