As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.
John F. Kennedy
Like many of my other blogger moms , I also jumped at the opportunity to express my gratitude to a person who has shaped my parenting for CTWM’s gratitude week.
Unfortunately, this person passed away before I ever had the opportunity to tell her. She passed away before I even became a parent.
I’ve posted before about how much my mother means to me, so I’m taking this opportunity to thank someone else that has also been an integral part of my parenting journey. There are so many people in my life that have contributed to my parenting and my person in general. And I am making a conscious effort to express my gratitude to the people I can. The person I wish I could thank is someone who probably never knew what impact she had on my life.
Her name was Dr. Judy Cooper.
Judy was probably my mother’s dearest friend. They were soul mates as friends and as educators. They had some differing opinions and had no problem expressing it to each other.
Unfortunately, Judy lived about 1,300 miles away, so we didn’t see her (and her wonderful husband) as frequently as we all liked. Judy was very similar to my mother as she was a former educator (a principal) who spent the later part of her career as a consultant doing “Assertive Discipline” workshops (as did my mother) while also writing and contributing to her own works.
I do have 2 of Judy’s books on my desk at home:
She was a “parenting expert” by all accounts but she was an absolutely phenomenal human being. She would joke about kidnapping me and taking me back to Minnesota to adopt me so her husband could groom me as a professional golfer.
She had so much warmth and honesty but a firm confidence and incredible sense of humor. What I loved most of all was when she would gently put me in my place.
I would say “well, by definition, one-half of the population is below average” then she would remind me to keep in mind what makes me think I am in the top ½ and why I was blessed with the tools and opportunities to be there – “don’t be too intellectually arrogant, but also allow yourself to see where you are on the spectrum so you can be fair to other people.”
And I once said something along the lines of “well, if I got into college and graduated in four years, it couldn’t be that hard”. She jumped all over that one. “Don’t discount your strengths and do not judge anyone else’s journey.”
I greatly admired Judy, where she came from, her personality and how she had such a high standard of behavior. She had seen a lot and she had this balance between “you shouldn’t judge people” and “you should have some small amount of judgment to help you and other people find solutions and understanding”
I do think a lot about what advice she would give us now. I think about what she’d give us kudos for and what she’d shake her head at. I think Judy inspired many teachers, administrators and parents during her lifetime and I’m not sure how many of them were able to say “thank you” or express their gratitude to her. Maybe, like me, they didn’t realize how much of an impact she had until the opportunity to say thanks had passed.
One night, several years ago, I spoke with Judy on the phone as she and her husband were having a semi-annual get-together with my parents in Florida. She asked about Lois and just wanted to say hello. She was slurring and I remember just passing it off as too much wine.
When my mother returned from Florida, she mentioned the slurring and Judy was visiting doctors to see what was happening. Not long afterwards, Judy was diagnosed with ALS Disease a/k/a Lou Gehrig’s Disease. It was heartbreaking. It was a catastrophic diagnosis, but Judy didn’t wallow. She did keep hope alive and tried all kinds of treatments. Nothing could stop the inevitable I guess.
The world lost Judy on July 5, 2005. My mother called me and said “I feel so selfish because I just think about how much of a loss it is to not have her in my life anymore.”
I really felt the same way. How could we not have her as part of our world any longer?
But she is a part of our lives. She made a tremendous impact on me and a truly strive to uphold some of her values in my parenting. I’m sure I’m not perfect but she’d also have made sure I didn’t beat myself or dwell on that parent either. She had high expectations and a low tolerance for excuses.
She wanted parents and teachers to help children grow into resilient, motivated, genuine adults who would be peaceful yet bold contributing members of society.
Thank you, Dr. Judy Cooper, for everything you have done for me and my family. May you rest in peace.