A Legacy of Wisdom: What My Parents Have Taught Me
By: Bradley J. Francis MSW, CSW
The spring season is upon us. I just love this time of year. I love it because it is an opportunity to look forward to having my children home from school for summer break, and the opportunity to celebrate our Mothers and Fathers on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
It is a season of happiness but also deep reflection for me as I find myself an orphan at the age of 48. My father passed away when I was just 21. My mother passed just last year. So I celebrate Mother’s and Father’s Day a little different than I used to, by visiting grave sites and reflecting on the good times we had when my parents were living, and most importantly the lessons I learned from the way they lived their lives, the way they died, and the lessons they taught me during our many talks and everyday reminders.
Both of my parents died the same way they lived, with bravery, perseverance, and by looking at life’s challenges through eyes that saw the good things in life and the power of life’s challenges to change and shape who we are, to refine us, and to make us better.
As I share with you some of the most poignant lessons my parents taught me, reflect on your own families and things they have taught you.
Both of my parents had an incredible ability to find inspiration in small everyday things. They would find inspiration in movies, books, and the mundane things of everyday life. This is now something that I love to do as well.
In keeping with the theme of “examples of greatness”, I want to specifically address the gift my parents had of enduring trials.
I am certain we all know how it feels when we experience great loss and our world has fallen apart. We all have times when we don’t want to raise our heads off the pillow. Sometimes we feel that the strong emotions and crying will never stop and that there is a place inside us that might never be filled. Sometimes it is all we can do to breathe. There is no shortage of commentary in books, blogs and other media of the idea of being both broken and blessed. I know for me that at the toughest times of my life I do not feel like the challenge is a blessing. But I have learned from my parents that we can receive blessings through our trials.
I don’t like pain and suffering. Certain things in life hurt more intensely than others. But I am discovering, although not perfectly yet, that after life’s challenges comes some of the greatest of blessings.
Although during trials we might only see the “chaos”, “pain” and “confusion”, our lives can make us better if we just put forth effort to see it.
I often privately curse God for the worst of my trials. But I have been taught by my parents that life is not about cruelty. It is about change and improvement and purification.
Instead of hoping or praying that my troubles will pass, I have learned from my parents that it is more important to yearn for patience and to ask myself, “What can I do with this, how can I gain from this.”
The most memorable things that my parents taught me that can come through trials are a better understanding of ourselves, increased compassion for others, and respect for life.
As I look back at my life thus far I can see where my trials have shown me things about myself and has taught me things that have made me much stronger and wiser. I still often curse God and wish my troubles away but my parents have taught me that I can choose to either be “bitter”, or “better”.
One of my Mother’s favorite stories from the bible is the parable of the “widows mite”. We see that the widow was very poor. As she entered the chapel to pay her tithes she began to feel less than others because she had less to give. My Mother taught me that this story is not so much about tithing or giving financially, but about our efforts in general. We give of ourselves in many different ways. At times, all we have to give is a “mite”. Maybe today, all we have to give is to wake up and breathe, and maybe take a few steps. Other days we may be a bit stronger. There are some challenges or trials that take all of our strength to endure. But we do not need to give more than we are able. Although our response to trials may be very small compared to those we see around us with similar trials, it is all we have to give at that moment, and that is ok.
T.S. Elliot wrote,
“We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
To me this means that we are all on a journey called life, and we will all arrive at the same destination eventually with many stories from our journey. But upon arriving at the end of our lives if we can look at our trials with a healthy perspective, and with wisdom, we will see things that we didn’t see before. We see that our lives are beautiful and how our trials have strengthened us.
My hope for you is that you will find ways to learn from your trials, search for opportunities to help others who are hurting, and to see the power of trials instead of wishing them away. And finally take some time to reflect on what your parents have taught you. And ultimately, make the effort to leave a legacy of wisdom for your own children and families.
Bradley is a Child and Family Therapist with The Center for Couples and Families, and Liahona Academy. Bradley is the proud father of three beautiful children Bailey, Kacey and Madeline, and has just recently celebrated 20 years of marriage to his beautiful wife Catherine Crofts Francis. Bradley has a deep respect for the legacy of wisdom left to him by his parents John and Beverly, both of whom have passed on from this life.