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When the song “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” by the Beatles came out, my teenage friends and I would laugh and sing it to my mother, whose name happened to be Lucy. In turn, she would laugh and sing it right along with us!
She was an exceptional, wise and wonderful woman. For starters, she was valedictorian in high school. She wanted to go to college, but at that time it wasn’t possible. She met my father while working for him as his secretary. Before too long they were married and then she was his boss! How’s that for climbing the corporate ladder? But, somehow, I think she knew that she would die fairly young, even before her children were married.
Growing up, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get married, or what exactly I wanted to do with my life. My mother frequently came up with phrases or helpful tips for a successful and happy life. Her words of wisdom were usually short, comical and right to the point. For example, she said, “When you marry a man, you marry his family, too!” That was verified two hours after I said “I do!”
Another saying she liked was, “Money goes where money is.” We can all identify with that one.
As a teenager dealing with normal, teenage issues, she often reminded me, “Don’t criticize yourself, dear. That’s what you have friends for.”
She wasn’t the type of mother who lectured her children after they got into trouble. Yet, it’s possible she was the original author of “I gave you life ... and I can take it away!”
I attended a wonderful all-girls Catholic high school. But once in a while – and, I must add, for no good reason – other girls and I would decide to sneak out. As sly as we were, my best friend’s mom somehow found out about our visits to the restaurant across from the school. Her words of wisdom were, “Don’t even think that we don’t know about your trips for a Coke and a smoke!”
Where did those mothers get their information? They all claimed “a little bird told them.”
Because of a birth defect, I was hospitalized and underwent many reconstructive surgeries as a child. My mother thought that those experiences would be beneficial for anyone considering a career in nursing. I didn’t always listen to her suggestions, but in this case I did. She was a woman way ahead of her time. She joyfully stated that I would not even need a man to support me. But, she added, there was also nothing wrong with the concept of marriage.
She predicted that I would fall in love with a wonderful man and have children. But perhaps her most valuable advice was, “Always put forward your best. Make them feel good about themselves, about you and about the world that we live in. Make them smile and laugh, even for just a short time. People will always remember you.”
Fast forward several years and I had done it all. I was a wife, a mother and a nurse. My life was busy and happy.
Then, our third child was born with a birth defect. But because of my mother’s words of wisdom, my medical background and experience, it was the best learning experience in my life.
My mother’s favorite phrase – “Always put forward your best” – had a permanent home in my brain. I worked on a mother-baby unit and was frequently called to assist other families dealing with similar situations. I also was invited to speak to other medical groups, such as nursing students.
One day I received a phone call from a professor who asked me to speak to a large class of medical students regarding the birth defect that I had learned so much about. I wanted this to be a good learning experience for them, too. I wanted to be informative, but I decided it wouldn’t hurt to throw in a few lighter scenes. What could have been frightening turned out great. The medical students were so receptive that, when I ended the lecture, I told them that I didn’t even have to picture them naked (a common trick to overcome stage fright).
Fast forward several years, when I needed to have complicated back surgery. As my husband and I were waiting in pre-op, my doctor told us that another surgeon would assist him. In walks the second surgeon, who announces that he already knows me. Being the smart aleck that I am, I asked if he had seen me on “America’s Most Wanted.”
No, he said. He had been one of the 300 medical students that I had spoken to so many years ago. I asked him how he had remembered me.
He replied that I had been a great teacher and I made them all laugh. As my mother said, make them smile and they will remember you. This one is for you, Lucy!