What My Mother Taught Me
About Life, Love, and Caregiving


It was eleven years ago this Mother’s Day weekend that I was asked to share my thoughts at church about mother-daughter relationships.  I read excerpts from one of Mom’s letters and told a couple of stories. Afterward, people came up to me exclaiming, “You have to write a book!”

I knew they were right, and I started on it the next day. If Mom were alive today, she would be amazed and humbled to know that her honesty, wit, and wisdom, have helped thousands of other caregivers find the strength, courage, and humor they need to get through a tough day or a sleepless night.

I could never recount what my mother taught me in just one short blog post, but in celebration of Mother’s Day, I’m going to try to summarize a few of the lessons that have had the greatest impact on how I view the world and try to live my life.

What My Mother Taught Me

  • You may not have the power to control everything that happens to you, but as long as you have the ability to think and reason, you have the power to control your attitude toward any person, event, or situation.
  • Forget perfection. It’s better to risk making a mistake than miss out on learning a new skill, making a new friend, or growing through a challenging experience.
  • Never be ashamed of failure – only of low aim.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others. There will always be someone worse off and someone who is smarter, prettier and richer than you are, so just be the best you can be.
  • Be generous with your love, time, and money, but don’t give all of yourself away. Set aside some time each day to read, write, pray or to do something else that reenergizes your soul.
  • Set boundaries. Knowing where to draw your line in the sand will help you maintain your own self-respect and it will prevent others from taking advantage of you.
  • Don’t beat yourself up for getting angry. Blowing off a little steam once in a while can save your sanity.
  • Forgive others. Holding a grudge is like poisoning your own water.
  • Find humor in absurd situations. When things are going wrong, ask yourself, “Is there anything funny about this?”
  • Nurture your own happiness from within. It’s wonderful to have good health, plenty of money and a nice home, but those things are just the frosting on the cake. True happiness is a choice, and it’s not dependent on a set of circumstances.

Toward the end of my Dad’s life, Mom reached a point of despair, and this may be the most important lesson she ever shared with me:

  • When you are in trouble and you can’t see anyway up, around, or out of it, turn your fears and worries over to God.

This is what she said in the last letter she wrote to me as a caregiver:

“Dear Elaine,
Last night I was so tired I could barely put one foot in front of the other. I didn’t think I’d have any trouble sleeping, but I did. I was thinking about Quentin. I was worrying about money. I was concerned about my own health and what was going to happen after the Medicare benefits run out.

Finally, after tossing and turning for a long time, I turned my worries over to God. I released everything to Him and I went into a deep, relaxed sleep. When I woke up, I started receiving spiritual insights thick and fast. I got out of bed and wrote them down so I wouldn’t forget. I wanted to share them with you so you will understand what I’m trying to do.

  1. Do not fear any physical problem. Know that God will be with me helping me handle anything.
  2. Live each day as it comes. Do not worry or project what might come in the future.
  3. Do not set age limitations on my mental or physical abilities.
  4. Realize that in God’s eyes, life is eternal. He is the light of the world and will guide me.
  5. Each morning ask, “So, God, what are WE going to do today?”

I am aware that I was exceptionally lucky to have such an amazing mother. I’m also aware that a lot of people don’t have great relationships with their moms. My mother said she used to stand in front of greeting card racks and weep when she read the sentiments inside of Mother’s Day cards. She cried because she didn’t have loving feelings toward her own mother, and she thought there must be something wrong with her.

What my mom learned from her mom was what she did NOT want to become, and how she did Not want to live her life. She made a conscious decision to be different from her mother and to have a different relationship with her daughter.

My mother found joy, hope, and growth in places where a lot of people would only see fear, pain, and loss. She taught me to look at the world through a positive lense, and I hope I can pass that lesson on to my children, grandchildren, and to every other person who struggles to find the strength, courage and humor they need to care those who can no longer care for themselves.

Happy Mother’s Day!


If you’d like to learn how my mother developed an attitude of “Creative Indifference” toward the emotional stress of caregiving, please click on this link to watch the video: Meet Madelyn