5 Tips from my Mom (Kinda)

by Sarah Villafranco, MD /


To me, Mom.

She’s been dead for over 7 years, and, like most women who have lost their moms, I still think of her every day, many times a day – especially as I watch my own girls grow. For a long time, I was just too sad to write about her in a public way. I felt I could never do her justice with mere words, and was just so raw about it that I didn’t want to talk about her. I still carry the sadness of her absence with me at all times, but I have woven in some of the frayed ends of that sadness, so that most of it feels beautiful in me now. When I do cry about her, the tears are different. Early on, they burned hot and stung my eyes, and left me angry and exhausted. Now, the tears, which still come often, just feel like “overflow” – as if the bottomless well of love that she carried in her was transferred to me, and just gets jostled from time to time, spilling a bit out.

Okay. Don’t worry. I am not going to stay all deep and philosophical and touchy-feely. Here is the reason for this post: I wanted to write down a few tips I thought she would give me, give us all, if she were still here to do so. Little things that stand out in my memory as being quintessentially her, or things people noticed when they met her. In no particular order, here they are.

Tip #1
Use a warm washcloth when you wash your face. She did this every morning and night. She would hold the warm cloth over her face and keep it there for a few breaths. I have been doing it lately, and it is incredibly calming. Not steaming hot, just nice and warm. It’s also an excellent method of opening pores before cleansing. But I think my mom did it because it just felt so darn good.

Tip #2
Overdress. Her version of “jeans” was a pair of linen/silk/cotton blend trousers. And the poor woman was cursed with a daughter who wore real jeans 343 days a year for about 30 years (I’m down to about 300 days a year now), and a son who did the sniff test to see if his clothes were clean enough to wear (and still does). Karmic payback is at work, as neither of my daughters will wear jeans, ever. But here’s the point. She always looked put together. Like she was presenting herself, gift that she was, to anyone she met. And people noticed. Even now, every time I wear something of hers – a shirt, earrings, a handbag – someone compliments it. Every, single time. And I wink at her.

Tip #3
When you meet someone, if there is ANY chance you have met that person before, just say “it’s nice to see you”, rather than “it’s nice to meet you”. It’s so simple, and could prevent a thorny moment, such as “uh, yes, we met when we all went skinny-dipping after Pam’s wedding”. 

Tip #4
Be discrete about it, but pamper yourself. My mother was a partner in a DC law firm with a busy practice and a hugely successful career. But, when her secretary said she was “in an appointment”, I knew what that meant: With a masseuse, or her facialist, or having a manicure, or a hair cut, or… You get the idea. No matter how busy her life got, she took time for herself. She used high end skin care products, and bought beautiful quality clothes. She never apologized for it. And neither should you. You don’t NEED these things, no. But will they make you happier? They probably will. Mostly because you are taking a few moments to nurture yourself, which makes it easier to nurture others in return.

Tip #5
LAUGH. Especially at yourself. My husband was a junior lawyer under my mom for 8 years. They were working together, presenting to clients in a large conference room. She ran the meeting in her competent, professional, uniquely graceful way, and left the clients impressed – they were in good hands. She concluded the meeting, got up from the table, and promptly strode into a closet, which she thought was the door to exit the conference room. He remembers her bursting out laughing, dousing any sense of awkwardness, inviting everyone in the room to laugh at her, with her. This is a trait she passed to me, and one for which I am endlessly grateful. Taking yourself, and LIFE, too seriously is a heavy burden to carry. So put it down. Lighten up. And laugh.

Hope you get to put one of these little tips to use soon. And leave us a comment below if you do!

With so much love from us to you, 

Sarah and the Osmia Crew.

Leave a Comment

Love this, I also lost my mother last year and they sound like they were very much alike. What a lovely tribute to her.

I recently listened to the song “Golden Slumbers” by the Beatles and it helped me release a lot of emotion I’d been holding in since the day my mother passed away. My mother had COPD and had struggled terribly for the last six months of her life. She fell and was unresponsive and intubated for the last day of her life. I spent her last six hours with her alone in the hospital. It was clear she wasn’t going to make it and it had been decided they were going to remove her tube at noon. I wanted to sing a song to comfort her and couldn’t think of anything except to tell her how much I loved her and assure her it was going to be okay and she could rest, relax and finally be comfortable and no longer have to struggle to breathe. She was my best friend and I was hers too. Golden Slumbers is the song I would have sung to her had I thought of it. The lyrics just moved me when I heard them. I’d heard the song many times before but they never meant anything to me until now. “Once there was a way to get back homeward. Once there was a way to get back home. Sleep pretty darling do not cry, I will sing a lullaby. Golden slumbers fill your eyes. Smiles awake you when you rise. Sleep pretty darling do not cry, I will sing a lullaby.” It’s just such a beautiful calming song. I only wish I’d been able to sing it to her on that day. Thanks for sharing, your mother sounds like a wonderful person just like my mom.

Lauren on July 09, 2014

I LOVE your list of 5 tips from your Mom. She really sounds like a great lady. I especially love the tips on overdressing and saying “nice to SEE you”, I’ve tried remembering to do thatbv after getting into a few uncomfortable situations.
My Mom also does the washcloth thing. I haven’t done it in years, not since she did it to me when I was little. You’ve inspired me to try it again!

Thank you so much for a great post! I found you through Cup of Jo and I’m so glad I did!


Nina on July 09, 2014

Thank you for sharing something so personal. It sounds like your mom was a beautiful, remarkable woman. I intend to try ALL of these! :)

Jen on July 09, 2014

This is so touching. I lost my mom a year ago, and though her voice follows me everywhere with encouragement and love, sometimes I just long for the real thing. This made me feel a little bit closer to her today. Thank you.

Bethany on July 09, 2014

I’m coming up on the third anniversary of my mom’s death this weekend, and this was EXACTLY what I needed to read at this moment. I lost my mom so young that often I feel I didn’t get a chance to ask her all of the questions I wanted to, and when I come across an article like this I feel like there is always someone there. Thank you. xo

Audrey on July 09, 2014

This is such a nice way to offer us a piece of your mom – who sounds like an amazing woman.

My father died almost eight years ago and this may be a good way for me to heal. I will have to work on putting a list together similar to yours. He taught me so much and I often find myself referring back to him.


Judi V on July 09, 2014

Great tips! Especially #4, pamper yourself. We deserve it. And we do! With your products. Thank you, and thanks for the nice story.

Karla on July 09, 2014

What a sweet post, Sarah. Thanks for sharing. I’m a very recent customer but have LOVED everything about your company and how you do business. I look forward to being a loyal customer for a long time to come.

Vicki on July 09, 2014

This brought tears to my eyes… The tips are so great and I have to say, I do a lot of those things!
The big one for me that has helped keep me feeling younger and gets me out of my head, is LAUGHTER!

Leslie Johnson on July 09, 2014