Your Mother Is Always With You

“She’s the whisper in the leaves as you walk down the street, the smell of certain foods you remember, flowers you pick, the fragrance of life itself. She’s the cool hand on your brow when you’re not feeling well, she’s your breath in the air on a cold. winter’s day. She’s the sound of the rain that lulls you to sleep, the colors of a rainbow, she is Christmas morning. Your mother lives inside your laughter. She’s the place you came from, your first home, and she’s the map you follow with every step you take. She’s your first love, your first friend, even your first enemy, but nothing on Earth can separate you. Not time, not space…not even death.”

Mother”s Day is always a tough one for those of us who’ve lost our mothers. Several  of my friends lost their moms this year as well as over the last couple of years. And speaking from someone who lost hers 12 years ago, it never gets any easier. I often say that we simply learn how do deal with it, but  we never truly get over that vacant hole on our hearts.

Mother-daughter relationships are tricky. Some are stable while others are volatile. Some fluctuate and others are solid. Some are toxic while others are healing. Some are the things dreams are made of while others are a nightmare. Some are non-existent and others overbearing. Some seem to be “perfect” and others are perfectly imperfect.

There is no cookie-cutter recipe to what makes for a “perfect” mother-daughter relationship. And despite the range and types of mother-daughter relationships out there, mothers always fill a huge part of our hearts for better or worse…in life and in death.

Mother’s Day is tricky to navigate for us whether we like to admit it or not. Some of us don’t like to show our feelings, much less talk about them. Or we have shame around it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling your feelings -all of them- especially when you no longer have a mom around.

We live in a culture that is not comfortable talking about death, much less expressing our feelings around how much we may miss someone who is no longer alive. The love we feel for someone never dies along with that person, If anything, sometimes that love gets   even deeper and more expansive over the years. Yet, there is a preconceived notion some people have that they are expected to “get over” their grief in a certain time period. There is no timeline to grief, no magic recipe, and not one path that is better than another. We all grieve differently because we are all wired differently. As we’ve all experienced, grief just comes out of nowhere sometimes and it shows up differently for each of us. Oftentimes, it’s that unwelcome guest at our heart’s door that we need to allow in.

And when we open our heart’s door, and when we allow ourselves to flow with whatever arises, we are sometimes  unexpectedly surprised. Memories suddenly show up, or something that was so insignificant now holds deeper meaning and significance. Sometimes we struggle to remember something to no avail, but instead we are gifted with a precious memory that was long forgotten…perhaps even painful at the time but, with the passing of time, we look at it through a different lens.

Coming from a generation where our mothers tended to never speak about “family” situations, what I advise anyone who still has a mom around, is to ask them questions…all kinds of questions: about their childhood, growing up, experiences, traumas, ancestors, romances, challenges, successes, relationships, wishes fulfilled and dreams unfulfilled…you get the idea. Record videos and take lots of pictures of them. Interview them, have them interview you and record these interviews. Be silly, go deep and don’t leave any stone unturned. These will be some of the things that will comfort you and make you laugh when you are longing for their presence -even if it’s for one more day.

I’m a person who values rituals and enjoys celebrating a person’s life. So, on Mother’s Day, my day starts with a gratitude filled meditation and yoga practice. I usually have my customary white roses and my Mama’s journal that I write in twice a year.  Some years, I look back at what I wrote in years past. I like this quiet time to reflect . It also allows me to see how, with the passing of time, I am growing into being more and more like my mother. And I am owning it. Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I cry. It’s all good though…I embrace it all!

My mama was all about love, generosity and service. She loved to dance, celebrate and laugh. She always ended her conversations with “Te quiero” and was very loved by all who knew her. Mama had a huge heart. As I look back, I can see how she felt all her feelings… maybe too much.  I have no doubt that she was an empath. She was compassionate, loving and kind to everyone. Don’t get me wrong, she could have a temper – that Cuban mother temper- but most times she’d end up getting over it- and herself- very quickly. Sometimes she’d even be concealing laughter while in the midst of an outburst. I just don’t think she had a mean bone in her body…it was all theatrics.

All I know for sure is that my mother is always with me. This morning I took out a box of old family pictures ,and l really took the time to look at them, look at the body language, the smiles, the joy and the sadness too. I even found myself looking at pictures of me when I was a baby and a young child and talking out loud to the little girl I was holding in my hands. Talk about powerful stuff! I also read through letters and cards that teachers had their students write and draw for my mom a few months before she passed.

As if by divine intervention, as I sit here finishing this blog, a friend of mine who  lost her mom a couple of months ago sent me a picture of a card she received. The front of the card was almost the same as the title of this blog, Your Mother Will Always Be With You. Go figure! Is that a coincidence, or what?

So….in honor of all of us who’ve lost our moms-whether physically, emotionally or mentally- especially if this is your first Mother’s Day without your mom, I will leave you with the beautiful sentiment expressed in the card my friend received:

“You’ll never forget her face, her voice, her love for you. You’ll never forget the traditions she handed down, the things she stood for… They are her gift and your legacy. You honor her every day in the way you live and the person you are.”

Sending you all much love and many blessings,  from my heart to yours!

Lead from the heart…always and in all ways, JTC


THE Conversation

“Share your conversations with those closest to you.”

In life, most of us take the time to plan in an effort to have productive lives, successful careers and wonderful families. We have become the master planners when it comes to investing and finding creative ways to raise and save money as well as innovative ways to work and travel. We have taken planning and hosting celebrations of all kinds to another level –  births, graduations, bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs, sweet sixteen, first dates, engagements, milestone birthdays, bachelor and bachelorette parties, wedding showers, weddings, gender reveal parties, new homes….you get the picture, right? But why do so many of us fail to plan for one of our most important dates of our lives? The one event that planning for, as long as we are alive, can provide us (and our families) with the utmost sense of security, comfort and peace of mind….Welcome to THE Conversation.

What conversation am I talking about? Well, if you missed my previous blog, The Pain of Death, you may want to first start there. In many cultures, death and dying is a sacred rite of passage and is spoken about, meticulously planned for and celebrated in a myriad of ways. Yet in others, talking about death – much less planning for it – is a taboo. Then there are people and cultures that fall somewhere between both. Where do you fit in?

What is your relationship with death? Did your family talk about it when growing up? Have you experienced the death of a loved one yet? Have you had to suddenly plan for someone’s passing? Have you ever gone to a funeral, wake or memorial service and say to yourself, “So and so never would have wanted this.” Or “So and so would have wanted x,y, and z.”  Or “What did they know about so and so?” Well, the sad reality is that “So and so” failed to make their wishes known.

Failing to make our wishes known when it comes to our health care, in the event something happens where we are left unable to make decisions for ourselves, can leave us without any quality of life whatsoever – perhaps even in a vegetative state. Failing to make our wishes known in the event of our passing can be catastrophic. Especially if there is money, property and THE most important investment property yet – children. What if a sole parent, or both parents, tragically die and a young child or young children are left behind? These are scenarios that happen every single day. Just think about all the people who left their home in the morning and never came back. Do you think they thought they were going to die that day? How about people who go to sleep at night and never wake up? I’m sure they had a laundry list of  “to-dos” for the following day, and dying was not an item on THAT list.

Consumerism and materialism in this country is off the charts. Everyone wants more, more, more….more money, more beauty, more clothes, cars, houses, vacations, gadgets, indulgences, experiences, and people will spend money they have and don’t have to attain the latest “thing” du jour that promises blah, blah, blah. Everything has to be “in order” or at least “appear” to be in order to the outside world. That’s all fine and good if that’s your idea of a nice life and is what floats your boat. But how about investing some of that time, energy and resources in planning for a nice death?  Or at best, having conversations about it with close friends and loved ones. Have you spoken to a loved one about your end of life wishes? Have you secured proper planning? Do you have an advanced health care directive? Have you designated a health care representative that will honor your wishes?

We have so many on-line planning tools and resources at our fingertips these days. In addition, many funeral / memorial homes even have personal planning guides available where one can document information such as vital statistics, personal records, estate information, insurance and beneficiary info, military history, family history, memorialization instructions, persons to contact or notify, the location of one’s will, and agencies, companies and organizations to contact. Why do we fail to plan? Any educator will give you the answer to that question – because failing to plan is planning to fail. Simply stated.

If we aren’t comfortable talking to our family, for whatever reason, then we can talk to our beloved friends. We can even enlist the help of some of our friends to aid us in getting the ball rolling. While I’ve had an advance directive and a will for as long as I can remember, and many of my friends and family are aware of my “overall” wishes, a couple of years ago I took the “planning” to an even more detailed, organized level. Not only did I update the legal documents, but I also recorded what I want done with my remains, the kind of event celebration and music I want and even took pictures of jewelry, furniture, and items that are near and dear to me and I want to bequeath to friends and loved ones. I put all these pictures in a photo album and, next to each one, I listed the person’s name and their phone number. The key is to remember to take pictures of any new acquisition….wink, wink, and make sure to give copies of your documents to the people who matter most.

As a matter of fact, one of my lovely friends and I just set a date for me to come over and help her do the same. Now remember, the idea is to not only be organized but to also have fun doing so. Set the mood, burn some incense, light candles, have great music playing in the background……..Make a fab event out of it, and plan to celebrate your successful accomplishments. I am sure we will celebrate will a little Pinot Noir and perhaps some delicious snacks or a nice meal. Remember, at best, snacks are always a must! And, at the end of this process, what we will be celebrating is the sense of comfort, ease and peace of mind we can have by having had THE Conversation and, ultimately, being prepared. What a beautiful, mindful, thoughtful and considerate gift to leave behind for our loved ones as a souvenir of our last rite of passage!

Isn’t this so much better than the added stress, anxiety, frenzy and heartbreak we leave behind if we fail to prepare? Loved ones left behind are already stressed and heartbroken. Why add uncertainty, confusion, drama, and perhaps even conflict, to an already painful moment in their lives?

So, darling, if you are someone who has been avoiding THE Conversation, may I ask you  why? If you are in need of having this convo, my wish for you is that, after reading this, you may feel inspired to share your conversation with those closest to you….or at best make you a little more comfortable and at ease doing so. Just remember to make the process fun and entertaining….Oh, and remember the snacks xo

Inhale love & light…Exhale grace & gratitude, JTC






The Pain of Death

“Opening up to the pain of death, our own or that of someone we love, is one of the most mysterious blessings of life.” Marianne Williamson

Marianne Williamson goes on to say that nothing focuses us more clearly on what matters, helps us drop our defenses more quickly or gives us more compassion for human suffering – that death has become one of our greatest teachers. This, I know to be true. Why? I guess because I have been up close and personal with death my entire life.

What got me thinking about this? Well, allow me to back track. Just a few  days ago, very dear friends of mine suffered the double, mind-boggling and incomprehensible loss of their soul sister and her husband. Another dear friend of mine lost a life-long soul sister a couple of weeks ago. Over the past year, numerous friends and acquaintances have lost a loved one as well: mother, father, brother, best friend, soul sister, spouse. The thing is, most of the people who passed did so unexpectedly. I don’t know what is more painful, an unexpected death or a diagnosis and watching someone wither away very quickly. That’s a tough one!

As a result, I’ve spent most of today thinking about death, loss, grief, pain, suffering and resilience. That’s what the pain of death does to us. It makes us have conversations with ourselves. Conversations that make us explore the mystery and intrigue behind this so-called rite of passage. A passage that is so beautiful and marks the end of a soul’s purpose here on earth, yet one that is so painful and sorrowful for those who are left behind, ones who’ve never been taught to talk about death or have never been up close and personal to it. Today, I shed lots of tears for the human suffering of my own friends who are trying to process their grief. Today made me examine my life and reflect on my relationship with this rite of passage called death.

My intimate relationship (and fascination) with death started at an early age. I lost a couple of classmates when I was in elementary school. A dearly beloved cousin of mine passed away when I was in 8th grade (he was one year older than me). From there, it was my only living grandmother, uncles and aunts, their husbands and wives, cousins and, ultimately, my parents. Over the course of my career, there were a few students and several co-workers that passed away too. And when people who are our own age, and who are our contemporaries, come to the end of their life, we really turn inward and examine our own lives – whether we want to or not. A key factor for us is to get comfortable talking about death.

Is being up close and personal to death a blessing? Is having experienced all these losses the reason I am able to show up hold the space for others to grieve? Is being fascinated with the afterlife, reincarnation and research stories of near death and out-of-body experiences what enables me to have conversations with the dying and help them cross over peacefully? Is having gone though my own out of body experience and being in a place of pure love, consciousness and bliss the reason why I can so freely talk about  death and dying? Is my understanding of the many aspects and changes the body undergoes as it prepares for that final breath what helps me comfort and prepare someone for their transition or the transition of their loved one? Is my passion for organization and event planning why I can so readily help someone to organize their end of life affairs, wishes and celebrations? Is embracing and working through the stages of grief what helps to build resilience? Is gratitude what has made me so resilient? Questions, questions and more questions! No wonder my head, heart and body were screaming for attention today!

Though today’s tears, reflections, and heartfelt pain for shared human suffering, I realized that all this death, loss, grief, pain, suffering, life altering moments and resilience have shaped my spiritual and healthy relationship with the dying process. It is a gift for which I am grateful. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that a few of my friends held the space for me to make sense of all this today……infinite love and gratitude for your presence, love and support……and for yoga, foot reflexology and amazing dinner with friends! Our Tools and our Tribe are a must go to in life and in death. These are our blessings!

Like any other rite of passage, I believe end of life is something we must plan for and celebrate. And that includes our own end of life! After all, we are all terminal! This is a date we all have and cannot cancel, reschedule or postpone. We must have a say in our own planning and celebrating. However, much of the planning, and many of the conversations, fail to take place. We must fix this, my darlings. We must reshape the way we think and talk about death, and allow it to be our greatest counselor, mentor and teacher.

Next up……THE Conversation!

Inhale love & light…Exhale grace & gratitude, JTC