My mom passed away suddenly a few weeks ago. At the service to celebrate her life, I shared these words.
Mom has taught me so much in my 44 years. Some things she has told me outright. Some she has taught by example. Some I have picked up through attentive observation, in the way that, possibly, only a daughter who watches her mother closely can do.
I want to share these things with you now. Not only will they give you more insight into the woman she was, but, I hope, they will make you smile.
MJ Malone’s 20 laws to live by.
(Or, more correctly, since I know she’s listening, 20 laws by which to live.)
- If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.
- Always ask for what you need. The worst they can do is stomp on your face.
- Correcting the grammar of the people you love, and the people they love, is a right, and it is always appropriate.
- The gerund, the English language verb-noun, is the grammar of the gods.
- Strive to be smart. Pretty is fleeting, but smart is the key that will open doors for you your entire life.
- That being said, it is your absolute responsibility, when leaving the house, to look as if you could step into a magazine photo shoot at any moment.
- Education is fundamentally important. Educate yourself… in school and on subjects, issues, history, and current events. Do everything in your power to ensure the best education possible for your children.
- Regardless of any identity you may adopt via upbringing, religion, or political affiliation, always think for yourself.
- Respect people as they are, for who they are. People, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, beliefs, social background, or economics, are people. We are more alike than we are different.
- Talk to strangers. A lot. Every day. You can learn something valuable from every person you meet.
- There is no cap, quota, or allowance on the number of friends one person may have. Seek out new ones, hang on to old ones.
- There is an art to conversation. Learn it. But always remember that sometimes listening is the finest form of communication.
- If someone asks you for advice, give it. If they don’t, don’t. (She was very good at that. And she would tell me she was very good at that. Even when I didn’t ask. This was her way of telling me that she really wanted to give me advice, but I wasn’t asking for it.)
- When someone says something hurtful to you, consciously pause before you allow your heart to break… and consider the source.
- No meal is acceptable or complete without adequate representation from the vegetable food group. No table setting is acceptable or complete without the presence of the plate (or bowl), the fork on the napkin on the left, and the knife and the spoon (even if you know you’re not going to use it) on the right.
- If you get up before dawn, and get started on your day… and that “getting started” includes making phone calls to friends or acquaintances… and you happen to wake up these friends or acquaintances because they, unlike you, did not get up before dawn… all you have to say to make everything fine is: “If I’m up everybody’s up!”
- If you arrive early to a dinner party, you will be asked to vacuum. (It was not until I was in junior high that I recognized that this was not a common occurrence in every household. Also, it was just yesterday that I realized that this, mom’s own rule, may be the reason that she was never early for anything, ever, her entire life.)
- True class is not a matter of station or how much money you have. The secret to class is four-fold: exude confidence, keep your composure, respect others, and shop the heck out of the Nordstrom half-yearly sale.
- When life gets hard, go to your garden, and like the plants, lean into the sun.
- And finally… and this is pertinent right now, for all of us, as we gather here today to celebrate Jeanell after her unexpected passing… no matter how much you prepare and plan and achieve, life will surprise you. It will trip you up. It may even knock you down. It will steal your thunder as if that thunder were your purse, and it will outrun you as you chase after it trying to retrieve what you really, truly, believe is rightfully yours. But it is not your preparedness, or your planningness, or your achievy-ness that is the true indicator of who you are as a person, it is your ability to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and, gracefully, move on.