My mom passed away from cancer 11 years ago. She had four kids by the time she was 27 and was a social studies teacher at West Middle for almost 30 years. I’ve learned a lot from my mom about life, about mothering. Interestingly, some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned from her have been realized since she’s been gone. I so often want to ask her why she made a certain decision
(I suspect she’d say she did the best with the knowledge and resources she had at the time) and to thank her for imparting her wisdom on me, even though I wouldn’t realize the lesson for another 25 years.

I learned to love and appreciate nature from her — she spent a lot of time at Camp Hashawha with her students and as a naturalist during the summer months. When her life was in chaos she was able to find peace in nature, among the trees and the animals, and she delighted in cross country skiing on snowy nights and high ropes courses on hot sunny days. At the time, I found her nature time annoying, but now I am proud of her for cutting out that time for herself, for finding a place that made her heart happy, for knowing how important it was for all of us that she found peace of mind and spirit somewhere.

I’ve also just recently come to realize that my mom’s approach to life and helping people was also a lesson in the making. My mom gave me advice and guidance, but for most of the big moments in my life, I just remember her listening. She didn’t tell me how to live my life or deal with a challenge; instead she listened (often while we were shopping — she was a good multitasker and an excellent shopper) and asked questions. But even when I really wanted her to tell me what to do, she didn’t. Maybe she just didn’t have the answer. Maybe she knew that it’s important to build the skill set of working through a problem yourself. Maybe she knew she wouldn’t always be here to give me the answers.

Whatever the reason, she taught me that the important answers come from the inside. No one can really tell us how best to navigate our lives. And it is a lesson I keep close to my heart when raising my children — let them be thinkers, let them figure it out, be a good listener for them, know that they won’t always do it the way I would have, know that in the end they will be good navigators.

We celebrate moms in this issue with Mother’s Day on May 12. Local leaders and familiar faces share lessons they learned from their moms, and we’d love to hear from our readers what lessons you learned from yours (See article).