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Brian Arsenault: The latest lesson learned from Mom

Other Voices
Brian Arsenault

I think of my mother as being a part of “The Bells of Saint Mary” generation. Now at 91 years of age, she was a young teenager when the film starring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman opened in 1945.

How moved she must have been, being a good Catholic school girl, to have witnessed the devout and angelic performance that Miss Bergman gave, as a shining example of doing what was asked of her, and having faith that her actions were part of her calling to be of service to her religious community and all beings that crossed her path.

I think that’s a lesson Mom learned as she continued her education and eventually became a kindergarten school teacher. Having a deep love of children, and understanding that teaching a young child requires acting as a true example of what is expected of them, she strove to mold and encourage them to learn and be the best they could be.

Mom took a break from teaching when she and Dad started their own family and eventually brought seven children into the world before returning to school teaching. Through my childhood years I learned many lessons from Mom. From all the basics of tooth-brushing to how to use the potty chair. But so much more than that, I witnessed how she tirelessly spent her days raising all seven of us until Dad returned from work to join in the effort. It was through her example and her faith that our lives were transformed by her unconditional love and encouragement. How she shared that with us, and extended members of our family and friends, was just how life was for us kids. I’m so grateful for that.

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She is the shining example of the more love you express and share with others, the more it comes back to you.

Becoming an adult and moving across the county to pursue my dreams left very little time to reflect on what I learned from Mom. I no longer depended on her, but dove into a kaleidoscope of my own life lessons that continued to shape my sense of the world. All those adult years taught me how to navigate my relationships and integrate that experience into my livelihood as well. Without even realizing it though, I was still living by her example.

Now in retirement myself, and closer to home again, I find that I’m once again learning from Mom. What I’m witnessing about her now is how full her life is with so many people who just love and adore her. How does that happen? People will do anything for her. Still living on her own, she’s weathering the “shelter in place” by organizing her team of shoppers (I think at the moment there are four of them, not counting some of my siblings) to get whatever she needs at various favorite stores. A morning of prayers and meditation followed by a daily Mass on the radio continue to occupy her days. As well as constant phone calls from friends and family and plenty of jigsaw puzzling. And she always has news of the latest things she’s trying … from finding new and instructive podcasts on various subjects to trying new recipes … the latest being the sourdough bread phenomenon that has captivated so many with a renewed sense of creating comfort from starter.

Her attitude stays positive and her faith is the driving force in how she manages to touch everyone who is in her life with her loving spirit. She is the shining example of the more love you express and share with others, the more it comes back to you.

I’ve never met anyone who is so loved, just by the mere fact of all the love she is pouring out to others. Or maybe it was better said by a wise wizard from another movie she must have enjoyed as a child in 1939: ”A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.”

That’s the latest lesson I’ve learned from my Mom.

Brian Arsenault lives in Grass Valley.


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