Be Excellent To Each Other – Lessons From My Mother

Originally published – September 10, 2013

My mother, Shirley Ann Walker, passed away on August 28th, 2013. It happened a day after my brother’s birthday and a week before her father, my grandfather’s birthday. My grandfather, my Pampa, turned 88. It’s a blessing her passing wasn’t on someone’s birthday, but a tragedy it happened so early in her own life. She was 62. It was cancer.

My grandfather was visiting her when she died. He said he was there to help her into this world and there to see her off.  She waited for her Daddy. No doubt, it is hard to lose a mother, but so much harder to lose a child, at any age. My pain is enormous right now, but I can’t imagine his.

Her official obituary:

Shirley Ann Walker born, Feb. 2, 1951 passed into the Lord’s arms, Aug. 28, 2013. She leaves behind her father Jack Jones, husband Randy, 2 brothers, 1 sister, 3 children, 2 step-children, and 6 grandchildren. She moved on from this world with this reminder “Be excellent to each other”. Services will be held at the Church of the First-Born 1501 N. Purdue OKC, 73147 on Sat, Aug. 31st at 2pm followed by a graveside service at Resurrection Memorial Cemetery. 

Lesson 1 – Carry a big bag to the movies. My mother could smuggle into the movie theater 5 bags of popcorn, cans of soda and candy in her huge quilted purse. It was her movie purse. Really, the lesson is to be prepared and frugal. Keeping children happy isn’t always easy. It can be expensive, if you let it. I see parents buying every toy and gadget for their children, handing over the world. I’m guilty of it at times. I can tell you, in the long run, it doesn’t help. Those children don’t love more or appreciate more or strive for more. Growing up, I was never without, but I appreciated what I was given.

Lesson 2 – Travel in packs. My fondest memories as a child involve big family gatherings, outings with groups from the church, or cub scouts. My mother took our cousins and us all over the city every day in her woody Chrysler station wagon. She and her sister, my aunt, both had one and I remember climbing over seats and sleeping in the back. There were trips to the pool, the community center, the library for summer reading. It is in those early bonds I found my love of people, interaction, and relationships.

Lesson 3 – Have a kind heart. My mother was kind. She was kind to strangers, to friends to family.  She knew all the neighbors and they all adored her. She brought joy to anyone she was around, she was a light in the room, a smile that made everything better. During her funeral, her little church was filled to standing room only. It is why on a day of 100 degree heat, a mile long procession made it’s way to her grave. It is why the church looked like a greenhouse with flowers and plants, and why the amazing women at her church cooked enough food for an army to help our family during this time. It was all because of her kind heart.

Lesson 4 – Love hard. How my mother could love. My mother would hold us, hug us, kiss us. Hold our hands, lay on the floor, play in our rooms or outside, take us to the zoo, or the pool, or the park.She was involved with school activities,with sports and with church. That woman could love. I am so glad she found someone to love in her husband, my step-father Randy. They had only been married a few months when she was diagnosed, and only two years when she passed. In sickness and in health, they both loved hard.

Lesson 5 – Let go of your children to let them grow. Growing up is hard. Divorce doesn’t make it any easier. I lived it. As I got older, I got more independent, more defiant. My mother stayed married to my father far longer than she wanted to or should have. And she did it for love. Love of her children, and love of her faith. But one day it was too much. It wasn’t long after the divorce I left her to move in with my father. I left her when she needed me the most. But she knew I needed to grow up. She knew I was angry and I didn’t know how to fix my life and the lives around me. There were some rocky years when we seldom spoke. I have spent much of my adult life apologizing and regretting that time. But she always dismissed it as part of life, part of becoming an adult. My relationship with my mother as an adult was truly wonderful. I wish all parents that opportunity.

Lesson 6 – Be strong, fight for what you believe.  My mother was kind, it’s true, but was also tough. My mother was the strongest woman I know. Really, she could beat me in arm wrestling until 8th grade. She could wash dishes in water that would scald my hands. She could pop me in my mouth like a ninja for being disrespectful. She could put my teenage brother over her knee and spank him. Although I’m sure that happened only once. She was tough. Tough when she lost a newborn baby girl, tough when I was born nearly three months early, tough during the divorce, tough to go back to work, and to go back to school. She earned her Masters while undergoing chemo and radiation. She never quit her job, only went on disability two months before she died because of a stroke. It took a stroke to get my mom to stay home! And even then, she said she was going back.

Lesson 7- Be Excellent to Each Other.  So funny that truer words were never said. One of those movies my mother took us to was “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure”. If you haven’t seen it, I don’t know if you can appreciate it the way I do. I was 11, and here was a movie about time travel and rock ‘n roll. We loved it, and the parting wisdom that Bill and Ted gave to the generations of the future was “Be excellent to each other” and ” Party on Dude”. It was my mother’s favorite quote.

In all you do, in all you say, are you being excellent to your fellow man? I know I’m guilty of not being excellent. I want to be more excellent to my wife, my children, my family, friends and colleagues.

There is no doubt this is more for me than you, the reader. So if you’ve made it this far, I appreciate it. Here is one last lesson from me to you.

Parents, love your children. They will grow, learn, yell, scream, hate, but eventually, love you again. I know because I lived it. And now as I see my children growing, I can appreciate it from the other side. Do your best, and your children will come out on the other side your best friend.

Children, love your parents. You some day will lose them. I actually pray you lose them and they don’t lose you, because if there is any solace to the loss of my mother, it is that parents should go before there children. It is that reason I am so sad for my grandfather. Love your parents, because they are just people, imperfect, flawed, but people, none the less, who tried very hard to give you what you needed in this life.

I love you Mom. 

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