• jmgilephotography

Top 3 Lessons I’ve Learned From My Mom

My mom would have been 70 years old on March 12, 2022. However, we lost her to colon cancer 6 years ago.


For those of us who have experienced deep loss and overwhelming grief, it can be hard to understand what to do with all that love, now. I’ve found that another challenge is remembering the small things after time has passed.


So this year I wanted to revisit my mom’s life a bit, and share the top 3 lessons she taught me.



(Remember my post about having huge hair from birth? Well don’t worry, I still have huge hair here, too. Mom just had a rule that I had to have my hair in a ponytail, with a barrette, if I was chewing gum - LOL! The struggle was real!)


Lesson #1: Creativity Matters

My Mom was SO creative. This is my favorite thing about her.


I actually think it drove her crazy to be a stay-at-home mom. Now that I have little kiddos, I completely understand. The endless laundry, perpetually dirty floor, exhausting days, messes and more messes, thankless dinners, and just general, never-ending work.


Soap operas just were not enough to satisfy her need for outside interests, so Mom leaned into her own talents, instead.


Her outlet was being creative. She was an artist and a gardener. She decorated wreaths and hats seasonally for all our neighbor’s front doors. If Etsy had existed back then, Mom would have soared. She was my Girl Scout Troop leader, a top-notch crafter, and helped me win my campaign for 6th-grade class president - with glitter alone!


Mom helped me see how creativity can soothe a soul, nourish a tired Mama’s heart, build connection with children, and light people up when you give your creativity away as gifts. Creativity was a connection to herself, and it’s when I saw her the happiest. When I pick up my camera, I feel this creative flow, this healing escape from the ruminations in my head.


I let go, and I light up. Thank you for this lesson, Mom!



Lesson #2: Nature Matters

As kids, we wanted to be outside as much as possible. Mom taught us that nature was great for the soul.


We had a massive garden at my childhood home. Actually, one massive garden was for flowers, and a second massive garden was for produce. Mom would take me on walks and get lost through the gardens and explain all sorts of details about plants.


“See this one? It’s an azalea. The reason it’s almost bare now is because it spends ALL its energy for a big giant flower display in the spring.”


My brother and I would be sent out to fill our empty buckets with produce before dinner, and of course, we would eat our bellies full of vegetables. Savvy trick! Mom taught me about building great soil with manure, which was SO fascinating to me as a child (...until I got in trouble for pooping in the garden, but that’s a whole different story! I swear I thought I was helping!! LOL!)


Our yard today is very similar to my yard growing up, and we have been leaning extra hard on nature, especially during the past two years. Nature is healing, and you’ll find me always looking to add “green time” to my life - and likely a bit of green to every photo session. Thank you for this lesson, Mom!



Lesson #3: Define Your Own Success

Mom struggled with mental illness. As a kid, I watched her light up while doing certain things - like being creative and snuggling with us - however, I also saw her light dim when she seemed to lose purpose.


She loved us fiercely but also cried a lot when she thought we couldn’t hear her. The world was so different at that time, for mothers, with more isolation than we have now. I think Mom would have loved the opportunity to own her own creative business, open an Etsy store, or connect with other mom-preneurs on social media. Instead, I watched her navigate being a mom and wife while trying not to lose herself, and she struggled.


The best lesson I read in her struggle was to define your own success. It’s not always a six-figure salary and an expense account. Perhaps it’s making sure your schedule lines up with your son’s day off so you can build a train set together. Or maybe success is in the long game of being an impact on someone for the long haul. In my eyes, every moment Mom was present with me, she was a success. Every moment she leaned into her own creativity was also a success. Thank you for this lesson, Mom!



It’s amazing to reflect on what we learned from the most impactful people in our lives. I find a lot of interesting life lessons through watching struggle just as much as watching success. My mom’s life was full of happy days as well as some sad moments, but her legacy shines bright in the lives of her children and grandchildren.


I love you and miss you every day, Mom. Happy Birthday.


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