A Life Leadership Lesson from My Mom

Posted 07.10.2019

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you may remember the post I wrote back in April after my dad, Jack Eblin, passed away. One of the things I mentioned early on in that post was that my mom and dad were together for a total of 69 years. They dated for seven years starting at age 14 and were married for another 62 years after that. So, not surprisingly, I’ve had a lot of friends and readers ask me over the past few months, “How’s your mom doing?”

My answer is pretty much always the same, “She’s doing amazing.” Of course, she misses the love of her life, but she has shown an amazing and inspiring amount of strength and resilience since Dad died.

As an example, she called me up one afternoon about three weeks after the funeral to run an idea by me. A year or so ago, my dad had bought a super nice but extremely large SUV. I found it cumbersome to drive and my mom did too. She wanted to know what I thought about the idea of her trading in dad’s car and her own 10 year old car that she loved for the new version of her car. I immediately said, “That’s a great idea.” Clearly, she didn’t really need my affirmation as she then told me that she’d already been talking to the dealer, had the cars appraised, picked out the color of the new one she wanted and figured that she’d get a cash payout as part of the deal. Two weeks later, she had traded the old cars, got the check and picked up the new car in time to make the five hour drive to my brother’s house to spend Mother’s Day weekend with him and his wife.

My mom gets shit done. The car trade is one example out of dozens from her over the past three months. Most of the time when I call her during the week, we have to cut the conversation short because she’s headed out to dinner with friends, going to a charity event, playing bridge, or organizing something for church or another community organization she supports.

My wife, Diane, and I spent last week in West Virginia with my mom to hang out with her and help clean out the garage. One evening, we talked about how she’s been doing what she’s been doing these past three months. She shared something neither of us will forget. While Mom misses my dad greatly, she has chosen not to feel sorry for her loss. Instead she’s chosen to feel grateful for the amazing gift of all the years they spent together. She believes it would be greedy to feel sorry for herself given the great life they had for so many years together.

The life leadership lesson from my mom is we all have the option to choose our response. That’s what Viktor Frankl wrote about in his classic memoir of surviving the Holocaust, Man’s Search for Meaning. The determination he made in the concentration camp was that while he could not control what the Nazis did to him, he could choose how he would respond to his circumstance. He chose to respond with dignity.

My mom, Judy Eblin, in facing the common but profound life challenge of loss, has chosen not to respond with self-pity but, instead, with gratitude for all she was given. In addition to being the best possible way to honor and remember her husband, my mom’s choice to be grateful improves the quality of her own life and everyone who knows and loves her.

We all face challenges as we lead our lives. The quality of the outcomes depends on the responses we choose. I’m fortunate to have a mom who reminds me of that truth by embodying it.

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