Ten years ago this week, I sat with my 62 year old mother as she took her last breaths and died.
And while it wasn't unexpected – she'd battled terminal lung cancer for 8 long years, after being a smoker for 35 years – my mom's death, 5 weeks after becoming a mom myself, changed me and my life forever.
Changed not in a catastrophic way, like a fatal forest fire whipped up by hot summer winds – changed more like finally turning up the heat on a slow steady fire, the type of flame that makes a pot of vegetables, meat and water into a good mid-winter stew, bubbling gently on the stove.
This fire had actually gotten lit in me a few years earlier, its slow blue flame lapping at the edges of my life, but I hadn't really turned up the gas on it.
I knew that flame was there, waiting for me, but I was scared. I told myself a lot of stories about why I couldn't do what I longed to do — because of my mom's illness, this and that responsibility, what others would think, etc.
My mom's final decline and death woke me up to a few truths in some new and profound ways:
Nothing lasts forever.
People you love die.
You only get this life.
There was a new urgency to get going, to turn up that flame, and start moving.
And so I did. Slowly, surely, one step at a time.
And now, 10 years later, I live a life and do work that lights me up, fills me up, and is a true expression of who I am and what I can bring to the world.
(Plus the added benefit that I get to help other people figure out their version of that for themselves too.)
Ten years ago, I never would have guessed that losing my mom would make me brave enough to become myself.
I had no idea what 2013 would look like for me in 2003 but I moved ahead. Slowly, surely, one step at a time.
Whatever your dream of your future is, it's time to get moving.
If I can do it, so can you.
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