Journey Mercies . . . Life’s Lessons

Journey Mercies . . .  Life’s Lessons

When do “life lessons” begin and when do they end?  From the time we are born our days are filled with rules and regulations.  Do’s and don’ts that are supposed to make our lives easier, richer, fuller, better.  Don’t touch this, don’t do that.  Don’t hit, don’t say bad words, don’t be mean to your sister, always say your prayers, wash your hands before dinner, say yes ma’am and no sir, please and thank-you.  Don’t yell, keep your room clean and don’t say “hate”.  Just writing this takes me back and makes me wonder  . . . did I respond well to the life lessons I learned as a child?

In Robert Fulghum’s book, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” he states “All I really need to know about how to live and what to do I learned in kindergarten.  Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school.”

You can see a list of Fulgham’s lessons from kindergarten here.

My paternal grandparents were well-to-do Orange County business owners, who entertained regularly. Since I was with them every Sunday, I remember my grandfather, who I loved dearly, helping me with my life’s lessons.  He would say things like “Be kind, speak no ill against anyone, love you parents, be a good girl.”  He also spent time teaching me the proper way to sit at dinner  – no elbows on the table, left hand in my lap, right hand holding my fork.  He taught me to say “Would you please pass the gravy?” because you would never reach across the table for anything that was not right in front of you.  He taught me how to respond to an adult as I was being introduced.  I would put out my hand and say “very nice to meet you.” And if they were leaving I would say “Very nice to have met you.” I was all of 7 or 8 years old.  Those and a myriad of others were life lessons that I remember vividly. Reflecting on these has led me to ask,

What life lessons have I imparted to my children?

Well, it would be verbatim from the opening paragraph of this blog.  It’s what we do as parents to help our kids along.  We share our life lessons, with the hope that sooner or later they will “get it”.

I realize now that the “get it” factor doesn’t always resonate and sometimes our life’s lessons are learned the hard way.

What I saw as my children grew was that in learning what life was all about, they created their own set of standards, ideals and boundaries. Growing up means that all of those preset ideals will change. And so will the person who created them.  As Kelly Cutrone, author of If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You, says “In breaking away from the familiar and the expected, you’ll be forced and privileged to face great challenges, learn harder lessons, and really get to know yourself.”  For me, that happened at 50!  The school of hard knocks was alive and well.

What I know now is the lessons we teach our children are only as good as the examples we demonstrate.  How we live our lives and how we show them that honesty, integrity, and character will help them achieve a life of goodness.  With that in mind, I know that I failed in many ways raising my kids.  I know that I put work before their needs at home.

I was a full time employee and a part time mom.

God has been good to me these past 16 years.  After making it through my divorce and some tough life lessons of my own, I realized again that honesty, integrity and character are qualities that give you perspective and the ability to rise above any adversity or failure. I made it part of my restoration to manifest these qualities in my life.  That decision was purposeful. It empowered me to become a strong “mom” figure with my adult children and a better woman.

Do I regret some of those perfectly BAD decisions? Of course I do.  But I also celebrate the way they changed my life.  The way they gave me a deeper sense of who I really am and who I really want to become.  The life lessons I have learned and the life that I live right now . . . I would not change.  I have hope, power, perseverance and love beyond measure.

One of the most incredible revelations for me now is that the wisdom of my years and the life lessons of the past have given me the opportunity to walk along side my children and support them as they come to me for advice or just to talk over how their doing and feeling.

We can never go back . . . but we can change past behaviors, relationships, and decisions.  We can and should mirror our own life’s lessons in the most positive way.  We can be kind, respectful, and be a person of integrity.  We can show compassion, justice, and love. And we can reserve the word “hate” for liver and onions and limburger cheese.

What life lessons did I learn in kindergarten, that are profoundly part of my life right now?

“Say you’re sorry when you hurt someone” and “Clean up your own mess!”

•  What life lessons have stuck with you since kindergarten?


Molly Keating
Molly Keating
Hello! I'm Molly and I run & manage the Blog here at O'Connor. I grew up in a mortuary with a mortician for a father who's deep respect for the profession inspired me to give working at a mortuary a try. Work at O'Connor has brought together two of my deep passions, writing & grief awareness. In 2016 I earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. I am honored to be able to speak on these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective. I want to sincerely thank you for following & reading the blog, I hope that this is a healing place for you.


  1. Neil O’Connor says:

    Hi Pat –
    I love the depth of your post, they are so inspiring to me!
    I cannot remember kindergarten fro the life of me. My life lessons keep teaching me new things about how to live my life. My newest favorite quote is, ‘Your response is determine your experience.” I love that because it makes me reflect on the way I can choose to live my life. So many times have I let my self respond poorly and it makes my experience less than desirable. Life is about stopping, pausing and giving your self time to be aware of how we are REALLY doing.


    • patricia kolstad says:

      Hi Neil:
      You and I have talked about Life Lessons for 19 years and I must admit, that you have taught me several. It takes friends who are willing to share their heart and soul and get down to the “tough stuff”. I can remember internalizing every conversation we ever had. When I got to the point that it’s “just a conversation” it was easier for me to accept all of the good. I love your new mantra . .”Your response will determine your experience.” It’s a good one, and I’m at a time in my life where I let
      those silly little things that bring us to the brink, roll off. Our time here is short and I know that I am a forever learner. Thanks for your comments, and for your ability to direct and challenge. I appreciate you.

  2. Mom,
    Once again you’ve hit the ball out of the park. I know that you regret the time you lost when we were kids, but you have helped us all to be the children, sibling, parents, spouses, and employees that we are today. We are a very strong lot, and though we’ve all made our own amount of disastrous choices, we have managed to find our footing and stand strong again. Thank you for hanging in there and being an example to your children and grandchildren. Your tenacity and integrity in the past 16 years has healed so much of our heartache from the past. My kindergarten life lesson, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Do I struggle with it? Definitely! Do I strive to live it? Absolutely.
    Love you Mom!
    Well done!

    • My sweet daughter,
      You are so right . . . we all have continued to move forward and strengthen our foundations. I don’t think that there is anything we can’t do together, or separate for that matter. I realize that it is never to late to begin again, make better choices, an know deep inside that I, we, are worthy. I see wonderful changes in you all the time.
      I love you dearly,

  3. Lori says:

    MP, Boy, life lessons….I’ve learned many. I have reached the age where you want to warn your younger family members not to make the same mistakes that you have.I know it will fall on deaf ears. We all must make our own mistakes to learn. I love you depicting your time with your grandfather. I adored my grandfather and lost him way too early at the age of twelve. He used to take me fishing, which I loved. I spent many a summer with my grandparents. They used to teach me to sit up straight and how to set the table. It made my Grandma crazy that I ate with the “wrong” hand since I am left handed. I have noticed kids today seem to be learning different life lessons than we did. There seems to be a loss of respect for your elders. We have lost that time of innocence. Thank you for yet another wonderful post! Love you! Lori

    • Lori
      It’s true, and I see it all the time. You have pointed out something that I think about, how kids take for granted what they have and may not appreciate how they got it. I know it’s something that my kids struggle with. Just because one has it, doesn’t mean you need to have it. Seems like there is no “waiting” period for anyone. If it makes you happy, do it. As Chuck so aptly put it in his email to us, happiness starts within, not with material things. Life’s Lessons . . . I appreciate them more now, than ever before. It’s definitely reflective.

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