On the rocky beach of the Russian River in 1987, my four-year-old daughter, Jenni, tip-toed over hot, sun-drenched pebbles and darted towards me. Freckles intensified in the afternoon rays, her moon-shaped face beamed with childish excitement.
“Mommy,” she began breathlessly. “When you die, can I have that bathing suit?”
Stunned, I studied my second child while tanning in a lime green bikini. How could she be thinking of such things? I wondered. At thirty-four, did I look like I was close to death? But peering into her innocent, pleading eyes, I giggled, “Yes, sweetie. I’ll save this for you.”
It’s been a lifetime since that day, and I often reflect on her wish, especially after closing out my parent’s estate. How simple her request, and one that indeed wouldn’t be contested by her three siblings.
When my father passed away in 2012 (Mom preceded him in 2003), it was my responsibility to pour over bank statements, property values, and stock portfolios. In doing so, I found myself growing increasingly sad that they saved everything for us. As children of the Great Depression, their generation felt it essential to leave a financial legacy for their children, but in return, this made their personal lives restricted. How I wish they spent more money on themselves, for, in the end, there was no dollar amount in the world to equal the value in what they truly left behind.
Along with their tutelage for high moral standards, love of family and friends, and toes firmly rooted in rich fertilized soil for profound faith, my parent’s constant message was that sometimes it was better to step aside and stop fighting when a struggle became too tough to handle. In other words, they taught the art of surrender.
We’ve all heard the adage, “God helps those who help themselves.” That’s how events get set in motion, and productivity begins. But when you’re pushing a ten-ton piece of granite up a mountain, and it keeps slipping back to smack you in the face, perhaps it means you were meant to do something different.
Too often, because of my stubborn nature, I’ve found myself covered in sweat and dirt as I embed my acrylic fingernails into a rock going nowhere. This only leads to feeling overwhelmed and defeated. But it’s in these tough moments, if I allow myself to calm my mind, I can hear my sweet parents gently whisper, “Let it go. Sometimes you make life much harder for yourself than you need it to be.”
By stepping aside and allowing the weight to roll down the mountain, I become free to walk unencumbered in a new direction, thus revealing the correct path instead. Realizing this was my parent’s greatest gift left behind, I want to do the same for my kids.
So, to my children, don’t expect any money after I’m gone. I’m spending it all while I’m here. I want to enjoy the added pleasure it may bring to us as a family. We’ll take trips together, enjoy dinners out, and if you’re ever destitute and if I have it to give — it’s yours. I can’t take it with me.
Instead, along with overstuffed albums of precious memories, I want to leave you a blueprint for tackling life’s challenges as you travel the road in becoming who you were born to be — learn to let go of anything that doesn’t serve you or add value.
Our time on earth is short, and we all have a specific journey to travel. It was written in the stars long before we got here. Where you’ll find yours is in following your dreams, even if others disagree and try to stop you. So push those rocks aside, and I’ll be here to help you. Let go of that which weighs you down. If I can leave you anything it’s the freedom to dream and dream big!
Oh, and Jenni, as for that bathing suit, it’s yours, if I can still find it.