One of my dearest friends in the world lost his Mom a few months back. The memorial was this past week. The event was a celebration of her life. Different views and relationships with people were part of her life, from children to friends to organizations such as the Rockefeller Museum, Carnegie Hall, and Lenox Hill Place. She lived quite a life.
What I like about a memorial is we get to hear stories about this woman’s life. I had no idea that in 1997, she led the charge to establish Rockefeller’s Women & Science Initiative with three other powerful women. These women changed the university’s trajectory, which had lost its way. There were other organizations where she made an incredible impact, such as the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House and Carnegie Hall. Although I have known his Mom for probably 25 years, my relationship has always been through his eyes.
Our friend’s brother poignantly pointed out that when someone dies, that doesn’t mean that your relationship is over. That relationship is still inside you. Those memories are still there. The hardest part is that the relationship is now one-sided. You can never evolve together, work out issues, and delight in new times together.
Family can be brutal. I worked hard at not being my parents, but the lessons, morals, and values still live deep inside me and propelled me to who I am today. I heard that from my friend as he spoke about his Mom. He became the person he wanted to be, which was not easy. I have learned to let my kids live their lives, not the ones I want them to. That is not easy.
These women were from another generation, which was frustrating and challenging. It was not always easy to be a strong woman with her own ideas, where expectations of how to be were set in stone. Women today have more choices (thank god) and can forge their own paths. It isn’t always easy, but we need to look at women of these past generations to truly understand that women of today are standing on the shoulders of women like my friends Mom and my Mother.
I went back and read a post I wrote about my Mom when she died in December 2010. Like my friend’s Mom, she was a complicated woman, much more than I ever realized. As I sat at the memorial and looked around at people I knew and her friends, I laughed to myself, hearing my Mom’s voice in my head. She would have said, “It’s fucking weird getting old”.