The God Box: Lessons My Mom Taught Me About Life…After She Died

This guest post is from Mary Lou Quinlan, author of the new book The God Box: Sharing my mother’s gift of faith, love and letting go. Quinlan is an accomplished writer who’s written for Real Simple, More and O: The Oprah Magazine, and authored several books including Just Ask A Woman. She’s appeared on Good Morning America and the Today Show, and is considered one of the country’s top experts on women’s behavior. The God Box is a beautiful, inspirational book that’ll remind you of what’s most important in life. Check out her message to busy-busy-busy moms (in other words, every mom!), just in time for Mother’s Day.

If you’ve ever lost someone, you know that the sadness doesn’t end with the memorial. What’s harder is missing the “every day” of that relationship. When my Mom died, I longed for the nightly phones calls, the sound of her contagious laughter, and even her constant stream of advice, asked for or not.

But I was lucky. Mom left behind her God Box, actually ten boxes filled with 20 years of handwritten petitions. Mom turned to the God Box whether asking for help with finances or pleading for a cure to her blood cancer. Through her God Boxes, I could hear her again, still by my side. Here are glimpses into what I learned inside.

Writing things down is an amazing spirit-lifter. Most of us write ‘to do’ lists to de-clutter our minds. But why not write down our deeper worries rather than letting them fester? Whenever anyone expressed a worry, Mom would simply grab whatever was at hand, even a torn paper towel and write it down and put it in her box.  Giving voice to a concern is the first step to moving on.

Giving over your needs doesn’t mean giving up. I am a Type A, self-reliant sort of woman. If there’s a way to fix something on my own, I am on it. But Mom knew that asking was not only a way to lighten the load but a sign of strength. She wasn’t afraid to ask for guidance with the smallest issues. I’ve learned how good it feels to get the support that comes from just asking.

Say thanks, even when the answer is no. It’s easy to be grateful when things turn out well. When I got the “all clear” after radiation for breast cancer, I even thanked the corner coffee guy. But how about when I got the diagnosis in the first place? No happy dance of gratitude then. Yet that early mammogram indication was a gift. Mom said “Thanks” more often than “Please”. And somehow, more good things came her way.

Never, ever, ever lose hope. I can be impatient, whether I’m waiting for my nails to dry or the sun to come out. Mom knew that life’s tougher obstacles take time, so she wrote repeated pleas, not out of desperation but from her deep well of perseverance. I found multiple notes, re-asking “Please sell our motorhome” as well as praying for a miracle at the hematologist’s office. Mom was relentless. To her, losing hope meant she hadn’t tried hard enough.

Love like there’s no tomorrow. In the God Box, Mom detailed the smallest joys of her life with her family, as well as her wide circle of friends and strangers. Mom didn’t save up for the big moments to say “I love you.” She said it on the spot. She was creating her own legacy to us, even when we didn’t realize it. She taught me not to wait to say what is in my heart, even if it’s just on a scrap of paper and saved in a box.

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