Homemade Lessons for a Global Life

Nancy GarredIn honor of Mother’s Day, this is a modified version of the eulogy that I wrote for my Mom, Nancy Garred, who passed away on 30 January. Mom loved being locally rooted, living nearly 50 years in Tumwater, Washington State, and all her life in the Pacific Northwestern USA. I, however, lost my local roots in my early twenties. This is my own reflection, summed up in the words of a recent Dodge commercial: “Don’t every forget where you come from!”

Here’s the thing: many kids do forget where they came from, and globe-trotting kids like me are worse than most. After spending half my adult life overseas, ‘home’ became a foreign country, and ‘family’ a cross-cultural experience. I became very different from my parents, to the extent that we sometimes lacked enough common interests to sustain a lively conversation. Even so, I recently realized recently how deep their influence runs. Here are five powerful lessons for life – and for peacebuilding – that I learned through observing my Mom.

Lesson #1: Value all people equally. I was pretty unaware of status differences during my early childhood, and that was Mom’s doing. She befriended an unusually wide range of different types of people, from different stations in life, and she treated them all with respect. I did not recognize until later in life that this was rare. Mom made it look normal, just as it should be.

Lesson #2: Live simply. Mom did not put on airs. She did not spend what she had; she spent only what was necessary to get the job done. She did not try to create an ‘image’ for herself; she just lived every day in the straightforward, understated way that she thought best. I think she enjoyed life a great deal because of it!

Lesson #3: Believe in girl power. It was a privilege to be raised by a 1960s-era feminist, in the best sense of the term. I never doubted my ability to contribute to the world, or my right to pursue it. Of course we are all products of our generation – so Mom never did shed the assumption that it’s every wife’s job to cook every night! But she challenged her generation on its own terms, and she came out on top.

Lesson #4: Love nature. Nature was a constant, life-giving presence in our family, from our pets to our camping excursions. There were times when Mom despaired of my impatience with bird watching, or my teenage preference for shopping malls over woodlands. But I grew out of it. I ended up an open-water swimming, forest running adult with a growing passion about climate change. I came to see that peace among humans requires harmony with our environment.

Lesson #5: Be true to who you are. Mom enjoyed being quiet, disliked religious institutions, grew to distrust medical advice, prized independence … and she never pretended otherwise. In her older years she occasionally appeared stubborn. But there is great freedom in having the courage to simply be yourself. When I follow this example, I breathe easier, and I relate to others more easily too.

Some of these truths are deeply rooted in me as a person and as a peacebuilder. Others are things that I still aspire to. For all of them, I thank my Mom, Nancy. Her quiet influence lives on!

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Nancy Jo (Bailey) Garred lived an amazing and vibrant life, far more than one eulogy from one daughter can capture! To see her obituary, go to: http://www.islandfuneral.com/notices/Nancy-Garred.