Elizabeth Edwards death hit me hard. I cried when I heard the news, and tears welled up every time there was another tribute to her running across the airwaves. I have admired her for years, even before her terminal cancer diagnosis, I was a big John Edwards supporter way back when he was on the ticket with John Kerry, part of me loved her because John and those kids were just so damn beautiful and Elizabeth was normal, not unattractive, but not gorgeous, she had a few extra pounds just like me, and yet she was captivating in her own right with her own clear ideas and voice. Her ability to stand by her man when he turned out to be a complete douche made her even stronger in my eyes.
Losing my mother to cancer when she was just 54, certainly plays a role in my admiration for Elizabeth, the women that fight the good fight with grace and optimism never fail to capture my attention. In the end Elizabeth was a mother, the political ambitions ruined by her cheating husband, the reality of her own mortality brought into sharp focus the those things in life that truly matter, family, and leaving a legacy for her kids in the form of an ongoing letter left incomplete yet filled with instructions, advice and pieces of herself for children to hold on to forever.
I have said in the years since my mother has passed, that cancer is often a gift. In its excruciating, slow, and painful journey through your body, it gives you time. The time to say what you need to say, and leave no loose ends. I was given that gift by my mother in the few months we had after she was pronounced terminal, I asked all the questions that I needed too, she was open, honest and giving with me. I have never felt for a moment that I was not truly treasured and loved by someone unconditionally.
I have days now that the need for more answers arises, but there is no one to ask. That makes me sad, I miss my mom, she was my closest confidant, I can deal with that, the worst part about losing her is that I lost my guide, the person who walks through the hard places in life, then takes your hand, pulls you along and shows you the path that is easier. At 33 I asked the questions that were relevant at the time, my children were small, I had no foresight into the fact that I would be older, my kids would someday be on the verge of adulthood. I was selfish and scared when she was dying, focusing on losing something, instead of paying attention to her uniqueness and learning all there was to learn about her life as a woman until that point. I live my life without regret, except for that.
I have no illusions that I will live a long life. As I write this I am eating Christmas cookies for breakfast, smoking a cigarette and slugging Diet Cokes. No regrets. My daughters were five when they lost their grandmother,they are turning 17 this weekend. We have a wonderful open relationship, they know that nothing is forbidden to talk about with me, no matter how uncomfortable it may be for either of us. We have no secrets. And yet in the spirit of Elizabeth Edwards, and in fond memory of mom, I am going to start a life list for them, not because I think I have a ton of wisdom to share, or even that I am a particularly good mother, but because I know what it is like to have a piece of a person that you loved to hold after they are gone.
Things to Know Before I Go
Do not smoke. EVER.
Brush you teeth every single day.
Music makes every awful task that you have to do, better.
Education really is important.
Always have a book in your home that you haven’t read yet. Just in case.
There is never a bad time to eat bacon.
Be honest with yourself and others even if it hurts a little.
Don’t be intentionally mean.
Some people are stupid, you can’t fix it.
Do not buy cheap macaroni and cheese. Not worth it.
Bridges are tricky business, proceed with caution.
You are beautiful.
You should exercise, it really will make you feel better, don’t follow my example.
It is wonderful to have a man in your life, just don’t make that your only goal.
Use your manners.
Dress up for church, weddings and funerals, no jeans are not appropriate.
Vinegar makes stainless steel shine.
Don’t use bar soap in the shower, it is gross, slimy, and am pretty sure it’s full of germs.
Drugs WILL fuck up your life.
Try to find a guy with a Harley, or learn to ride your own.
Stand up for what you believe even if it pisses people off.
Not everyone is going to be your friend or even like you, that is OK.
You don’t have to drink milk.
Share what you have with others, but be careful about who you lend your books to.
On the subject of books, never, never, dog ear the pages. Really.
Keep your house clean, but don’t be obsessive about it, a little dust boosts your immune system.
It is perfectly fine to take a mental health day and waste it entirely on something that makes you calm and happy.
Always wrap presents pretty, no one likes a crappy wrapped gift.
That whipped frosting shit is bad, butter-cream is always the best choice.
Do not have cats unless you enjoy cleaning shit out of box.
Miracle whip is fake mayonnaise and should not be eaten. Nasty.
Pugs are the work of the devil, do not own one, or I won’t visit.
Don’t be afraid to do your sexy dance.
Kid Rock. Makes you happy. Every. Time. ( May cause a craving for Bud Light) .
Don’t be late. Just don’t.
If you HAVE to be late. CALL. No exceptions to this rule.
Keep your reflexes NINJA fast.
Orange lighters are really the only ones that work properly and aren’t dorky.
Don’t drop onto furniture with thunderous abandon, sit, don’t plop. It is not ladylike.
Find a pair of jeans that make you ass look fabulous, never mind what they cost. Worth it.
You should probably smoke pot a few times, cause really it is kinda cool, just don’t make it a lifestyle.
You have been loved since the moment you were born.
Don’t bother wasting time with people who piss you off continually.
You don’t have to be needy to be needed. This is a big one.
Drama is for insecure people, that demand attention, no one likes that guy.
Tequila really will make your clothes fall off.
It is OK to flash your boobs once in a while, but remember, there are cameras everywhere, use caution.
Beets are disgusting and taste like dirt, don’t eat them, you will be fine. Same thing for pears.
No blinking lights on Christmas trees please. Unless you enjoy being tacky as hell.
I intend for this to be an ongoing list, as I continue to think of wisdom to share, and although some of this is for comic relief , that is part of what makes me, me. When I am gone, I hope my kids will remember most that we laughed and loved as much as possible.
Feel free to leave a comment and add to my list, I can’t possibly remember everything to tell them.
What is it that you want to make sure your people know about you when you are gone.