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Lessons my mom taught me before she died & is still teaching me

Precious family moments
Photo credit: LittleBee80/Getty Images

To say my mother passing away was unexpected would be the greatest understatement of my life.

It was a Wednesday morning, a little past 7am when my sister shook me frantically. She then led me to my parents’ bathroom where we found our father holding onto our mother on the tiled floor.

The day her heart stopped, I was ready for my world to stop. But it kept spinning, and I found myself feeling both stoic and numb. I donned all black while everyone and everything around me remained a complete blur. I played her favorite song on repeat, hoping that I would wake up and see her coming home from work or running down the stairs and into the kitchen flashing the smile I inherited from her.

Someone I didn’t recognize approached me at my mother’s wake and handed me a diary. This person told me that, as crazy as it sounds, I should write letters to my mother, that no matter where I am and where I am going, she could never leave my side.

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Eleven years later, those letters turned into blog posts, which eventually evolved into a professional writing career, a career built on advice from my mother that I so desperately sought.

MORE: Moms write letters to themselves in the first year of motherhood

In honor of Mother’s Day, I wanted to share some lessons my mom taught me — the good, the bad and everything in between. But listing the lessons she taught me would feel as though there is a limit to them.

I could tell you how she taught me to sip wine while cooking, to sing in the car with the windows rolled down, to always get up and dance, to drink coffee as if it were my lifeline, to carefully tuck in my shirt, and that Madonna is a god and the ‘80s will never die.

But my mother and our relationship are so much more than a bulleted list.

It’s our warmest memories and our coldest fights. It’s the words I wish I hadn’t said and the words I so desperately wish I could. It’s the constant lesson of learning to reflect over the things I shouldn’t allow myself to regret.

It’s believing that there is so much more to life than what is right in front of us. It’s the fun of superstitions and believing that nothing in this world is a coincidence. It’s learning to find my mother in the songs that play on the radio and the Friends episodes she used to adore, and seeing her whenever I’m surrounded by her favorite colors.

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I could tell you how when my family and I returned from the hospital after she passed away, a book was on our doorstep. It was addressed to her, but my dad explained that it was actually a surprise gift for me from my mother. Chills ran down the my spine, and once I was ready to, I opened the book to a glossy page containing a quote from Audrey Hepburn, “The most important thing is to enjoy your life — to be happy — it’s all that matters.”

MORE: Take the #MomChallenge & make Mother’s Day more than just a day

That’s when I realized that my mother isn’t going anywhere, and this is only the beginning of what she was determined to teach me.

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