Happy Birthday, Mom

We had been sitting next to each other on my long flight home after two years of living in Austria. He told me about his adult children – an engineer, a doctor, a lawyer. I told him about my life as a student, musician, teacher, and runner. About my plans to follow my next dream of training professionally and finding out how good I could be if I just focused on running.

And before we parted ways to deboard the plane he said “I have one more question. Who was it who told you you could do anything?”

I paused, gave it some thought, and told him it was my mom. She had been raised as an equal to her 7-year-senior brother. Both learned to operate farm equipment. Both learned to sew. Both loved to climb trees and were very active kids. But Hope was the one who loved music.

Her parents saw that passion and met it with support. Her parents who never learned to read music spent every cent they could on buying her the best piano they could find. They got her lessons and came to every concert.

She became a musician and a music teacher who changed the lives of thousands of students. And at age 45 she left her tenured position at a private school and founded the Greater Richmond Children’s Choir, through which she has spent nearly 20 years bringing children from every background together and teaching them to literally sing in harmony with one another.

And then there were my sisters. Katie, who not only did everything, but strived to be the best and nearly always achieved it. Meanwhile Emily the artist lives every day with this compulsion to create the things that exist in her mind. Maybe nobody explicitly told us that anything was possible, but my sisters clearly must have received the same message as I had.

So thanks, mom, for being a living example of doing what you want and making it work. Thanks for teaching us to set our priorities and hold our commitments. Thanks for holding us accountable for our dreams and supporting us every step of the way.

I know Grandmother and Granddaddy are extremely proud to see what you have done with their example. They have to be proud of what your life has done for the three of us and the thousands lives you continue to touch with the same message. “You can do anything.”


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