A Mother’s Influence

Posted on 10/17/11 70 Comments

I know I have been away at some big agility events and you may be expecting my first blog post back to be all about those events but, as always my writing is just a dumping of my thoughts and today my thoughts are about mothers.

Actually I have been thinking about mothers much longer than just today. When I left for the FCI world championships two weeks ago I knew my good friend Lynda (Orton-Hill) would be losing her mother to cancer while I was away.

I wanted to be there for Lynda, who commuted the 2 hours each way every week to be with her mother during her battle.  It reminded me of the time I lost my mother to cancer almost 20 years ago.

Mom & Dad a few years before my mom's passing.

Rita Garrett was my mother and good friend. In fall of 1992 one of my Jack Russell Terriers was killed in a freak accident. I had never been through the experience of losing a person or an animal that I had loved so dearly.  My mom came to live with me to help me cope. She let me cry, she helped me laugh and she taught me how to move forward. She could only stay for four days as she had a doctor’s appointment.  That was the day we found out my mom had cancer and we lost her 7 short months later.

Lynda and Dad just weeks before my Dad's accident.

Several years later my father married a wonderful lady named Lynda. Their time together ended nine years later when my father was killed in a car accident. Lynda filled the void by coming to work for us at Say Yes – – which confused many students that received correspondence from “Lynda Garrett.” Many wrote wondering if we had adopted Lynda Orton-Hill:).

Lynda G. also grew to be a great friend who sadly we lost to yet another car accident two years to the day of my father’s accident.

While I knew that Lynda O-H was losing her mother while I was away last week, what I didn’t know was that while I was away John would also lose his “Canadian mother.” Freda wasn’t John’s birth mother, but rather his “adopted mother” as she would introduced herself to people. She lived a great long life and died peaceful at the age of 93.

Both Jane and Freda had funerals the same day, pushing back our travels to the US National Championships, driving through the night to arrive just hours before my first walk through.

And then, less than 24 hours after getting into Louisville one of my students and good friends checked in on her mom who was having a routine surgery at home, all was going well. Moments later we were all stunned and saddened to hear there were sudden complications and her mother never came out of surgery.

Losing a loved one, regardless if it is after a long battle, or if it is a sudden shock, is not only traumatic it is completely disorienting. What is your “normal” is gone and will never be the same.

For me, my mind went through all of the important times in my life that I shared with my mother and you wondered “who would I share those things with now?”

Then I thought about future events that my mom wouldn’t get to experience. Sharing my accomplishments, my disappointments, meeting who I was going to date next or possibly marry or being there for the birth of my children . . . okay so some things she didn’t miss out on . . .  Through the transition I learned as Dorothy C. Fisher eloquently put it;

“A mother is not a person to lean on but a person to make leaning unnecessary.”

My mother had prepared me well. All of those sharing times with our mothers are just preparing times to help make us stronger as we adjust to the rest of our lives without them.

For me I remember my mom’s brother delivering her eulogy at the funeral.  My uncle Alvin is a well respected Pentecostal minister but has always been a funny, cut up kind of a guy. The eulogy was entertaining and moving but for me one line stood out like a beacon to guide my life. I can hear it as clear as if it was yesterday not 18 years ago when he turned to look at myself and my 8 brothers and sisters and said;

“Who you are today is a tribute to your mother, let who you become tomorrow be her legacy.” ~Alvin Winsor

I know many of you have been through this tough transition, I would love it if you would share your thoughts to help my friends and others. What helped you? Did you change your routines? Post pictures or mementos? Plant a tree, add new activities or comitt yourself to some sort of project your mom would have loved? Please share any words of wisdom that helped your transition moving forward.

I am going to share one last thing here, my mom’s recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Nothing healthy about these babies but they are pretty darn tasty. When my mom realized she was dying she taught my dad how to make these cookies so all of their grandchildren could continue enjoying them. The morning of my father’s accident he left this message on my niece’s (Heather) answering machine with the recipe for the famous cookies which I now pass along to all of you. My mom would occasionally add walnuts, which was my favourite version and of course today I use vegan dark chocolate chips:).

Rita Garrett’s Cookies

Today I am grateful for the lives and the influence of the mothers of Lynda, John and Jodi, three amazing people who I am proud to have share such a big part of my life.


  1. Tish says:
    Thursday, November 10, 2011 at 9:28am

    I read somewhere, and discovered with my own losses that it was true, that grief takes two years to come full circle. Don’t rush it. You will spend the first year grieving at every special day and anniversary, as you feel the lack of their presence so strongly, and the next year, while you still grieve, your mind is learning to look forward – figuring out new traditions that honor their memory and include them – etc. Embrace every step of every journey. Accept your grieving. It’s all part of the process.


  2. Ellen says:
    Saturday, November 5, 2011 at 12:01am

    shadows of past


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