Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper: Honoring A Life Well-Lived
“Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.” — Ernest Hemingway
There are some weeks when I wait until the very end to write my “I’ve Been Thinking…” essay for The Sunday Paper. That’s because I like to have time to really reflect upon what I’ve experienced, what I’ve felt, and what has stayed with me over the past week.
There is so much coming at us these days that it is often helpful to pause, catch your breath and ask yourself, “What really mattered to me this week? What will I remember most? What was most meaningful to me, and why?”
This week, one thing that was really meaningful to me was that I got to attend the World Dementia Council Summit in London. This was a gathering of world leaders who came together to discuss what we can do to wipe out Alzheimer’s in our lifetime.
I attended the event so that I could speak about the global impact of Alzheimer’s on women. As I’ve said before, women are at an increased risk for this disease and they are also the ones who do most of the caregiving around the world. I see this as the ultimate women’s empowerment issue, and I’m glad I got to bring this important message to the global stage.
I was so inspired by all the scientists, researchers, politicians and advocates who gathered to discuss how we can better collaborate, innovate and speed up our goal of finding a treatment or a cure. I’m grateful and humbled that our work at The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement was included in this important discussion and that it was recognized for its game-changing work on behalf of women.
While I was honored to be a part of this global gathering in London this week, I also know that back home our nation was mourning the loss of former President George H.W. Bush and remembering his legacy. As I flew home on Thursday, I found myself returning over and over to former President George W. Bush’s poignant speech about his father at the funeral.
His opening words about how he found his father’s life and death to be instructive really captivated me. His message really stayed with me in the days that followed.
Eulogizing a parent is always difficult. It certainly was for me when I had to eulogize my mother. You want to get it just right and, deep inside, you want to make your parent proud.
Working to make our parents proud is one of those things that never seems to fade away, no matter how old you are or how much you’ve accomplished. It doesn’t even go away if you’ve becoming president of the United States.
As a parent myself, I was really struck by all the love expressed by President Bush’s family. I was also struck by all the little moments and memories that, in the end, become the big things that really defined his life and legacy.
For George H.W. Bush, those moments included examples of optimism, generosity, loyalty, humor, humility, laughter, commitment to his family and life-long service to his country.
I love how former President George W. Bush spoke about how his father loved holding his mother’s hand. I love how he spoke about how his father taught his sons to be good husbands and fathers themselves. I love how he spoke about how his father unconditionally supported his kids, and how he kept the spirit of his daughter Robin (who died at the age of 3) alive within the family, right up until his own death.
All of those reflections really moved my heart.
Let us also not forget that President George H.W. Bush experienced a crushing defeat when he lost the presidency to Bill Clinton and yet, he still found it in his heart to forgive and work with Clinton to help our country. They also went on to become friends. That’s class. That’s a beautiful portrayal of forgiveness. That’s putting country first. That’s a lesson for us all.
Still, if there’s one thing President Bush’s legacy can teach us, it’s that the biggest job in the world has nothing on the importance of family. At the end of our lives, if we have lived well, then it will be our families who are gathered around us. It will be our children who speak about how we showed up and how we were there through thick and thin. It will be our loyal friends who speak about how we impacted them, and why.
This week, the Bush family displayed unity, class, bipartisanship, patriotism, love and family. They imparted lessons on how to live and how to face death with courage. That’s what I took away from a father, his family and a life well-lived.
It is my own father’s life and legacy that motivate me to keep fighting against Alzheimer’s each and every day. I thought about him when I was in London this week and I hope I made him proud.
I know that the holiday season can be particularly hard for those of us who have lost parents or other loved ones. But as we gather with those we love, may we remember that our children are watching us and learning from us in the here and now. May we also remember to keep the legacies of those we have lost alive through stories, humor, and our own words and actions.
This week, I was thinking of my own mother and father, both of whom were friends with former President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush. It’s a lovely idea to think of them all up in heaven, laughing and enjoying each other’s company once again. Let’s hope they are all looking down at us with pride.
Dear God, thank you for the gift of life and for the opportunity to grow and evolve. I am so blessed to know that while things may not always go my way, I do have the chance to start anew and make the most of this precious time you’ve given me. Amen.
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VIEWS ABOVE THE NOISE
Entrepreneur Dave Asprey Offers Game-Changing Advice on How to Win at Life
In his new book “Game Changers,” my friend, Bulletproof founder and Architect of Change Dave Asprey researched the wisdom of the world’s top thought leaders to provide proven techniques for becoming happier, healthier, and smarter. His insights will make you think this morning and may even inspire you to start making changes today.
Author Stephanie Wittels Wachs Reveals the ‘Horrible and Wonderful’ Memories That Came After Losing Her Brother to a Heroin Overdose
Stephanie Wittels Wachs was devastated after losing her brother Harris, a star comedian known for his work on shows like “Parks and Recreation,” to a heroin overdose. In her “Everything is Horrible and Wonderful: A Tragicomic Memoir of Genius, Heroin, Love, and Loss,” Stephanie paints a compelling portrait of a comedic genius and chronicles the story of family, addiction, grief and the love between siblings.
Maria Speaks to Hoda Kotb About Tapping into Your Inner Strength
I love any time I get to sit down with my dear friend Hoda Kotb, and this particular occasion was no exception. I recently joined Hoda for her new digital series “Quoted By…” to discuss one of my favorite quotes and how it’s helped me stay strong through thick and then.
Through Grieving the Death of Her Father, Journalist Victoria Oldridge Has Learned How to Live Life to the Fullest
As I say in my essay, the holiday season is most difficult for those who have lost loved ones. In this exclusive essay for The Sunday Paper, journalist and Architect of Change Victoria Oldridge writes about the profound impact the untimely death of her father had on her when she was a child. Over the years, however, Victoria says she has learned to befriend her grief in order to enjoy her life and move forward.
Activist Matt Jacobi Teaches Us How to Make the Most of Our Family’s Dynamic
This is a very insightful piece by our SP columnist and LGBT activist Matt Jacobi. During this holiday season, Matt reflects on his relationships with relatives and the many lessons he’s learned interacting with them over the years.
Advice on ‘Creating Space to Do Nothing’ During the Rush of the Holiday Season
This is a timely piece from our content partner Spirituality & Health magazine. Though many of us find the holidays to be stressful, it’s critical that we make time for self-care.
NEWS CURATED…FOR YOU
1. George W. Bush Delivers Touching Eulogy For His Father, George H.W. Bush: As I mentioned in my essay, I was so moved by the beautiful eulogy former president George W. Bush gave for his father George H.W. Bush at his funeral on Wednesday. “He showed me what it means to be a president who serves with integrity, leads with courage and acts with love in his heart for the citizens of our country,” Bush said. WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE
2. Boy Sends Letter to His Dad in Heaven and Receives Touching Reply: Several weeks ago, 7-year-old Jase Hyndman attempted to send a birthday card to his father, who passed away in 2014. The UK Royal Mail wrote Hyndman a letter in response this week and its message will move your heart.
3. Discussing A Mother’s Right to Life: This is a powerful New York Times opinion piece, in which parents and medical professionals respond to an essay on America’s rising maternal mortality rate and the competing interests of mothers and doctors during childbirth.
4. Venus Williams Says Confidence Can Be Learned: According to a recent survey, girls’ confidence levels fall about 30 percent between the ages of 8 and 14. Tennis star Venus Williams says that confidence is what keeps her successful and that she believes it can be learned.
5. The Negative Effects that Graduate School Can Have on Mental Health: This eye-opening piece from The Atlantic that reveals Ph.D. candidates suffer from anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation at astonishingly high rates.
6. How to Foster Moments of Gratitude with Your Kids: This is an interesting piece from Greater Good Magazine that reports on a new study that investigates how everyday parent-child interactions help cultivate gratitude.
7. How Singer Hayley Kiyoko Uses Music to Foster Acceptance: Hayley Kiyoko, 27, is redefining what it means to be a pop star. An openly gay musician, she makes music and videos that challenge sexual stereotypes and promote the values of acceptance and love. I recently sat down with her for TODAY for an inspiring conversation about her breakthrough year. WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW
BOOKS I’VE BEEN READING
“Food For Thought: Recipes For Ultimate Mind and Body Health” by Cristina Ferrare: NY Times bestselling author, chef, TV personality, and entrepreneur Cristina Ferrare shares delicious and brain-healthy recipes from the meals she makes for her family and friends.
“Game Changers: What Leaders, Innovators, and Mavericks Do to Win at Life” by Dave Asprey: The bestselling author of Head Strong and The Bulletproof Diet answers the question, “How can I kick more ass at life?” By culling the wisdom of world-class thought leaders, maverick scientists, and disruptive entrepreneurs, Asprey provides proven techniques for becoming happier, healthier and smarter.
“Everything Is Horrible and Wonderful: A Tragicomic Memoir of Genius, Heroin, Love and Loss” by Stephanie Wittels Wachs: In beautiful, unsentimental, and surprisingly funny prose, Stephanie Wittels Wachs alternates between her brother’s struggles with heroin addiction and his overdose death, which she learned about three days before her wedding, in all its emotional devastation. This compelling portrait of a comedic genius (Wachs’ brother was known for his work on shows like Parks and Recreation) is a profound exploration of the love between siblings.
“Maverick and Me” Board Book Edition by Katherine Schwarzenegger: As a proud mom, I’m excited to announce that my daughter Katherine’s children’s book “Maverick and Me” was released this week in a board book edition. It makes the perfect gift for any child (and animal lover) in your life. I love this book, I love its message and, of course, I love her. Get it on and
RECIPES TO SHARE FOR YOUR SUNDAY DINNER
This Cauliflower and Potato Mash is a healthy side dish and perfect for the holidays and your Sunday Dinner. It was created by my friend Dr. Nancy Emerson Lombardo, founder and president of HealthCare Insights LLC and the Brain Health and Wellness Center.
We hope you’ll keep sending along photos of your family dinners inspired by The Sunday Paper. E-mail us here and we’ll share them in upcoming editions of The Sunday Paper.
A SUNDAY REFLECTION FOR YOU
We thought this beautiful reflection from author, feminist, and social justice activist L.R.Knost was appropriate to share for this weekend’s Sunday Paper. She reminds us that, in spite of life’s hardships and occasional awfulness, living really is amazing. Enjoy.
THE SUNDAY PAPER PROUDLY SUPPORTS…
Valuable Advise for Men Navigating Their Role as A Alzheimer’s Caregiver
This Week on TheWomensAlzheimersMovement.org: In an excerpt from his book ‘My Two Elaines: Learning, Coping, and Surviving as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver,’ former Wisconsin Gov. Martin J. Schreiber shares his advice for men caregiving for their wives from his own experience as a caregiver for his wife, Elaine. partners.
THE SHOP THE MARIA COLLECTION: Good For You, Your Mind, & the World
Visit the shop on MariaShriver.com to get Maria’s book “I’ve Been Thinking,” her coloring book for Alzheimer’s “Color Your Mind,” the Maria candle, Rivet Revolution bracelets benefiting The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement, her new Maria BrainHQ program, and more!
BECOME A SUNDAY PAPER AMBASSADOR …
And finally…if you love what we’re doing here at The Sunday Paper … join us! Become a Sunday Paper Ambassador and help spread the word!