Living Life Without “Conditions”

“Goodness is the only investment that never fails” – Unknown.

My mother was a very private person yet she was extremely selfless when it came to her family and friends.   I don’t think I fully grasped the extent of her “unconditional aura,”  her true altruism, until I was in the receiving line at her funeral and met random people from all walks of her life, each of whom quickly relayed an equally touching story about the impact Mom had on their lives.  But, it wasn’t until I saw the standing room only crowd inside the sanctuary that I was overwhelmed by her varied influence on these people (many of whom were complete strangers). From her nurses to the manicurist to the woman from the dry cleaners to my elementary school teachers, Mom left an indelible mark on everyone. There’s an expression, “Don’t wait for people to be friendly, show them how.”  I think my mom lived her life quietly by this creed.

Whether she was dealing with marathon chemo treatments or adapting to the limitations her illness cast on her day-to-day life, MOM NEVER COMPLAINED.  In fact, while her life was seemingly crashing down from cancer, she still outwardly carried herself in a composed and compassionate manner towards everyone with whom she interacted, without any expectations.  Somehow she always put everyone first; maybe that was her way of camouflaging her own morbid diagnosis?    Whether healthy or ill, Mom was trustworthy and rock solid  in every role she juggled: from mother, to grandmother to friend and loving wife.

It’s amazing how much about life we learn through some sort of tragedy (or death).  I remember, 7 years ago, going home to Baltimore for a weekend in April to spend time with my family.  Coincidentally, that weekend was also my daughter’s 2nd birthday so Mom decided to host an informal birthday gathering at her house.  Her biggest challenges that weekend were to finish all of  her clients’ taxes before the deadline and somehow plan and cook  a feast for over 30 people (that was kosher for Passover since we were celebrating the holiday too).  There were no phone calls asking for help, no requests to come in early to set up, no complaints at all.  Mom just plowed through everything-  baked flourless chocolate cakes and fruit moulds and her flavorful chicken-with-pesto dish and burned the midnight oil hunched over at her computer doing taxes- all with a smile.

Little did we know that Mom had not been feeling well, was having pain in her leg and back, and would be diagnosed with Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer within the next four weeks.  I’m still flabbergasted today knowing  that Mom had continued to push herself to host this party, continue with tax season and literally carry on as life were normal, all while sensing that something was dreadfully wrong with her health.  But, that’s just who she was.  Lucky for me and for everyone else in her orbit, her efforts were always appreciated.  Ironic, isn’t it?  Someone laden with so many health “conditions” could still navigate through her life with such unconditional love.

What I admire most about Mom (and try to emulate towards my own kids) was her genuine approach to life to her friends and to family.

There were no alterior motives.

She never expected any credit for her actions.

She never required constant reinforcement or words of praise.  It’s just that simple.

If I can execute my roles as a mother-wife-friend-daughter-sister (not in that order), with the tiniest fraction of her strength and independence and resolve, I’ll consider myself  successful. I still feel a looong way off.

Mom and my daughter - although sick with only a cold at that point, nothing would stop her from helping out.

Where do you draw conditions in your life?  Do you find it difficult as a parent to approach your children unconditionally even as they start to mature with more responsibilities?



  1. Lots of lessons there. I’m so glad I’m getting to know a glimpse of Judy via this blog. Having you as a friend I can say there’s evidence of her in you. I say 2 cups Judy and 2 cups Shari sarcasm.

  2. Shari, this is a wonderful post. I did not know your mother but I am certain that the apple did not fall far from the tree (to use a foodie metaphor). You are one of the most caring and giving people I know — and I think that your blog is fantastic!

  3. Margarita says:

    my grandmother was very selfless, there are very few people like that.

    And I think if you have a family that gives you an unconditional love consider your lucky, because lots of families love with strings attached.

    I believe your mom is a very special person, and I am sure she thought of you as a very special daughter.


  1. […] Judy recipe, I decided to recreate Mom’s infamous pesto sauce.  This flavorful rich pesto sauce was often used as an accompaniment to everything from chicken to vegetables to pasta to pizza.  […]

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