There is a famous quote from Mother Teresa -
Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.
Be the living expression of God’s kindness.
Kindness in your Face.
Kindness in your eyes.
Kindness in your smile.
It’s as if Mother Teresa knew my mother.
She entered this world as the second youngest of 12 children who grew up on a farm to Italian immigrants. There may not have been enough food for her, there wasn’t even enough room for her, but she made do. And that set the tone for the rest of her life. She could always make do with what she had and turn it into something special.
My mother was always fascinating to me. Growing up, I would look at her and think, actually, I mean know; she was THE most beautiful woman in any room. She had the grace and charm and those eyes that told you everything that she was feeling.
She always looked like a movie star to me. And even when she was in the room with other women, she appeared to have a ring of light around her. And she was just as beautiful inside. Her spirit was that of warmth and kindness.
Later on, when she would be out dancing, the joy that was on her face, the smile, the light in her eyes, was magnificent. It was like something out of a movie. The way she would glide around the floor, smiling and looking at people, even waving as she went by. She was meant to be there and uplift the people in those rooms.
Even as she got older and not feeling well, when she got on the dance floor, nothing else mattered. Nothing else existed. She always said that was the best time of her life, and it showed.
She was the epitome of style and grace. You stood up a little straighter when she told you she liked your outfit, or your shoes, or your hair! My goodness, when she told you your hair looked good, it was like winning the Super Bowl!
It was only natural that she would become a hairdresser. She went to beauty school when she was 33, received her license and brought her ability to make someone look and feel better than they did when they sat down in her chair for 50 years. In fact, one of her customers just told me, “I would go in there looking like a hag and when I left I felt like I could walk down Broadway.”
Those women not only found someone who could transform them, they found a friend. They discussed what was happening in their lives, their problems, their successes. Mom had the front-row seat in all of it, but she wasn’t a gossip. I never remember her talking about what she heard, only using it as a cautionary tale, “you know Mary‘s daughter had this happen to her” or “Don’t buy that stove because Carol did and it was awful.” She never told tales. Her customers knew it was a safe place for them.
These were women who became part of our lives, even attended our weddings because they were so much a part of her life for so many years.
Mom would still sit in her chair and comb her hair, it didn’t matter if anyone was coming over, she still combed her hair to make it look good. “Your hair is your crown and glory” she would say. Along with “people make their own problem’s, when you’re sick, you’re sick alone and whenever someone would leave she would tell them, “I’ll see you, when I see you.”
No matter the issue, you always left mom feeling better than when you got there. It didn’t matter what it was, it could’ve been a minor blip or a major life upheaval. The problem you started with seemed to lose its edge by the time you left.
My mother had that innate ability to make you see the world in a positive light. If you came upon a grouchy cashier or someone who was rude, she would compliment them on their clothing, or their smile. The first time I witnessed this I was a teenager. I remember saying to her, “mom they weren’t very nice” and she said, “well, you don’t know what their day was like before they got here - you don’t know what’s going on in their life.” It was a lesson I never forgot.
She treated everyone that way. With kindness and compassion. Even when she was fighting her disease, she would connect with every person who came in her room, whether for the first time or after multiple interactions, they would always leave commenting, “she’s so sweet.” She would even still hide and try to scare family members to produce belly laughs and no one like a good prank as much as my mother.
My mother wanted everyone to be happy, not worry about things, go forward and believe that things will work out. That is how she lived her life. Accept things as they come, not worry about what might or might not happen, but to wait until it happened and then deal with it so as not to be bogged down by worry or fear.
She knew if you worried you would miss the joy that was happening. “Things will work out the way they are supposed to - whatever will be, will be” was her mantra.
As she got closer to leaving us, I saw her face change. She remained beautiful, but the sparkle came back in her eyes. It had been missing, but it was right there for all to see.
I wonder if it was because she could see where she was going. She saw her family and friends. She could see the dance floor, hear the music. I don’t know who’s going to be her dance partner, but I’m sure they’ve worked it out. She looked beautiful. And even when she had no words left, she could still convey her trademark charm, compassion, love and caring with her eyes.
As Dr Maya Angelou once said, “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Mom, we will always remember how you made us feel. I love you and I’ll see you when I see you.