This One is For You, Mom
On the morning of January 20, 2015 I lost the person who brought me into this world. She passed of brain cancer. Diagnosed in October in 2014, the cancer spread aggressively and despite brain surgery, chemotherapy, and an amazing attitude, cancer placed her in heaven far earlier than I would have ever imagined.
Like many mothers, she raised me right and imparted onto me countless lessons, countless ways. Her fun-loving and blithe personality could embarrass me and did constantly during my teenage years. Eventually, I learned what most of us do during our early adult years — I was exactly like her.
But before that, I watched my parents closely for clues on how to succeed in life — to comprehend what they did well and what I could improve upon. My mother carried grace and carefree elegance about her. She really didn’t care what many thought about her. We differed in that she was mostly introverted, spending her days reading and gardening.
I learned a great deal from her during the 27 years that I was able to be with her. What I learned the last 4 months of her life as she battled cancer, however, taught me two of the greatest leadership lessons a mother can pass to her children.
You Hit the Lottery, Son
My mother passed when she was just 54 years old. To put that in perspective, if you were to live to the same age as my mother and you’re in generation Y, 50% of us are at or past the halfway marker. That includes me.
There are some of us that have lost parents, siblings, and friends. The emotional paralysis that takes place is unlike anything else. And it’s not until you realize how unlikely you are to even be alive, are you able to conceptualize how you must grasp the miracle of life and lead it the way you are intended. Mel Robbins stated during a 2011 TED Talk that the likelihood of being alive right now with your specific genetic makeup is 1 in 400 trillion.
Dr. Ali Binazir took it a step further and looked at a variety of factors to include your parents being alive, their marriage chances, and having the right sperm/egg combination that created you.
Citing a Buddhist analogy: “[Your life] is about as likely as throwing a life preserver in some ocean and exactly one turtle in all of these oceans, swimming underwater somewhere. The probability that you came about and exist today is the same as that turtle sticking its head out the water – in the middle of that life preserver. On one try.”
Being alive makes the powerball lottery look like child’s play. Harness the miracle that is you on this planet!
Success is Carried On
My mother worked for a health insurance company as an actuary for 27 years before passing. Not the sexiest of jobs, but one at which she worked tirelessly. Even so, she did not identify her occupation with her definition of success. In other words, she did not measure her success on her 8 to 5.
Rather, my mother measured her success by the deep and positive influence she had on my sister and I. Unlike most positions of authority we have growing up, we hang onto every word that comes from our parents long after we leave their side. They are always our shoulders to lean on and cry on.
I’ll never forget the day I got engaged to my now wife, Christie. I had pre-planned an impromptu engagement party the same day of the engagement with family and friends(thank God she said “yes”).
My mom was in her second month of the cancer, 3 weeks removed from brain surgery, and was there in attendance in a beautiful dress that my sister helped her put on. After her brain surgery the month prior, my mother was noticeably different.
No longer able to care for herself, her motor skills were stripped and she was not able to process information correctly. It devastated me to see her this way.
The moment I saw her when I walked into the engagement party, I fell onto her shoulder and cried. I knew that this day was likely the happiest she will see me before she goes. My protector, my supporter, my biggest fan was at the mercy of life’s finish line and I was the one who cried. She held strong for me.
It was in that moment that I realized she gave me everything I needed to be successful in life, even that last shoulder to cry on when she was the one facing the music. I now carry the responsibility of preserving her success.
Being someone’s leader or mentor is a gift unlike any other in life. Its respect and love that always wants more and demands better. It’s the calming voice during uncertainty. The inspirational cheer in triumph.
And that’s when we recognize that real leadership is the art of self-sacrifice for someone else’s success.
I love you, Mom. And I miss you.