Dear mama...


My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer almost two years ago. It's been a roller coaster I don't recommend to anyone, although I know far too many women who have been where my family is and who will be where we've been.

This isn't a post about cancer.

This is a post about what cancer cracked open between my mother and me. It's about the truth we seek when lives are at stake and time seems to be running out faster than "normal."

This photo above is her high school senior picture. I look just like her. I love that I look just like her. See, I am one of those women who knows she was not only well-mothered but was very lucky to be so. But it is something I took for granted almost my whole life. Not because I didn't appreciate her, but because when something is always present we don't think about it much.

My mother was always present.

After a year into her diagnosis, the holiday season was upon us. Shopping for gifts for someone who is sick feels odd. All material possessions lose meaning and there's nothing you can purchase that will make everything magically better. Trust me, I looked.

Instead, I gifted my mom a letter writing project. The idea was that I could write her a letter each month asking her about life, asking her for motherly advice that could go down in our history, and to wrap it up in handwritten letters because, in the "day of digital," a handwritten letter's vintage feel lends itself to saving for a rainy day.

We're just now a few months into the project and some unexpected turns with her cancer put the project on hold, but the last letter I received arrived on my birthday. In that letter she not only gave me phenomenal advice, she said the thing I didn't know I needed to hear. I asked her, "How did/do you trust in what life brings your way?" She replied --

"Be patient and steadfast in whatever quest you embark on. You create the life the way you want it to be. So, you're actually trusting in your "self" to make the right/wrong decision, deciding which road to go down and back up from and to believe in yourself to make the right choices for YOU. You always have the option to either act or react to any situation. In your core you know what is right at the right time -- trust in yourself."

Trust in yourself. Three little words with everything I needed to know wrapped up inside of them. The truth is, we don't always trust ourselves. Trust to do the right thing, to speak up, to look within, to stand still, to choose correctly, to let go, to go all in, or to even show up when we're needed most.

On Sunday I will get up in front of a couple hundred men and women and ask them to trust themselves to choose their path and trust that it's the right one in that moment. I will ask them to do good with what they know and to stop waiting for their neighbor to do it for them.

I am asking the same of you right now.

We're in an interesting time, but aren't we always?

Despair, pain, uncertainty, and life's storms are no stranger to the human condition. In the midst of grief these past two years and watching my mom deteriorate I've had moments that I don't want to be human anymore. I don't want to feel the sharpness of losing someone I love so dearly.

But if that were true I wouldn't get to feel the LOVE that leaves room for fear of loss. We don't get one without the other.

What if our humanity is less about solving the world's "problems" and more about finding our ground amidst them?

Some would say that's convenient to stand still, but I argue that there's nothing convenient about standing still and trusting yourself to be firmly planted right where you are. In other words, there's nothing easy about trusting yourself to be brave amongst this human condition.

Every generation will have its battle and every child will grow to see their own fair share of injustice. We all get to move through a fire in our lifetime. This isn't news nor is it new. I am less and less interested in the fire and more interested in our ability to let it transform us.

What gets you fired up?
What do you passionately care about?
What scares you?
What keeps your feet on the ground when certainty is more than an arm's length away?
What allows you to keep your faith when hope just won't suffice?

You are the only one who can answer these questions. You are the only one who can inquire for yourself and trust what you uncover within yourself. And oh how I hope that you do. They aren't convenient questions to seek, but why else are you here?

These were the kinds of questions I was encouraged to ask as a child and as an adult. My mom taught me that you never know until you go in search of what you think you're looking for. And that you don't always know what you'll find but one thing will always be true -- you will always go along for the ride with yourself.

Which makes trusting yourself the most daring part. And a threshold each and every one of us carry inside that can't be crossed by anyone but by our own volition.

That's right -- you have to choose it. It can be frustrating when you're willing to walk through the fire and you see people to your left and right pulling the covers over their head or turning away. Don't let it distract you.

Your job isn't to wait for others to go first. Go. Now.
I wrote this article a few weeks back not knowing the events that would shortly unfold. My mother passed away on October 9th. I was grateful to be by her side and present for the whole thing. This is dedicated to her and to all the mothers who raise brilliant women. Mama, I love you and wouldn't be the woman I am without you. Wherever you are, you are with me always.

Andrea Wilborn