Advice from Mom

By Thad Plumley

As my family huddled around my mother’s hospital bed in the early hours of a fall morning, a nurse asked us to share happy stories about my mother as we were all witnessing her final moments.

Focused on my mom’s face, my brain was blank. I had nothing. My brother, to his credit, got out, “She loved to travel, and from that, I got my love of exploring.”

The moment has replayed in my head as I adjust to life without my mother. I’ve thought of loving stories, had a few hearty laughs, and shed some tears. I have also thought of countless conversations with her as they have truly shaped my life.

My mom grew up on a farm in Appalachia. She grew up poor. There were no vacations. There was school, church, and work—work after school, on the weekends, and especially in the summer.

But when she and my dad married, the summer trips started. By the time I was 18 years old, I had seen every corner of the country. I asked my mother once why we were heading somewhere, and she replied, “Because we haven’t been there. I want to see what it’s like.”

My brother nailed it in my mother’s final moments. He, my sister, and I all have an exploring nature that is from her. I love seeing new places, taking in new cultures, eating new foods, and trying new activities.

My mom and I rarely argued. There were a few occasions we had disagreements, and incredibly, they often came when I told her she was being too nice or giving someone a benefit I felt was undeserved.

She stopped me on one occasion and asked, “How can you be too nice? Being nice costs you nothing. Why not be nice?”

As you may guess, I had no comeback. It was not brought up again. I’m somewhat embarrassed to say I was an adult when that conversation took place. She was always teaching.

It was just five years ago when my mom pulled me aside shortly after my mother-in-law died and told me, “Take care of Claudia. She’s hurting. It’s your job to be there for her.”

I’ve mentioned these three moments as I think they are a good outlook for life—and work: Explore new things, be nice to everyone, and take care of people who are important to you.

Now think about your company. Consider exploring new revenue streams or tools that make work safer and easier. Be nice to every customer, yes, every customer. And finally take care of your employees and coworkers, the people you often see more than your family.

I want to pass on one final thing my mother taught me. When my mother-in-law passed away and she told me to be there for my wife, she said to do so because, “You never get over the loss of your mother. You learn to live with it, but you don’t get over it.”

Mom, you were spot-on again. Thank you for everything.


Thad Plumley is the editor of WWJ and the director of publications for the National Ground Water Association. He is currently the secretary for the AM&P Network Associations Council Advisory Board. The AM&P Network is a national association for publishing professionals. He can be reached at tplumley@ngwa.org, or (800) 551-7379, ext. 1594.