The Pursuit of Excellence Practical steps toward happiness



Three weeks ago my mother died.

Strange, but I feel guilty because I’m not a wreck. When I’ve lost people I love in the past I’ve gone to pieces. Did I not love and care for my mom? Did we have a strained relationship?

No, nothing like that. She was one of my closest friends, a model parent who shaped my good character in ways that I will only begin to understand in the years to follow her death.

I would say that I’m in shock or denial, except that the pain is too vivid. Still, I thought I would be a catastrophe. I saw myself taking a month off work to inhabit the couch in filthy sweatpants, descending into an alcohol soaked, inconsolable depression.

The pain is deep and comes regularly but through all of this I’ve been able to dip into a well of peace that I’ve never accessed in past tragedies.

“So what’s different?” I keep asking myself, since that morning I watched the life leave her face.

My best guess? Surrender. In the face of the inevitable and unalterable, I learned how to surrender. My mom was deemed terminal six weeks before her death, and in years past I could not have accepted this. I would have harried and harangued the doctors for better care and pushed my mom to fight harder. I would have stabbed and kicked and buried the sorrow. I might have bargained with a higher power and taken out my anger on my brother.

But that seemed pointless. For three years my mom fought cancer as best she could but she lost the day the doctor gave her the news. The death of hope. I chose to have deep conversations at her bedside, to read to her and comfort her, not to be a pain in the ass. Why worsen a death sentence?

I’m surprised by how I’m handling this tragedy. Far from becoming the whiskey-soaked zombie I expected, I found strength in the sorrow.

How did I come to surrender? I’ve been working very hard over the last two years to change my life by changing my thoughts (another mom lesson). I’ve delved deep into a meditation regimen. I work to be mindful of my thoughts, feelings, and my body all day. And I try to see that negative thoughts can self-perpetuate if you don’t see them for what they are — just passing storm clouds. There’s an unspeakable beauty and peace in accepting reality without adding layers of redundant suffering. This suffering is almost always the lies we tell ourselves.

The loss still hurts like hell, but I’m not making it worse by resisting the reality. When I asked my mom if she had any life lessons to share it was this:

“Surrender. Let go and enjoy life.”

I’m starting to understand, mom.

Mom T&T crop

Comments (9) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Beautiful, thanks for sharing.

  2. Wanted you to know how this has touched my heart.

  3. Theresa taught everyone by her contagious happy spirit to let go……Thank you Theresa
    Thank you, Mike.

  4. I found this so touching. I knew your Mom as a teacher at GAH school. I am a supply secretary with the board. Teresa was such a strong person. Always a smile and never complaining though she was going through so much. I can almost hear her saying “Surrender. Let go and enjoy life.” Seems to me these were words she herself lived by.

  5. I did not know your mom very well but I do know that she was one of the most positive person I have ever met. I admired her for that!

  6. I am so sorry to hear that your mom passed away. I haven’t seen her in years. She was such a beautiful person. What you wrote is truly beautiful.

  7. I taught with your Mom at Sacred Heart and she developed in me a passion to travel after she told me of the fantastic places that she had experienced. I had the privilege of chatting with her momentarily when she was in Hospice. I was aware when I entered her room that I was in the presence of an angel. The serenity that surrounded her was palpable. Thankyou Theresa for the gift of you.

  8. Thank you so much for writing this.

  9. Mike, what a wonderful tribute for your mother! These are beautiful and most inspiring words and lessons for all. Teresa was a strong woman who didn’t let her pain and suffering take control of her life and take away her joyfilled spirit.

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