Lessons from my mother – lead with love and kindness

My mom passed away from pancreatic cancer when she was just 70. Pancreatic cancer is one bad cancer. When you learn you have it, it’s too late. It kills you quickly and painfully. My mom fought like the warrior she was and lived for over a year after her diagnosis. As she fought, she taught everyone around her lessons for life; lessons she embodied her entire lifetime made even more powerful as she experienced pain and dying.

To lead with love and kindness.

Even in excruciating pain, my mother embodied love. She was kind to everyone. She led with gracious dignity until her last breath.

This early morning I am swimming in those memories, perhaps a gift from her angel-self, as I battle with a different kind of pain. As we approach election day, my heart hurts and I can barely breathe.

Hate has never left our troubled country, but eight years ago, for a shining moment that manifested itself on that magical night in Grant Park, we led with hope. Since then, since the visible marker of another barrier broken, since the promise that if a Black man could be elected president all things might be possible, another man – a terrible white man – has given voice to the ugly mobs that were lying dormant just under the surface and invited them to rise up once again. The mobs of whiteness that once gathered with their children under the hanging bodies of lynched Black men for entertainment, the ones that bombed churches, the ones that put masks on their heads and terrorized innocent people, have been awakened and feel emboldened.

Sometimes it feels like hate leads now. Not hope, and certainly not love.

I know the truth is that love and kindness, respect and caring, are everywhere. But how easily their evidence is muted each time we learn of something new – a church burned, a football game where people felt (what did they feel; that it would be fun, funny?) to costume themselves as that terrible white man with nooses around the necks of others costumed as our current lovely president and our – hopefully – next first woman president. A man who hangs “fake” Black bodies from the tree in his front yard, a sign supporting the terrible white man just below them. How far are we from the day we learn of real bodies hanging once again? And on my own college campus, targeted hate at our Muslim students and our immigrant young people – who perhaps come from families who perhaps have fled unspeakable terror and hardship to come to this country with hope for a better life.

I want to scream. Not on my campus. Not in my community. Not in my country.




I will go to polls on Tuesday and vote. Of course. Hopefully enough of us who want to fight this evil unleashed will go vote, too. And we will win. At least we will defeat the white man with the voice of bitter hate.

I just hope it’s not too late. With the mobs and their kin no longer dormant, how do we slay the beast? How do we keep moving forward? How do we interrupt this madness, this terrible danger?

I am going to follow those lessons from my mother. I’m going to rise and rise until my last breath, no matter the pain, to fight with love, fiercely.

To protest hate wherever it manifests.
To insist Black Lives Matter. That water is life.
To center other voices.
To love across difference.

To honor my beautiful mother.

copyright Ann Freeman

About Sherry

Author. Poet. Teacher. Mentor. Chinese/Blackbird.

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