When I was a Verizon rep in Florida, every once in a while another rep would catch me at my desk without a customer, seemingly doing nothing, with a big smile on my face.
"Dude, why are you smiling?" He asked once.
"No reason. Just to smile I guess."
"Well, you look like a serial killer. Stop."
My smile turned into a laugh, then back to a smile. I never really put that much thought into it. Sometimes I just smile.
In retrospect, I guess I now know where I got it from. My mom always smiled. She was perpetually happy. I'll never forget being at my parents' house one day at dinner when she just blurted out, "I'm so happy with my life". It was entirely genuine. There was no one in the world happier than her.
The crazy thing was, she had so many reasons to deny herself happiness. She never experienced having wealth. Even before the cancer, her body was ravaged with rheumatoid arthritis, osteo-arthritis, and some disease that prevented her body from producing any moisture. She also had an artificial shoulder and her hands were starting to become deformed.
Mother was in constant pain, but honestly, us loved ones always forgot about it because she NEVER talked about it. She never complained. And despite her crippling handicaps, she'd keep on volunteering, keep on making cakes and candies, and keep on smiling.
Check out these two pictures:
In the first, Mom is in the Cancer Center getting her chemo...smiling away. In the second--damn this hurts--this was the last picture ever taken of her. A few hours later she left on an ambulance ride she would never come home from. At this point the Cancer Center had told her her body was too weak for chemo. Every part of her ached, and she was only walking because her rehab specialist was trying to keep her muscles from atrophying. It's a blurry picture and hard to tell, but you know what you see when you zoom in?
A big smile.
I think Mom figured out two things that most people never do:
1. Happiness really is a choice. You can choose to be miserable, you can choose to be stressed, and you can choose to be dissatisfied. But my mom chose to feel happy and fulfilled.
2. At no time in life do you receive more happiness than when you give happiness. I already knew that Mom volunteered at LifeLine, a charity that supports single mothers, sang choir at the bedside of patients in hospice, gave away cakes and candies, et cetera. But since her passing I've learned DOZENS of stories of her giving her time, energy and love to others that I had no idea about.
Which explains the absolute FLOOD of people that came to her house to help her and Dad out in any way possible. So many people loved her because she loved so many people.
And that is where she got all her happiness.
As I said in her eulogy, the way I plan on honoring my mom is by living my life like hers: giving of myself. And in fact, it's not really work. It's all reward.
Because all the love you give, you get back tenfold.
I love you, Mom.