When Michelle Moore went in for what she calls her “mid-life crisis breast lift,” she wasn’t expecting to walk out with a cancer diagnosis and a double mastectomy three weeks later.
Then, as she was recovering from that surgery, Michelle’s 7-year-old son was rushed to the hospital, where he nearly died from a new diagnosis of type 1 juvenile diabetes. The following year was hell, to say the least: 17 chemo treatments, 5 surgeries, weekly appointments with 5 specialists to help her son learn how to deal with 10 pricks a day and 5 daily shots of insulin, and 3 ambulance calls to their home.
This single mom of 3 boys wanted to just run away and pretend none of it was happening: the pain, the fear, and the bills. She wondered, why is there not a place, a person, or something to come in and ease my burden?
Grateful that they were both still alive, Michelle was compelled to make changes in her life and make a difference in the lives of others. So she founded Mother’s Grace, a nonprofit that addresses the critical needs of mothers and their children in the midst of tragic life events like she had recently experienced.
Our mothers sacrifice and save us, nurture and heal us, guide and teach us. And at each stage, they must learn to let go. Along with her own personal story, Michelle shares the stories of 11 amazing women and how they learned this lesson in the cruelest sense after a profound loss of life, home, health, or livelihood brought them to their knees in her new book, A Mother’s Grace: Healing the World One Woman at a Time.
1) What advice would you give to women in a crisis?
I would always say find your faith. It looks different to everyone. Grace will lead you to do the right thing versus trying to place your controlled M.O. on everything that feels forced, difficult, and pain filled. Find people that can support you unconditionally, a “posse” that just shows up without being asked. You must have two to three “go-to” women that you can call and they will drop what they are doing and come to your aid.
2) This is a fearful time. What is your advice for women who are letting fear hold them back?
Fear is a manifestation in your mind based on your history and experiences and your need to control the feelings that come from sadness and anxiety. The very best advice I have ever received on fear is to surrender and feel every bit of it. Dr. Claire Weekes, an Australian physician says: “Face your fear, accept it; don’t run from it.”
3) In your book A Mother’s Grace, you pose the question, What is your Grace? What is grace, and how can women call upon grace to inspire them and get them through difficult times?
Grace is that magic that comes from surrendering to God’s/the Universe’s plan for you. So, for example, if I am in crisis and I am riddled with anxiety and trying to figure out what I am going to do and just ruminating over and over to the point of paralysis, grace comes when you pray/pause and reflect, let go, and surrender to God’s plan/the forces of life’s grand plan, Grace is what happens next…things happen out of the complete blue that you had no hand in and beautiful favor in your life, the way God / destiny has planned for you.
4) How can women be change agents in their own communities?
Women do not have to start a 501c3 to be change agents. You can bake cookies for an assisted living facility, take homemade food to a family that is dealing with crisis, be a sponsor, or write a lovely email to someone who is experiencing grief. Do something. If we all did one small thing for someone once a month, the world would be a different place.
5) Why did you write this book?
I felt a calling and it came in a dream. I put it down 100+ times (over an 18-year span, plus being a wife, mom to 3 kids, and senior VP at a big company – there was not a lot of spare time!) and had no belief in myself, but it was God’s plan for me. When I released, grace came next in the form of some unexpected support or help to get it to the next place. It is all about God and his plan for me and nothing else.
6) Why did you start Mother’s Grace organization?
Moms are truly the backbones of their families and they need a community to lean on. I was in a crisis dealing with my own cancer and child with a life-threatening illness. I was diagnosed with cancer at the same time as two other friends (moms my age) and they both died within a year. I could not for the life of me figure out why I was spared. They were both such wonderful women and way more wonderful than I. In some ways I felt like I needed to earn my spot on this Earth and do something good with my time.
7) What lessons do you have for women philanthropists who want to start their own entities?
Surround yourself with women who are givers, doers, and who have no personal agenda but to help others. Capitalize on each woman’s individual gifts and you will have the puzzle pieces to make something beautiful. It is truly who you surround yourself with. One lesson I learned is that you cannot do it all yourself. You need a cohort of strong and assertive women to support and take a piece. If you trust them and they know their “stuff,” let them run with it. No micromanaging needed at all.
8) What lessons have you learned from your hardships?
I am a glass-half-full person so during a hardship I always always look for the “lemonade” or what I am grateful for. As we get older, there is a wisdom that comes from the understanding that things work out the way they are supposed to if you let them. I look back on my deepest hurts and hardships and wish sometimes I knew what I know now–that they all work out in the right timing, not always the way we wanted at the time but the way it is supposed to be.
Also, more importantly than anything, I have learned how to be there for others. I have been through traumatic loss, horrific illness, crippling anxiety, paralyzing worry, and monumental change and disappointment. Some days I feel like there is nothing I can’t relate to when talking with another–and more important–“listening to another”. My presence, my consideration, and, many times, action without being asked is the most important thing you can do for another. It is definitely not “all about me.” I get that now, and that is the most important lesson I think we can all learn.
9) How can we teach our children to be empathetic and giving?
Expose your children as young as possible. I take my kids everywhere and always have. I took them to NOLA to help clean up after Hurricane Katrina and to Africa to work in an orphanage. However, even more important than anything on a large scale, is doing small things consistently in your own community. Model, model, model. Adopt families during the holidays, have the kids work at soup kitchens, have them give up part of their allowance to donate to their favorite charity. Have your kids write thank you notes. This manifests gratefulness and accountability. Keep them involved in a spiritual community. Take them out into nature and teach them to respect it. I think having kids be responsible for a pet teaches such compassion and responsibility. I ask my kids this question all of the time, and they answer that watching what I did influenced them and they all practice empathy and giving in their own ways (I could not be more proud). Let your children give in the way that resonates most with them and it will take on a life of its own.