Welcome to the launch of the new blog from Best Friend Books.Our aim with this blog, as it is with each of our books and teaching resources, is to provide perspectives and start conversations about social emotional learning and the development of emotionally healthy young children. We hope that each blog post can provide parents and teachers practical strategies for raising the peaceful, happy children who will one day be the adults who inherit and take care of our world.
The inspiration for this blog’s title needs some explanation. On August 20, 2019, my mom finally let go and moved on to something bigger and better after her long struggle with Parkinson’s Disease and several years in a skilled nursing facility. My mom was the definitive worry wart, and as long as I can remember she demonstrated a vivid imagination of all the worst possible outcomes in life. She was warm, loving, kind, gracious, thoughtful, generous and funny. She was talented, creative, a gifted seamstress and crafter who took pride in the fact that the inside seams of the clothes she made, and the backs of her embroidery projects were as perfect and neat as the side that was shown to the world. She had the most integrity and honesty of any person I have ever known. And she was also the most anxious person I have ever known, always convinced that poverty, disease, embarrassment, disappointment, betrayal, financial disaster, grief, loss and devastation lay lurking just around the corner for herself and everyone she cared about. It was painful to watch and frustrating at times, from the perspective of a child and teen wanting to feel optimistic and carefree. As an adult, it turned out that I had inadvertently picked up some of that anxiety as unavoidably as walking through a field of dandelions and coming out the other side with dandelion fluff all over my shoes and socks. Inevitably I am sure that, in turn, I brought those seeds into my own household and parenting.
I think, in an odd way, my mom actually took some kind of comfort in worrying. Perhaps she felt it made her more emotionally prepared to handle whatever came her way. And, indeed, I also grew up to be a “worst case scenario” thinker, having a deeply held and totally illogical superstition that if I imagined the worst possible situation and how I would handle it, it would be less likely to actually happen. In reality, of course, the opposite is often true. There’s even a phrase to describe it: the self fulfilling prophecy.
My mom never allowed her anxiety to paralyze her, though.In fact, I believe that staying busy and productive was a kind of therapy for her. Her home was immaculate, her refrigerator and pantry well stocked and organized, her coupon caddy updated and well utilized to maximize the household budget that she managed for decades. She was constantly cleaning, cooking, sewing, crafting and even in her leisure she was DOING something, always eager to try a new challenge like macrame or terrarium building or figuring out a Rubic’s Cube, in addition to a steady diet of cross stitch, embroidery, piano playing, and crossword puzzles. My brother commented once,upon a return visit from college, that he was momentarily taken aback to see my mom sitting and watching a television show since he couldn’t remember ever having seen her sit still and do nothing during the daytime.
So it was a particularly cruel turn of fate for her to be diagnosed with a degenerative disease that not only increased her anxiety but also slowly robbed her of every single therapeutic activity which brought her some measure of relief, peace and joy. Her time in skilled nursing care was fairly unbearable for her, especially after PD took away even her most basic distractions. She lost the fine motor control to hold a pen to do a word search or press a button on the remote to change channels. She no longer had sufficient breath support to make her voice heard on the phone even after all the extra amplification modifications my brother Steve made to the large button speaker phone I had purchased for her to use. She was left with nothing to occupy her mind except 24/7 pain, discomfort, boredom, grief and anxiety...about her own wellbeing, and the well being of her husband and 6 kids. During her final years, many of those anxieties turned into overwhelming reality. Two of her daughters died unexpectedly. One of her sons had a near-death encounter with heart failure. Another son was the victim of a hit and run driver and had life altering injuries. One daughter in law left the family, and another was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. It was as if a lifetime of disasters came tumbling in on her as she lay helpless to do anything about any of it.
I held Mama’s hand when she passed, and the look of pain that had become ever-present on her face instantly melted into an expression of what I can only describe as astonished joy, as she took her final breath.
After she passed, my grief was expectedly intense. And yet, it was also impossible not to feel some semblance of relief that she was no longer bound by the relentless physical and emotional pain that had overwhelmed her final years. For weeks after her passing, when I would lay down to sleep, it felt unfamiliar and somehow disloyal or selfish of me to fall asleep without what had become my nightly ritual of silently wondering about her wellbeing: had she fallen asleep yet, or was she in pain, laying helpless and unable to move, with her call button just out of reach, ignored by busy or distracted nursing home staff? Gradually, I turned this unfamiliar and disoriented feeling of “nothing to worry about” into a nightly prayer of gratitude that my beautiful mom was no longer laying an hour and a half way, scared, alone, helpless, and in pain.
I had already lost both of my sisters in the prior couple of years, and had experienced what felt like “signs” from them, letting me know that they were happy and at peace in their newfound freedom from earthly limitations, worries, and discomforts. Shortly after my Mom passed, I had a wonderful dream of her looking as she had in her years as a young mother, standing at the top of the driveway at our family home. She said nothing but looked lovingly in my direction, and then turned her face just to my right and bent at the waist and knees as she leaned over with open her arms and welcomed my sisters as young girls, running into her arms where the three of them embraced. The expression on her face when she saw them running into her open arms was the exact same one I had seen on her face as she took her final breath, and in my dreamlike state, I suddenly understood the cause of her astonished joy.
It was over a year later when the second dream came. In that dream my mom was peaceful and happy, and had a message that she seemed to urgently wish to communicate to me. And that brings me to how my Mom inspired this blog. Her message to me in that dream was that she was “in more light than you could ever dream possible” and that “mighty love” had replaced all the “mighty fears” that had defined her earthly life. She asked me to believe that mighty love is a higher power than any fear, and is the highest form of existence. She said that learning mighty love is the whole purpose of our lives on earth, that mighty love overcomes fear, loneliness, pain and suffering. She said that mighty love not only destroys all fears but creates more love in the path of that destruction. I still could not comprehend the “Bigness” of this concept she described, and I asked her to help me understand.
She said that mighty love means living fearlessly, because our life here is meant to teach us how to let love conquer fear. She said that when we are controlled by fear of pain, sorrow, loneliness, destitution, and loss, we make mistakes and forget that mighty love overcomes all of those things. She said that we make most of our earthly mistakes out of fear. She said mighty love means putting others’ well-being before your own. She said it means keeping your word. She said it means being able to see only love in other people, and that it also means forgiving them for not seeing it in you. She said mighty love is being able to face pain and sorrow, cruelty and hatred but still being able to love yourself and others without fear and reservation.
It is an understatement to say that when I woke up, I WOKE UP. Those who know me know that it is nothing unusual for me to have vivid, lucid dreams and I have a habit of writing them down as soon as possible upon awakening. Most of them are silly, crazy and wildly entertaining conglomerations of disconnected characters and concepts which also are often strangely symbolic and meaningful to me at the same time. After my dream, I scribbled notes as fast as I could. There were some other messages within that dream that were more personal and would make sense only to me and my immediate family. Who knows where such dreams come from. But whether the dream was a message from my mom or from my subconscious, it has attached itself to my daily thoughts, my daily decisions, my self talk and my goal-setting. The message of Mighty Love was one I felt compelled to share with others. It is not a phrase I had ever heard before or ever knew my mother to say in her life here. But she said it over and over and over in my dream and it seemed really important. .
And so, with that long winded introduction, Best Friend Books brings you the Mighty Love Blog. Our purpose with this blog will be to share perspectives and start conversations about how we can raise children who live with Mighty Love instead of Mighty Fears. It is a place to share uplifting experiences and brainstorm ideas about how we can plant, fertilize, grow and sow the seeds of Mighty Love in ourselves and others. Our plan is that each post will focus on a specific challenge that young children experience in the hard work of growing up, and practical strategies for helping them learn to persevere through those challenges and come out stronger, more confident, more fearless and more loving on the other side.
We hope you will join in our conversations.