The Why of it All!

Leatha Elizabeth (L.E.) Hemphill Richardson - my Mom!

“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, as least don’t hurt them”. The Dalai Lama and my mother!

When I searched the dictionary for the word "style", it was defined as “A way of doing something; flair, fashion”. As a child, to me, my mother was the epitome of style and the most important role model in my life.

She was strict and outspoken. She was what I would describe as “always appropriate”! If there was a death or other tragedy in the community, we kids knew we were going to be sent to deliver a cake or dish of macaroni and cheese. If we acted up in church, we knew she wouldn’t hesitate to come down from her place in the choir loft to set us straight. Though she was able to attend school only thru the 7th grade – a sign of her times – we knew we were expected not to just finish high school, but to get high grades while doing so, and to continue our education past high school.

She taught us how to love and be happy with ourselves. Though we had plenty friends and family, she preached that it was important to know how to spend time in your own home with yourself. It was also important to her that we learn to keep both our bodies and homes in good order. One of her favorite sayings was “Show me a woman who is in the street all the time, and I’ll show you a woman with a dirty house”.

 When our father was killed in a car accident on our way home from church on Sunday, December 13, 1953 – she became mother and father to the six of us. We knew his death left a large hole in her heart, but she never faltered in her role as our parent. Funny, I never thought of her as a “single” parent because she was our end all! Always present and supportive in our lives!

She modeled what it meant to put family first. When her parents became ill, she put her life on hold and stepped up as the eldest sibling to take care of them and make them comfortable. When my brother was diagnosed with cancer, she boarded a plane for California and we knew she would be gone for the long haul. It was not until months later, after he died and she had seen him laid to rest, that she took a train back to New Jersey. Notice I said “train”! When we asked why she didn’t fly, she responded that she needed that time to think and reflect.

I remember when, as a teenager, while reading a financial report from the church we attended, I asked her why it was that many women who worked low-paying jobs, contributed more to the church than some men who held much higher paying jobs. Her response has had a lasting effect on my life. She said that some people spend so much time holding their fists tight to keep their money IN, they never learn that a tight fist also keeps the blessings OUT!

When I was first elected president of our familiy reunion - Mom was the first elected president - my sister-in-law Allie told me how proud she was of the woman I had become and my mother stopped her by saying “How sad it would be if she hadn’t matured and grown into her own”.

When I shop, I often think of her teaching us that quality far outweighs quantity or her lesson that a “good” black dress or suit would open many more doors than following the latest fashion trend. She taught me that in spite of what was going on around me, I should always take the time to figure out what I wanted and what worked best for me! She taught me to “think first” and then to stand by the decisions I made.

It is because of all these memories that I KNOW as she looks down on me today, she is proud of the woman I am! Because~

“Living a meaningful life is not about being rich, popular, highly educated or being perfect. Life is about being honest, being strong, real, humble and able to reach out and touch the lives of others while holding gratitude in your heart”. 

Author Unknown and My mother!