My mother was an amazing woman. She didn’t get rich or do anything most people would consider successful, but I believe she lived the most successful life I could ever aspire to.
Mom left my father when I was eleven, moving six children halfway across Canada, from Nova Scotia to London, Ontario, where her mother and sisters lived. Despite having ample cause, I rarely heard her utter a negative comment about him, or for that matter about anyone. There was a good reason for this. Mom accepted everyone just as they were. And I mean everyone!
Everybody’s got to be somebody
This was one of Mom’s mantras, and it was one of the life lessons I learned from her. It didn’t matter what someone looked like, what their politics or religion was. Who they loved or where they came from was irrelevant. This was a time when racial jokes and homophobia were considered an acceptable part of society. Not to Mom. People were people—they all deserved respect, and all were welcome in her home.
“Family is everything,” was another of Mom’s frequent sayings
She came by this honestly. Her mother and sisters were her closest friends. We socialized with them and our cousins all the time. We laughed and played and fought and loved one another without reservation. Family time was busy and loud.
There was nothing our family wouldn’t do for one another. When Mom needed to escape a bad marriage, her mother and sisters (along with their husbands) were there for us. We lived with my Aunt Janet and Uncle Dick until Mom could find a job and a small house for us to live in. Six kids added into a family of four in a small house made for tight quarters, but nobody minded and nobody complained.
Through the years everyone in the family has had their ups and downs. We’ve gone through illnesses, and the deaths of numerous family members, including Mom. The one thing we all know is that we can count on one another. We will be there to support each other because family is everything.
Everyone is family
This was never explicitly stated. It was lived as a subtext to the other two lessons my mom imparted to her children. Everybody’s got to be somebody, and family is everything. Mom’s youngest sister actually grew up in the orphanage where my grandmother worked. She would come home to my aunt Janet’s every Christmas and Easter, and she eventually just became part of the family. There was no formal adoption, just an acknowledgment that Lavaughne was family.
Strays were always welcome. It was rare to have a Christmas or Easter without people who had nowhere else to go. Many of them became family. That tradition has carried on through to my generation and my children’s as well. I have two biological children and two who came to me older, needing somewhere to live when their birth homes were no longer a tenable choice. They became family, and one of them has made me a grandmother.
People are people
We are all different, one from the other. Yet at our base, our most fundamental being, we’re the same.
We all need belonging. We all need love and respect. I think all the lessons my mom taught me boil down to these three things, belonging, love, and respect. And ultimately, it comes down to just the one word: Love.
My mother was the most successful person I know because she mastered the art of loving others, unconditionally and without reservation. She accepted everyone, and everyone I knew loved her. To me that’s the definition of a life well-lived. I can only aspire to reach that level of success.