Answer one question or many - using words, photos or other media.
Did Elli have a favorite phrase or common mannerism?
In moments of indecision, of not knowing what to do or which direction to turn in, she would absolutely relieve any self-imposed pressure by saying, “Darling, let it marinate”—allowing us the luxury of time. She came from the knowing that there is no urgency in spirit.
CHANGE THE CHANNEL
This was her signature phrase to shift from a negative thinking pattern to a more positive mindset, from disappointment to trust, from sadness to joy, from upset to humor, from rushing to relaxation. If someone around her was having a panic attack, my mother would simply shout out, “Change the channel!” It was like a directive to your brain to go in a different direction—and by god it worked.
DONT MISS THE MOMENT
In the midst of our to-do lists, multitasking, and moving from one thing to the other, she would find ways to connect with the bank teller, the waiter serving the food, the supermarket cashier, the nurse at the hospital—anyone and everyone who crossed her path. An outing with her was completely unpredictable and had no boundaries of time. You never knew who my mother would end up engaging with or who she would feel compelled to connect with in the moment.
IT'S AN OFFERING, NOT A TRADE
One time, someone complimented my mother on her necklace. She said, “Here, take it. It’s for you.” The person said, “Thank you so much, but what can I give you back?” She replied, “Darling, it’s an offering, not a trade.” The person was speechless. My mother used to say to me, “In a world that has learned everything is about trading, offering is how we experience the generosity of spirit.”
GIVE IT YOUR FULL ATTENTION
There were many times that I would feel frustrated in getting something done or getting something I wanted, and not quite knowing how to accomplish it. She would always say, “Give it your full attention. There’s nothing you can’t achieve if you give it your full attention. But if you are distracted or fragmented, you won’t be able to see clearly or perform to your full potential.” From the simple tasks of washing dishes and making your bed to a major project, if you give your full attention, you will experience joy, fulfillment, and your power.
What did you learn from Elli?
Living by her example, surrounded by the warmth of her open mind and generous spirit, helped me develop a sense of myself that would not change whether people had more or less material success or worldly acclaim than I had. It was wonderful to be able to meet people without making these judgments—not evaluating them on the basis of what they had achieved or collected materially in order to decide how I should behave with them. I didn’t need to alter me to fit some perception of what other people expected. It was so liberating to know I could simply, authentically, be myself—and enjoy and be enriched by the authentic gifts of others.
There was always that combination of making me believe I could do anything and that if I failed she wouldn't love me any less. It was absolute, unconditional love. You could try anything, because failure was not a problem.
When did Elli show courage?
What did Elli dislike?
She hated multitasking. In fact, the last time my mother got angry with me before she died was when she saw me reading my email and talking to my children at the same time.
"I abhor multitasking," she said, in a Greek accent that puts mine to shame. In other words, being connected in a shallow way to the entire world can prevent us from being deeply connected to those closest to us -- including ourselves. And that is where wisdom is found.
What are your best memories of time together?
What was Elli's attitude toward wealth?
What do you remember about the day she died?
Later, I found out my mother had confided to the housekeeper that she knew she had suffered a stroke and her time had come. She asked her not to tell us, and the housekeeper, who had known and loved my mother for years, understood why and honored her wishes. My mother knew that we would insist on getting her to the hospital, and she didn’t want to die in the hospital. She wanted to be at home, with her daughters and her precious granddaughters around her, in the warmth of those she loved and who loved her.
She didn’t want to miss the moment.