John, center, with his younger brothers, Paul, left, and Tom and their mother Mary

Most parents really know their children. They know their moods, their fears, their ups and downs. This private sixth sense—the radar trained on their child’s emotional development—is paired with the kind of unconditional love and support that helps launch a child into the future.

My mom was a classic example; sometimes I think she knew me better than I did. For example, she knew I was a worrier. She knew the frown, the look that said there was something on my mind. She invariably said, “A penny for your thoughts,” and I invariably remained mute.

No sale. And I always have worried about many things, some inordinately. This kind of stress weighs me—and everyone around me—down. The longer I carry it, the heavier it becomes, emotionally and physically. 

That kind of baggage isn’t healthy. We all know that worrying is unproductive, that it drains energy, that it can be paralyzing. In fact, the better we can manage our emotional burdens, the sooner we can rid ourselves of them, leading to a more vibrant and refreshed life. 

So whatever worries you have, whatever burdens you are carrying, put them on the back burner. Relax, take a deep breath and enjoy every day that God gives you. To coin an old saying, “Life is short but it sure beats the alternative.”  

Margaret Mary Shuff with their children, David and Molly

My dad kept the following list on a yellow tablet in his desk. When he shared it with me, he said it brought a smile to his face and helped him deal with his particular burdens:

Drive carefully. It’s not only cars that can be recalled by their maker.

If you can’t be kind, have the decency to be vague.

No one cares if you can’t dance well; just get up and dance. In other words, get in the hunt.

We could learn a lot from crayons. Some are sharp, some are pretty and some are dull. Some have weird names, and all are different colors, but they all have to live in the same box.

Always make right turns, thus avoiding crossing in front of traffic.

Always keep your words soft and sweet just in case you have to eat them.

Celebrate those birthdays. The more you have, the longer you’re around.

Accept that some days you’re the pigeon and some days you’re the statue.

A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour.

And dad’s favorite from Will Rogers: “Never squat with your spurs on.”

In retrospect, my mom was trying to tell me to lighten up. And it’s taken more than 70 years for that to sink in. 

Better late than never.

Back>>>Read other stories in our March/April 2014 issue.