Six Lessons Mom's Death Taught Me About Life

Six Lessons Mom's Death Taught Me About Life

Today marks exactly one year since Mom’s been gone. As I sit here reflecting I’m filled with so many emotions. Sadness, bewilderment, heart break, anger but mostly gratitude. Yes, you heard correctly, I said gratitude. I know that may seem an odd emotion to focus on but hear me out for a moment. 

Turning grief into purpose - Lessons from Mom 

You see I can choose to sit and focus on all the reasons why I’m angry or sad she’s not here anymore (which I do believe are emotions that should be felt and have a time and place in the grieving process). However, I also have the choice to focus on celebrating Mom and all the wonderful memories of her life. Memories and lessons she has taught me that I hadn’t yet even realized until she was gone. Wow, as I say that I feel the sensation build in my chest and the tears in my eyes. 

That's exactly the confirmation I needed. She would have wanted me to celebrate her and share this message with you. 

So here we go. Here’s how my Mom has been an inspiration for my life and my purpose so that I can show up for you and inspire you to be more creative.

 

1.  You can always reinvent yourself.

My mom graduated with an Art Education degree and immediately started teaching elementary school. Then shifted into creating hand painted apparel (first operating out of the house and then moving to a studio space - sound familiar?) She then went on to hone her talents as an incredible watercolor artist showing her work in galleries and selling internationally. After that she fell in love with acrylics and texture and decided to try her hand at becoming a mixed media artist. Which she mastered! And lastly rounding back to her first love of teaching - she taught art in her 60’s to women in her retirement community.


Mom teaching watercolor art lessons.

Mom teaching watercolor art.

2. Be unconventional.

Mom loved thinking outside of the box and using different materials other than a paint brush to paint with and add texture to her artwork. Everything from tape to toothpicks to bubble wrap to stamps. Her curiosity allowed her to find and incorporate the uniqueness in everything.


Moms hand painted t-shirts and jackets

Mom's hand painted apparel. Her claim to fame bluebonnet t-shirts. Look closely at those cactus on the jackets - destiny for sure.

3. Strength isn’t about fitness.

To be honest, Mom was not the fitness guru of our family but she was literally one of the strongest people I know. She raised two small children (both under the age of 4) overseas in Egypt and Abu Dhabi. Halfway around the world - no friends, no family, no cell phones and most of the time on her own because Dad was on job sites. She had no choice - she figured it f@&k out!  Damn Mom you were a baddie if there ever was one.  If I can be a little less scared and a little more brave like you every day then I’m going places. Remember you are stronger than you think!


Family in Cairo 1977

Cairo, Eygpt - 1977

4. Practice makes you confident - not perfect.

While Mom was naturally gifted at just about any art project she attempted, it didn’t always turn out the way she envisioned the first go round. I remember her telling me how she painted over so many of her old paintings because the first attempt was just a practice run. Instead of letting this defeat her and give up, she kept trying - she kept playing and the more she did the more confident she became in her art. Let that sink in for a second, the more you do something, the more you’ll feel confident the likely you will get better at it.


Red poppy painting by Mom

Red poppy painting - mixed media art by Mom.

5. Art is therapy.

Instead of a guest room in our house it was Mom’s studio! She would spend hours in there playing, painting and doodling. Maybe it was to get away from the chaos of three loud family members in the house (aka me, my sister and dad). Rightfully so. We all deserve a break from the stress in our lives right? Art can help ease our anxiety and bring us back to a sense of calm. Even as she lost her fine motor skills from Dementia towards the end of her life and couldn’t paint like she used to, she still enjoyed coloring and crafting. It brought her peace.

Mom with dementia coloring at Tiffin House

Coloring with Mom

Coloring with Mom at her memory care facility.

6. Give yourself the permission to try!

Mom was a multi dimensional, multi passionate person long before it was a self help buzz word in society.

Some people (including myself before today) may have viewed this behavior as misguided or distracted. “Oh there goes Nita trying another thing. She doesn’t know what we wants. It’s so cute how she’s just a free spirit artist.” But low and behold Mom has us all fooled. She DID know what she wanted! What she wanted was to take that leap of faith and dive into something new all the time. And when it wasn’t fun or lighting her up anymore she moved on to the next thing. She lived life and she allowed herself to have fun with the process not the outcome. Wow that's powerful!

 Mom supporting me at a pottery event.

Mom supporting me at one of my early pottery events.

What I have taken away from all these reflections is that life is precious. Each and every day we have an opportunity to do or try or be something great. So go live it!!

 

Today is a great day quote

One of Mom's favorite quotes - on her bulletin board.


Cherish every moment you have. Stay fearless and stay creative. 

And Mom - thank you for the lessons. I love you and miss you dearly! I know you are watching over me and cheering me on in my journey. 

Love,
Courtney


Now your turn! What’s a life lesson you've learned from your Mom or Dad? Let me hear them in the comments below! 👇



Mom modeling her painting active wear

Mom modeling her activewear. How cute was she?!

Article about Mom and her art studio in the news.

Article in the local paper about Mom's art studio.

 

Me and Mom painting cactus

Me and Mom painting cactus - 2019

5 comments

The first time I met your Mom (and Dad) Matt made me tell an off-colored joke and I was so embarrassed since I didn’t know them at all. They laughed but I’m not sure how they took it. We became fast friends anyway.

Matt and I married- your Dad was in the wedding; your Mom was pregnant with you and not long after, Jaclyn; then they went overseas. We were being sent overseas also. And low and behold we followed them to Abu Dhabi. What a surprise! We arrived about six weeks after they did. We moved into the house they were going to live and two days later Matt left the country leaving me alone in my first foreign country, all alone, with no money! Your Mom and Dad were life savers. They took me grocery shopping and showed me around town a little. Since neither of us worked, your Mom and I shopped and shopped. She once purchased a pair of sunglasses and almost fainted after she converted money and realized how much she actually paid for them. She was so funny. She met other women in the compound we lived in and made friends to have frequent coffees with. Once. when two of the ladies were visiting at our house your Mom dropped Jaclyn off so I could babysit. Both of them each had three kids and I had none when Jaclyn started screaming her little lungs out. She was only about six months old and wouldn’t stop. They were telling me to do something – what could I do having no experience with babies. Of course we had no cell phones at that time so I couldn’t call your Mom to ask for advice. After what seemed like an entire day, she returned. Jaclyn had just fallen asleep from sheer exhaustion. I swore off babysitting! But your Mom took it all in stride – it didn’t bother her all. I was hoping she would never ask me to babysit again – but she did!

Even with two young children she would continue painting. Once she asked me to make a dress for her, so she paid me with a painting.

Eventually we both moved back to Houston. By then I had two kids and went back to work so your Mom and I didn’t see each other too often. Then your move to College Station. Our visits were seldom. Their move to Georgetown was heartbreaking. My very good friend was so very far away and I was still working. I made only one trip there to visit.

I’m very saddened that I didn’t make more of an effort to see her. But sometimes life gets in the way. I miss her so very much. We could tell each other anything and I really miss that! Bless you, Courtney, for keeping her memory alive. She was a wonderful and talented person, Mom, and friend!!!

Cathy Daniels

Courtney! What a wonderful tribute to your Mom. I feel like I have known her forever. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for sharing the warmth, love, creativity, and passion of your amazing Mother. You are one very blessed human being with a very old spirit. I love you, my friend!

Jackie Burrow

Courtney,
Thank you for sharing the lessons and inspiring story of your mom. Her legacy certainly lives on in you and through all your creative expression. Sending love your way,

Cara Weaver

If you had not become an artist, you could have been a writer! I knew Jaclyn was a wonderful writer when she was journaling her journey with Harper, but you, too, have that unique ability to use words to paint a beautiful and true picture! I absolutely love what you have written… and knowing (and loving) you and Jaclyn both since the day you were born, it makes me so proud of who you have both become. Your mother was always proud of you both (as kids, as college students and as young adults carving your paths for your future) and I know as she watched you following in her footsteps toward being a creative pioneer in your own right, it made her truly happy. Nita was without a doubt a talented, creative, spunky, fearless individual… and loving wife and fabulous, caring mom; but she was also an amazing inspiration to me. From the day we met, I felt like we were sisters…. I admired everything about her… and Jack adored her like the sister he never had! She taught me so much about so many things and I loved being around her! She always made me feel special and loved and even though she was the epitome of “classy”, she had a fun sense of humor and a wonderful laugh! Your mom and dad were both really special people in our lives and we both miss her more than I can put into words!
Continue to be inspired by her… that is one of her legacies… to inspire others…..just like Granny…

Kathy Harding

How cute was she in those pictures? I can see where you and Jaclyn get your looks, and sassiness!! I’ve always been into crafts. Not for long, but every time I’d go to my grandmother’s we’d start something new. Then by the end of my Dad’s life, he had gotten into several different hobbies that were a lot like crafting that we would do together and I now have around my house so Sloan and I can remember him daily. He was really into making things with glass. He had a kiln so he could fuse things together. That led to doing things with pottery and making jewelry for people he loved. I wish he would’ve taught me and passed his kiln down to me when he passed, because what a fun hobby to have, as you know! But he was far too sick and tired towards the end for me to ask him to do that.

Stephanie

Leave a comment