On St. Patrick's Day last week, a very dear lady and mother to one of my friends named Mrs. R., passed away. She was married to the love of her life for 65 years, had eight children, and also worked as a cardiology nurse. She gave her time and her talent to her church and was much loved and admired by many.
Last week I began to hear about author Rahna Reiko Rizzuto. Ms. Rizzuto has recently written a book about why she decided to give up being a full-time mother and follow her other passions. She is on the talk-show circuit to promote it. Basically, about ten years ago she had a chance to go to Japan for six months to do some research and left behind her husband and two young sons, ages 3 and 5 at the time. She found the experiencing so rewarding that she decided to end her marriage and gave full custody of her children to her husband.
According to Ms. Rizzuto, in Japan she realized the truth about herself. "I did that thing that I didn't want to do, give up my life for someone else." Motherhood had become "all encompassing" and she had allowed herself to be "swallowed up."
To rectify the situation, her kids now pop in after school three times a week to do homework and make dinner. From her perspective, this has worked out well for her family, and has made her a better mother. She says, "I am able to pay attention to them in that block of five or six hours in ways that I wouldn't otherwise have been able to." Her kids don't do overnights. She was happy to miss the "throwing up in the middle of the night."
As a result she has been able to "give myself more priority." She says further, "We have to have the freedom to decide what we it is we are going to do and how it is we are going to shape our motherhood and shape our lives."
When asked about her children she says, "My children are fine and not traumatized. They have everything they need. The truth is it is not coming from the people they think it should be coming from."
I've been quietly mulling this all over. It seems to me that Ms. Rizzuto has effectively turned in her role of mother for that of a part-time afterschool care provider. She's been able to get away with it, at least in her own mind and she wrote a book to profit from it too. If her children are sure of one thing, it's that she is her own #1 priority and they might come a distant 2nd or 3rd. Unless they're sick. She doesn't like to do sick - especially at night.
And while the novelty of her chutzpah might sell a few books I wouldn't be surprised to find this one in the dollar bin shortly. Bottom line is that she threw away her chance to love, mold, shape and guide the children she brought into this world. Stories of abandonment and self-centeredness don't inspire and uplift people.
Mrs. R. inspired us though. The funeral home was packed, the funeral was well-attended, and there were memories, tears and laughter as her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, family and friends shared their stories about the life of this wonderful woman. You see Mrs. R. learned how to do that thing which eluded Ms. Rizzuto - she learned to fully find herself by allowing herself to be lost; that by total giving, she gained everything; and that by complete loving she became much loved.
I loved the story told at her homily today about how she brought tape recordings of heart sounds home so that she could study them in her quest to become a better cardiology nurse. She played them at the breakfast table and her kids heard them too! She didn't run away from her family to make herself a priority! By including her family she was able to enrich everybody including herself. It was by being all encompassed as a wife and mother that she became a better nurse, a better person, and a better Christian. Her example inspired us in a way that book about self-centered choices never could.
Ms. Rizzuto says that women have a story that needs to be heard. Mrs. R's story was not only heard, but learned and remembered and will be passed down fondly for years to come. Mrs. R. didn't write a book. She lived her life well and completely - and in doing so she became the best version of herself that she could ever be. And unlike the yellow decay of aging book pages, her example, influences and memory will live on. That's how to live a life well. Well done Mrs. R.