Sixteen years ago this week, my mother died from ovarian cancer. She was 59.
All week, I’ve been thinking about what she would say to you now, if she could stop by for dinner some night. She would tell you how proud she was, for sure. She would gush about how smart and creative and beautiful each of you is. And she would smother you with hugs and pepper you with questions about school, music, soccer, and even boys.
Then, if we asked, she might give you these three bits of advice, which she tried to instill in me.
1. Don’t be afraid to try
Fear can be healthy–when it keeps us from doing stupid, dangerous things. But it can also get in the way–when it makes us worry what people will think or avoid potential embarrassment at any cost.
In the end, you really don’t need to worry what people will think: the right people will judge you based on who you are, not on how good you are at this or that. And everyone else can buzz off: who cares what they think anyway?
Also, you won’t regret the things you try and fail at. Those failures will become laughable learning experiences. You’ll regret the things you wanted to try but didn’t.
So if you want to do something, ask yourself if it’s really dangerous. If it isn’t, then don’t let fear stop you. Get over yourself and try. You have nothing to lose that’s worth keeping.
2. Learn to be still
Trying new things is important, but so is sitting still–because the most important truths in life are rarely shouted. More often they bubble up out of silence and stir your soul before they reach your mind.
So stand beside the ocean and wonder. Kneel down in the cathedral and pray. Breathe in the pine-scented air of the forest and pause to taste it. Lie on your back and stare up at the slow-turning stars.
Know that no matter how fast the world wants to turn, sometimes the only answer is to be still and silent enough to hear forever whisper. And to listen when it does.
3. Bet on love
There will likely be times in your life when disease and death and darkness surround you. And it will be tempting then to scream and curse and rage.
Go right ahead and do that when you need to. Scream. Curse. Rage. It’s healthy to get it out.
But remember that there’s always more to it than that. There’s always a bigger picture. Life goes on. The light returns. And love wins. Every time.
This is not merely an article of faith; it is the basis of faith. In the great battle between light and darkness, between love and death, between good and evil, the good prevails. Love prevails, as long as you let it.
So if you’re ever lost or afraid or overwhelmed, go where love leads you. That’s the way.
And if you ever need a hand, ask your father. He really is happy to help.