I started this blog a few months ago outlining my journey towards a sober life… I’m amazed that it’s found followers in 27 countries… thank you for reading it!
Much of what I write is about how life was… what happen… and what it’s like now… (love gone wrong is another favorite topic).
Every funeral I’ve ever attended follows a universal theme. The script goes like this…
I want to tell you about (insert name here):
He was loving
He did so much for so many
I remember the time we …..
Something sad about not having him here
Something about heaven
Something about thanking him on the banks of a river once everyone gets to heaven.
I wonder why it takes death to let the world know someone is appreciated? I don’t want to waste an opportunity to say how I feel standing next to a dead body.
This thank you is long overdue…
There is no reason my mother should have ever been anything other than uneducated and poor. Women of her generation made babies, cookies and cleaned, especially in the south. If you married a poor man … life was a self-fulfilling prophecy.
My mom was raised in a low-rent housing project by a mother who didn’t want her and abandoned by an alcoholic father that did what alcoholics do … they wreck lives and leave. As bad as the beginning sounds it only got worse. Disastrous relationships and teen motherhood became her reality and guaranteed a lifetime of hardship and poverty.
Fortunately, she didn’t have it! She believed there was a better life and she was going to make it. You don’t find a better life … you have to make it! She succeeded.
My mother will be remembered for three things …. she is tough… she is honest… and she is a survivor. She is the type of person you instantly love or hate. I look for those qualities in people I choose to have in my life.
With a husband in college and three small kids to raise, she found herself in Florida with no safety net or extended family… and just as poor as she had ever been. Most people would have accepted life on life’s terms… not her.
Jacksonville, Florida in the 1960s was no pleasure cruise… Women made fine secretaries, teachers or bank tellers… that was about it. Attempts to rise above life’s pay grade was unrealistic and simply didn’t happen. Well, it didn’t until Louise Cantrell changed it.
While working as a secretary in a commercial real estate company her boss told her she was too stupid to pass a real estate exam. It sucked to be him…
She not only got a license… she became very, very rich! Ain’t it funny that if a man succeeds beyond any measures they’re regarded as giants… but if a woman does the same thing she’s a total “bitch”!
In the 1960-70s … Jesus may have loved those red and yellow, black or white children but no one else wanted them in the neighborhood! That was about to change…
My mother did something never done in segregated Jacksonville by a woman before her… she drove a black family to a home and sold it to them. In fact, she sold hundreds of homes to black families and received more than her share of outrage from the white community. She had experienced poverty her entire life and wasn’t going back to it.
Her business philosophy has always been, “Money is green… I don’t care the color of the hand that passes it to me! The winner goes to the bank!”
My father has a master’s degree in education and worked in the classroom for 37 years. He is very well educated but was never paid a living wage for his efforts. My mom was the breadwinner. She said she had to work to support my father’s teaching habit.
Lord, did that woman work! I never remember coming home to anyone there or food on the table or school functions. It wasn’t possible. She was carrying the weight of everything we had on her shoulders. The option to sleep late or lunch with friends wasn’t part of her life.
She made sacrifices I didn’t understand as a kid… I do now.
I’ve enjoyed a privileged lifestyle very few people will ever experience. I’m not saying that to impress you… I’m saying it because it’s a fact! I believe from privilege comes a sense of entitlement and that is wrong. I took everything for granted because I had never known anything but wealth.
In reality, I’d done nothing to earn any of it… it was a gift provided by the generosity of one woman…. my mom. I see that so clearly now. It’s amazing what age and sobriety will do for your perception.
The greatest thing my mother ever gave me was unconditional loyalty. She stood by my side through a lifetime of addiction, depression and insanity. People that live with chronic depression or other mental health issues often self-medicate to control what’s going on inside them. The self-medicating usually leads to addiction and the cycle becomes impossible to survive. For decades, I was that person. Unless you’ve experienced the desperation of handling an addiction and debilitating depression, you have not walked through the valley of the shadow of death. I didn’t walk… I lived there!
Through every crash and burn… every trip to rehab… every divorce and broken relationship… through every attempt to start over from ground zero… my mother has never left my side.
Every Friday night at my synagogue, I lift her up in prayer and say thanks for not only giving me life … but helping me get through it. I am a blessed man.
I heard a song on the radio that says it best:
“Oh, I think that I’ve found myself a cheerleader… She is always right there when I need her!”