That’s my Mom in the pic, Connie Lister, who would have turned 78 today, if she had not died in 2002. She is with me still. In my heart. She makes her presence known once in a while, via secret coded songs we shared, or with the starfish theme.
She was a teacher, and her specialty was “almost hopeless” cases. For quite a few years, she taught at Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility, the state prison for felons under age 18. Petite and soft spoken, at the surface it seemed odd that she could make it in there: These were the toughest kids, the ones you read about in the newspaper – gang rapists, armed robbers, murderers. I think she made it because they understood she actually cared. Not too many people truly cared about these kids.
The starfish story was told every year to the teachers who worked at the prison, during their Fall meeting. The Principal would tell it: “A little boy is walking slowly down a beach, head down, after a big storm has tossed hundreds of starfish onto the beach where they lay dying. Carefully, the boy picks up one starfish and gently places it back into the sea. A man comes up from behind, after watching this tedious act for a while. The man says, “Hey, boy..don’t you see all these starfish dying on the beach? What’s the point, why do you bother picking up a few? What does it matter?” The boy quietly picks up another starfish and places it into the ocean. He looks at the man and replies, “It matters to this one.”
Connie loved, loved that story. To the point that when she died, her school began the “Connie Lister Starfish Fund,” in honor of her devotion to these kids. The funds helped bring extracurricular events and materials to the kids who had shown exemplary behavior in their circumstances.
I think of myself as one of my Mom’s starfish, too. Not quite an “almost hopeless case,” but I wasn’t exactly golden. And Mom, too – like all of us, even Mamas, we all make mistakes, so I’m not saying she didn’t make mistakes, either. However, and most importantly: She loved me fully. She was ultimately devoted to our family – my Dad, sister and me were the center of her very active, adventurous, curiosity filled life. She was sincerely interested in anything I pursued, any thought that I pondered – she listened to me, shined her love light on me. To her, I mattered.
Last week during a difficult moment when I was emotionally drowning a bit, I suddenly came across my missing starfish necklace, sparkling up at me from the bottom of my cluttered purse. Mom. I could hear her voice, “Oh, sweetie, don’t worry – everything’s okay…I love you, my blessing.” I was immediately reconnected to the Earth – grounded by the invisible umbilical cord ever attached between Mother and Child.
Happy Birthday, Mom. I want you to know I’m doing well. Marin and I are a close, loving and committed couple. We finally had kids, Mom! You have two granddaughters, Sofia and Michelle. They are literally angels. You would be beyond delighted by them. I’m sorry I wasn’t ready to have children before you died, I know how hard that was for you.
Guess what, Mom? We moved to a wild, open, naturally gorgeous rainforest in the Dominican Republic! Remember how you and Dad moved our family, your own two daughters, to Hawaii from New York City when I was 9 years old? Well, it’s a little bit like that, except more off the grid and rustic. But you’d be cool with it. You loved adventures like staying in a “bed and breakfast tree house retreat” somewhere deep in sacred Waipio Valley with Dad. Your wild streak lives on:) There’s also a really good group of people here that we are deeply connecting with – you know how I’ve always been spiritually inclined? Well, it more than speaks to that part of my heart and Soul to be with these folks. They are a true blessing for us.
And I know you would just love this, so it’s especially dedicated to you, today, on your birthday, Mom. The website for my new Eco-Conscious retreat business is Now Open, officially today! I think you’ll like the idea of my helping to coordinate and host eco-retreats in the Dominican Republic, doesn’t that seem to suit yours and my style? I know! I wish you could come and help out at a retreat, I know you would if you could. I can just see you in the kitchen, chopping garlic for some exotic dish you read about in Bon Appetit magazine, chatting away about this and that, your aqua eyes sparkling with joy.
Happy Birthday, Mom. I love you, now and forever. Check out the website: http://ecoretreatsdr.com/
Let me know what you think, too, my friends, when you have a chance to check it out. Spread the word if you can, if you’re inspired to:) Lots of tweaking and additions to go, but we are officially launched! I wonder what will happen next? To everyone, may you find and keep peace, love, happiness, health, safety and goodness. Everyone. xoxo