A song written and recorded in 1944 that was popular with my parents’ generation had the refrain: “Accentuate the positive; eliminate the negative.” Those who lived through the Great Depression and World War II often developed one of two responses to life: fear or hope, or perhaps a mix of both. You can see hope in songs like this one. And I definitely saw it in my mother when I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s. Without fail, she always looked for the positive in any situation, person, or event. If someone behaved in an unpleasant manner, my mother’s response was inevitably, “She means well.” And then she would find something nice to say about the person.
She looked for the good in the world around her on a daily basis—the beauty of the sky, birdsong in the backyard, music and poetry, my dad’s sense of humor. She framed life this way. It wasn’t just a coping mechanism for the times; it arose from deep in her soul. I came to realize this fully later in her life when she was hospitalized and had to have a serious operation. I flew to my Illinois hometown from San Francisco, where I lived at the time. I sat by her side for three days and nights, our hands inseparably clasped in a lifetime of mother-daughter love. I watched her face, pale and drawn with pain, light up when she turned and looked at me: “You’re always there,” she whispered.
And I watched her eyes scan a basically ugly hospital room and finally light on the one thing she could honestly see beauty in: “Isn’t that a lovely walnut door?” That was the essence of my mother. That was who she was at the deepest level, beyond pain, beyond medication, beyond hospitals. From her soul, in every waking moment of her life, she looked around to find beauty—and she always found it. This was her legacy to me; I carry that positivity in my genes. I carry the memory of her waking me each morning with “Good morning, merry sunshine” and then at breakfast: “Another beautiful day!” From the beginning of my life, I was imprinted with that ability to love life fully under any circumstance.
My mother didn’t live a life free of all pain and difficulty; like all of us, she faced challenges. But she lived a life of appreciation and gratitude for the moments of love, beauty, and connection that are always present if we but open our eyes (and hearts) to see them. My mother lived with an open heart. She found happiness in loving the people and the world around her. At this time of great change and great challenge on the planet, I look to her wisdom to sustain me and uplift me through the rest of my life. I know I was born for a reason, and I know she was my mother for a reason. There is an ancestral line of positive energy that runs through our lives. She passed it on to me to sustain me—and as a reminder, so that I never forget that we all have positive energy within us.
We are each alive at this key transformational juncture in world history to remind each other of that. No matter what disturbing events in the external world show up each day, we still carry hope in our hearts and souls. We can listen to the voices that say “We shall overcome” and “All you need is love” instead of those that speak separation and hatred into the world. Whatever is occurring now is part of our evolution, as a species, as a planet, as a universe. We are not done yet. There is always, always possibility and positivity within us. We can breathe that into the world in all that we say and do. And that becomes our legacy of love…