05/11/2012 01:51 pm ET Updated Jul 11, 2012

Legacy Blessings: Honoring Our Mothers on Mother's Day

In previous years we've concentrated on various legacy strategies to make the May Hallmark holiday, Mother's Day, substantive and meaningful.

One year, we celebrated our mothers with legacy letters of appreciation. In another year we reflected on mothering as action, something women do whether they have children or not. Women "mother" children, aging parents, pets, gardens, trees, the whole earth. A third year was a memory bouquet. We gifted our mothers writing our favorite stories about them.

This year, 2012, our topic for May comes from the Biblical commandment to honor and revere our mothers (and fathers). The Bible neither defines the words "honor" and "revere" nor does it explain how we are to do it. So in 2012 each of us, with our unique and complicated relationships with our mothers, has the privilege and the obligation to articulate our honoring and revering in a legacy letter.

As women, our mothers
remain not just with us,
but in us.
Our connection with mothers
is stronger than memory,
a kind of permeation
that goes beyond anything verbal.

-- Edna O'Brien

Because the mother-daughter relationship is complex, often fraught with conflict and struggle, we are challenged to speak our truth and simultaneously step into the shoes of our mothers. Experiencing compassion is possible as we step out of our old story and reflect on the relationship from a fresh perspective, a perspective of honoring and revering. Healing the life-giving intergenerational relationship is possible even if our mothers are no longer with us physically.

This may be a dry lecture, though one we all agree about. It would be good to honor and revere our mothers, but we're all busy, have barely time in our busy schedules to pick up a Mother's Day card. We think, "I'll file this away until some magical day in the future when I'll have time for such an exercise."

Here are some excerpts from real letters that honored and revered mothers in ways that freed and healed the writers:

  • "Only when I became a mother myself did I understand how much you must have suffered in separating from me. Did you know you were dying?"
  • "When my little sister arrived [I was already a middle child] with health issues, I resented that most of your time and energy was given to her... Even though we had differences, thank you for your gifts of love and freedom."
  • "As I fell into the depths of drug addiction, your unconditional love never wavered and you are still my biggest fan. You have given me hope that love can conquer all things and that change is possible in even the darkest of moments... I am sharing this with you because I don't ever want to wake up and have you not know how much I appreciate your love and guidance."
  • "An important thing I learned from you was that conforming was not essential... You planted a seed of independent thinking in me which waited quietly until it was safe to grow. I appreciate that you, the busiest mother, gave her daughter gifts for living."
  • "The past few years have been so emotional. I have often missed you and just wanted to pick up the phone and call you... I learned how important friends are by knowing all your friends who loved you. Thank you, thank you for being my Mom."
  • "I would like to go forward in our relationship more honestly. That means I need to allow you to be yourself, to have human weaknesses... Perhaps we can continue to share our feminine wisdom and melt away the accumulated anger and resentment. Know that I love you today and always."

Suggestions for Action:

  1. Reflect on your relationship with your mother. Make a list of her strengths and limitations as you experience her.
  2. Take time to "step into her shoes" and see life and your relationship from her perspective.
  3. Set aside 15-30 minutes to write her a legacy letter that honors and reveres her, simultaneously maintaining your integrity and honesty.
  4. Celebrate Mother's Day, May 13.

May you deepen your integrity,
honesty, and compassion
as you honor and revere your mother.

-- Rachael Freed

You can find out more about communicating and preserving your legacy (ethical will) at or through e-mail,

Rachael Freed has published: Women's Lives, Women's Legacies, Passing Your Beliefs and Blessings to Future Generations, The Women's Legacies Workbook for the Busy Woman, and Heartmates: A Guide for the Spouse and Family of the Heart Patient. She is currently working on Harvesting the Wisdom of Our Lives: An Intergenerational Legacy Guideto be published early 2013. Senior Fellow at the University of Minnesota's Center for Spirituality and Healing, Rachael is a clinical social worker, adult educator and legacy consultant. Her home is Minneapolis, Minnesota. For more information, visit and Follow her on Twitter:

For more by Rachael Freed, click here.

For more on Mother's Day, click here.