Photo Credit: Aachal,

Written by Jeff Newman
January 3, 2020

What is your life philosophy that you’d like to leave behind when you take your last breath of air on this earth? What would you want to pay forward to family and friends?

There are some simple rules and principles about life that I’d love others to have in their own life–to live a meaningful life, to live a fully empowered life. It’s what I would want them to remember me for because I imparted specific things like that.  

I’m writing this letter as my mother lays unconscious and on life support in a Toronto hospital in Canada. I was with Mom for 62 years and what I think about are the many great moments together and so much of our fun with so many of the amazing, extraordinary experiences we had together. Just the simplicity of hanging out, being around, and appreciating some of her life lessons.

During my Mom’s physical demise, I called her and said, “Mom, I’m going to fly in and spend a couple of days with you.” Of course, her reply was always, “Jeffrey. Please, it’s not a good time for me right now.” But it was never a good time. Mom never wanted me to see her in this state. I flew in anyway and she loved it. I was honestly scared I might not get there before she left us for good.

We’d talk about life in general. I just asked lots of questions about her childhood–which included but wasn’t limited to both my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and close friends. What came out of it was so much of her life’s philosophy.

The irony of it all was that she was saying these things to me throughout her life, and it dawned on me she always had this philosophy, saying it in one way or another. I spent six days on my last visit and it most likely would be my last. For me, it felt that our talks morphed and streamed together into one kind of word, and that word was wow.

Be Yourself

For as long as I can remember, Mom was always guiding me to be myself.

“Jeffrey, be yourself, be who you are, do what feels right for you.” She wanted me to be my unique self, not a carbon copy of others. Occasionally, Mom would inscribe “Be yourself” in birthday cards, religious books, and lunch notes. (Again, it was always like “wow!”)

Be Honest

Mom also said, “Be honest.” Tell the truth. Be honest and direct. Be straightforward and be explicit with those you hang out with. It was such a simple thing, but how many of us sometimes tell a lie that we don’t need to tell or we say things that may not be true. It’s just about bringing it to top of mind and paying attention to what we’re saying. She’d emphasized being honest even when it’s hard, even when I may be held accountable for it. To always be honest.

Do Your Best

“Do your best, Jeffrey,” she’d say. Whatever you’re going to do, do your best, know that you gave it your all, just do it with excellent care so that it goes right. I’m now cognizant to care that I’ve done a good job not only for myself but for others as well. “Do your best and know that you contributed.”

Take Care of Family

I’ll always know how Mom loved me unconditionally and how she always taught me to take care of family. Love both your brother and sister. Take care of them, even as she was experiencing some incurable treatment, Mom insisted that I take care of my siblings. She (Rina) would always think about taking care of family. The woman always stood out as that person in the family. I refer to her as my “Matriarch.” Whatever she could do to take care of family, she did.

Treat People With Respect

Rina always repeated these words, “Treat people with respect.” Know that everyone’s going through a hard journey in life, you never know their story so just be nice to people. Be kind. Have some courtesy and compassion. It was always about treating other people respectfully, elders as well as those younger than me. Everyone on your team, your family . . . treat your family and neighbors with respect. She said that over and over again. 

Be A Good Citizen

Be a good citizen was another emphasis that Rina insisted I uphold. Be active in your community. Go vote. Care about taxes. Because her profession was in Jewish Education, she made me aware that teachers should be paid appropriately. Care about the important things that are shaping the world. Be a good citizen. Be active. Do something good for your society, for your culture. She cared about those things; she was amazing that way.

Follow Your Dreams

The last recurring thing Mom was always saying was, “Follow your dreams.”  Always follow your dreams. “Know what you want, Jeffrey.” Follow them, even if it’s hard. Chart your own path. Do the things that are important to you. Don’t give up on your dream just because it got hard–fight for those things. Follow your dreams. Keep following your intuition. Keep following where life’s taking you but know where you want to take life. Follow your dreams.

Those are some of Moms “Things” she wanted me to hold on to. Her life’s philosophy. So when I think about her, I’ll think about those things. One way or another I think about how she embodied them. I think about the experiences, things that I screwed up in my life and how she’d teach me these things or just remind me as I was going off to do something . . . or she’d say something, and she’d write me a note and I’d carry her message with me.

I think about all these things she did and accomplished. She gave and created. It all makes sense to me now. In one word, it was her love, personally, emotionally, and spiritually that I learned how to grow and contribute to others more than myself. I hope that in some way we’re dedicated to thinking about how much we love other people, to be a grand amplifier of this divine energy around us that is love. To give it and direct it towards other people so they feel adored and appreciated by us. That’s a takeaway for me from Mom.

Are you doing this? That’s living a different quality of life. That’s magic. If you have the intention to do the things above in this story, perhaps it’ll be your inspiration for your own life philosophy. Maybe you already have your own, but I hope you’ll do one thing: share your life philosophy. Like my mother did for me. That’s your message.

That’s what people remember. And like me, if you live that life philosophy each day, you wake up and have a goal, you have a dream to live it. It activates everything in you, like it does for me. You can’t wait to wake up in the morning because that enthusiasm to live that philosophy pulls you into the future. It pulls you into that style of life and you feel so remarkable because you’re empowered again.

When I submitted this article for print, Mom was still on Life Support. To my regrets and heartfelt love, Rina passed away on Friday, December 6th, 2019.  

“Baruch Dayan Ha’Emet.”

Translation: “Blessed are You, Lord, our God, King of the Universe, the Judge of Truth.”

Photo Credit: Aachal,