Death Opens a Pandora’s Box
By: Peggy Willms

(4 min read)

Three principles have stayed at the forefront of my mind over the years: 1) try to put on other peoples’ shoes, 2) not be a hypocrite, and 3) find solutions. One of my mantras, REAL people with REAL problems looking for REAL solutions, is embedded in my DNA. We, humans, are more alike than not. I have led my practice using my education and experience, but more importantly, by understanding where my clients come from—THEIR experiences, habits, and belief system. You cannot hammer nutrition, exercise, and mindset strategies into people if you do not meet them where they are.

Hang on tight, REALLY TIGHT. We are about to do a 180. But hopefully, you will make the connection.

My mother died in August 2021 after a rapid and horrific bout with Multiple Sclerosis (M.S.). And it is time I begin to address my feelings about the event and come to terms with what led up to it. Oh, AND the aftermath. It is time to 1) put on her shoes, 2) not be a hypocrite, and 3) accept that I am a REAL person with REAL problems looking for REAL solutions.

Around my mid-teens, I switched roles with my mother. She was a teen mom, and once I started hitting monumental moments she hadn’t, I felt like I took the lead. It wasn’t that she chose not to support me, but you cannot guide or coach someone through experiences you have never lived through, like prom, graduation, college, losing a baby, traveling, and business. The only way I am coping right now is by accepting that she loved me dearly and raised me as best she could.

We cannot possibly understand what others go through until we experience it ourselves. We cannot understand their decisions without having a conversation. It is especially difficult to understand each other after they have died. For me, the window of understanding my mother’s actions and decisions has closed. Those conversations cannot happen. She is no longer here. And please don’t tell me to talk to her spirit. The reality is that the person is not in front of me. That opportunity has passed.

You don’t understand the process or the outcome until you experience going to college, becoming a spouse or parent, or owning a home or car. So it is hard to take advice or understand why in the hell others make certain decisions. There are simply times in our life when the opportunities have turned to dust and are blown off a mountain top making their death a permanent division between two living humans. Two humans who are now unable to understand each other more. And please do not tell me, “It is never ‘too late.'” Facts: there are times when it is simply “too late.” Death makes it “too late.”

It would be hypocritical of me to hide my feelings about my mother’s death when I teach others not to. If I tell others to share their feelings, communicate with the source, form connections, seek understanding, and find solutions, then I damn straight better.

I agree with you that this blog is the tip of the iceberg, and just like many of you, we have enough stories to fill a library. And yes, I will one day write a book. I am blessed or cursed to have journals my mother wrote nearly daily for the first 15 and ½ years of my life. I also have the rest of my life in writing, except for an eight-year gap. Her journals do shed light on her decision-making and perspectives. The last sentence written in my journal ends abruptly. It leaves me to believe an event happened, causing her to either no longer have enough time to continue documenting my life or have no desire to continue the process. Or perhaps I nailed it on the head earlier that our roles flipped, and I no longer walked in her shoes because she was forced to walk in mine.

I saw real proof that my mother was a teen mom, that we lived with my grandparents until I was age six, that she got married and divorced a few times, and more. There is a paper trail, and we all have one. Do we think about what others will stumble upon after we pass? I wasn’t prepared to find things I didn’t know about. Sure, you might find out some surprises, such as a call from an attorney because grandma left you the 10-acre farm in Washington, but as I said before, we cannot prepare ourselves to experience something until we go through it ourselves.

The day after my mother passed, my sister and I stumbled upon a box of paperwork. A Pandora’s box. According to Wikipedia, “Pandora’s box is an artifact in Greek mythology connected with the myth of Pandora in Hesiod’s c. 700 B.C. poem, Works and Days. Hesiod reported that curiosity led her to open a container left in the care of her husband, thus releasing physical and emotional curses upon mankind. Later depictions of the story have been varied, while some literary and artistic treatments have focused more on the contents than on Pandora herself…in modern times, an idiom has grown from the story meaning “Any source of great and unexpected troubles” or alternatively, “A present which seems valuable but which in reality is a curse.”

Why do people carry around shit for years that they do not want to be found? Or do they want it to be found after they pass away because they weren’t big girl enough to talk about it? Why can’t we accept our decisions and be open and honest about them, especially when it affects others? Nothing is truly a secret. So, what to hell?

I am being pretty raw with you today. Truly, in the moment! My message to you is to take the opportunity to have conversations about the decisions and actions you have taken in your life. Don’t wait. There is NO “good time.” Peel back the onion and attempt to rewire some of the lies you shared for 50 years. Peel them back, own them. No one is perfect. I believe that we all try to do the best we can in the moment.

But if you don’t talk about things when you can, man, you can leave behind a shitshow. Open your own Pandora’s Box so someone else doesn’t have to. Especially if your daughter doesn’t know how she came into this world and that there were people out there who cared about her, and you kept them away. Just say’n.

Peggy Willms
                                                                     All Things Wellness, LLC

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