Eight years ago I sat in my swanky NYC high rise apartment that my father in law helped us pay for, because let’s face it, we had $63 dollars in the bank when we filled out the leasing application the year before…so there I sat, my handsome brand new husband was cooking us dinner, we were listening to music, probably Sea Wolf or something else truly Indie….candles were lit and the most delicious smells were wafting from the kitchen. All the quaint beauties of life were swirling around me.
Then the phone rang. It was my dad.
“Your mom went to the E.R. this morning. She’s very sick.” He sucked in air and said his next words all at the same time, like he was trying to swallow them instead… “Laura, your mom has cancer. And I don’t know how to tell her.” His voice quivered. In 23 years I had never heard my dad’s voice quiver. I don’t remember the rest of that conversation. I remember life stopped swirling around me. It stood still. The ground crumbled beneath me and I was falling fast, reaching for a corner to cling to.
In a daze I booked a flight home to Florida. My best friend picked me up, when we got to the hospital we found my dad, sister and mom in one of those tiny sterile meeting rooms, they were sitting at a round table surrounded by 5 chairs, the harsh hospital fluorescents emphasized the grayness on all of their faces. In that moment she took the care to throw all the comfort she could muster behind her voice.
“It’s stage 4 honey.”
“There’s nothing they can do. I’m not going to treat. I’m tired.”
I begged. I pleaded her to fight. And I couldn’t understand why no one else was. Why they were being so understanding. Maybe they did beg, I never asked. But the next thing I knew, I was standing in the nurses station getting information on hospice. 8 weeks later, to the day, she was gone. My young, bright, shiny, beautiful mother was gone. And a 23 year old was born.
My mother’s death has been the single most defining moment in my life. An odd thing to say, really. I’m a wife, a mother of two boys and an entrepreneur, I have been blessed with so much beauty and purpose in my life.
Strange that with all the beauty in my life, something dark defines me.
I like the person born of that experience. I wish I didn’t have to lose my mom to find her, but what better legacy can you leave than to be a constant reminder to live every day to its fullest. Growing up my mom would always say, LIVE, LOVE, LAUGH…so much so that I actually thought she coined the phrase. She thought a lot about her legacy. Prior to cancer she suffered from chronic pain associated with various connective tissue diseases. I remember, somedays, coming home from school and not seeing her for a good portion of the afternoon until she came out of her room to make dinner….eventually I asked her what she was doing in there. “I just have pain, honey” she would say, “and that’s not my legacy. That is not how I will be remembered.”
I don’t just remember when my mom needed to use a cane to walk, I don’t just remember the time she stood up and broke both her feet, I don’t just remember the hours of doctors’ visits in search of a diagnosis for her chronic pain.
I remember that she loved to travel, I remember her laugh and her smile, I remember her aptitude to make anyone she met instantly feel at home and like a lifelong friend. I remember her ability to always keep kindness & gratitude front and center. THAT was her legacy. The things she CHOSE and not her circumstance. And our legacy lives on in the lives we impact.
A friend was telling me about Tibetan beliefs, and how it’s all about yin and yang…that life is equal to death, and if that is so then death must be as full as life…..and after we deal with death in our life it allows for a rebirth in a way. It’s a cycle.
I’m sad that she’s missed these last 8 years. They have been some of the best in my life. I really do “live, love and laugh” every day. Along the way I’ve also figured out how to live in my passion zone.
The two most important days in your life are the day you’re born and the day you find out WHY.
So what will my boys say about my legacy after I’m gone? To never settle, to live in your passion zone and to pay it forward every day. To never spend a moment doing something that doesn’t serve your spirit. To live by choice and never out of circumstance. And if you don’t like the way something is panning out then YOU have the power to change it. To love furiously and share hope with everyone you meet because it’s abundant and we all deserve a piece.
At least that’s my goal. Now to spend my life living it.
Laura Hemmings is a boymom, wife, bad housewife, yogi, and virtual fitness coach, lover of watermelon, wine & coffee. Addicted to bracelets, box subscription services and Harry Potter as well as other equally as rad science fiction coolness. You can catch some of her adventures on social media through her hashtag #adventuresofabadhousewife