Learning to celebrate

by Nikki Mark

I Never Thought This Day Would Come.

Something happened to me this past Mother’s Day that was so surprising—I have to share it with you.

I think what I’m about to say is going to make close friends and family very happy to hear. And for anyone who has lost someone they love, or is simply feeling lost at this very moment, I hope this story gives you hope that what just happened to me can happen to you too.   

First, some context.

A few weeks ago, on Mother’s Day, my family’s TM23 Foundation hosted a youth soccer tournament for 250 children across Los Angeles on Tommy’s Field. Between players and their families, coaches, referees, and volunteers, as well as friends and family who all dropped in for a hug, it’s safe to assume we had at least 750 people engaging in the spirit of play on a day that so painfully hard for some and incredibly special for others…Mother’s Day.

I’m thrilled to report that the event was a success on many levels, and that for me, spending Mother’s Day with friends, family, and the soccer community all in one place, was like medicine for my soul that no doctor or healer could ever prescribe.

Although the taco line got too long, the main parking lot got too full, and lots of teams had to lose in order for three to ultimately win it all…the colorful roses that were exchanged between children and parents lit up faces with love and appreciation; river rocks painted with thoughtful messages now adorn Tommy’s dedication plaque at the park; and coaches and parents, so often seen yelling and arguing on the field, were caught on camera smiling and laughing together exactly the way Tommy would have wanted them to. 

“Thank you for letting us be part of this day,” some went out of their way to say to me that afternoon.

“Please invite us back next year, we can’t wait to come back!” others emailed me that evening.

“This was the best Mother’s Day I’ve ever had,” one mother reached out, convincing me to make this an annual Mother’s Day event.

But it was forty-eight hours later, when I was still recovering from the event and engaging in some much-needed self-care, that a feeling came over me that I hadn’t felt in so long, I hardly recognized what it was.

As this feeling grew and started to burst through my chest, I turned to my dog Ginger, lying next to me on my bed and said, “Ginger, something is happening that I can’t believe.”

Although the expression on her face was stoic and calm, her brown ears stood up to listen, and her soulful amber eyes looked up at me as if to say, “Go on.”

I smiled back at her, rubbed the white star on her chest, and confided: “Ginger, I think I’m celebrating.”

I could hardly believe what I was saying.

She rolled on her back, prompting me to rub her entire belly as I continued to process the moment with her.

“Ginger, you know how soccer players celebrate after scoring a goal? Well, for the first time in six years, I feel like celebrating too. I’m celebrating not just the legacy of play that your brother has left for all of us, but I’m celebrating how I’m learning to play more too.”

As Ginger remained frozen on her back, I continued working through my emotions and explaining myself:

“I feel like I just scored a very important goal this Mother’s Day. I loved the event we hosted, and instead of quietly moving on to the next goal on my list the way I normally do, I’m going to let myself celebrate this one. No guilt. No shame. Just like soccer players celebrate their goals, Ginger, I’m going to celebrate mine.”

I repeated myself over and over again in all different ways, knowing Ginger wouldn’t judge me for it. The more I convinced myself that celebrating was not only important in soccer but also in life, the more I felt every cell in my body light up.

As Ginger’s eyes began to close, I reflected on some other major milestones I’ve encountered throughout my healing journey––like the day a smile genuinely spread across my face and surprised me with hope, and the time a belly-laugh crept up on me and liberated me from sadness.

But the notion that after losing a child I might someday feel a rush of unmitigated “joy” and allow myself to “celebrate” a goal I’d achieved…that was far beyond where I had ever let my imagination roam.

I thought about suppressing the feeling and reminding myself of the bittersweet reality of Mother’s Day. But then I thought about Tommy and all the hours he spent practicing his celebration moves in the mirror before gleefully revealing them publicly on the pitch. Celebrating, I realized, not only makes soccer more fun, it’s an essential part of the game.

I proceeded to tell Ginger (who wins the award for “Best Listener in the Family!”) that when soccer players score a goal in a match, some respond with backflips. Others slide across the field flexing their muscles. And even the most introverted players run and jump while their teammates lift them up and the crowd cheers.

And it doesn’t matter which player actually shoots the ball into the back of the net. There is a universal understanding that every goal is achieved by the entire team and all their coaches, families, and fans, and that each moment of success is best celebrated together.   

Since Tommy’s departure six years ago, I never thought the day would come when I’d allow myself to celebrate my very own goal. But because you are all a part of my team in one way or another, I’m learning that one of the very best things I can do is share this moment with you.

For any of you who have lost someone — or are feeling lost — and wonder if you will ever experience the desire to celebrate anything ever again, consider watching a soccer match and learning from the masters of celebration, one goal at a time. 

Leave a Comment

Ebook on meditation and mushrooms displayed on tablet.

Let's heal together!

Hi! If you are curious about the magic that happens when we heal our own hearts, you’re in the right place!

I created a welcome gift for you that over 25,000 people are now enjoying.

It’s a toolkit that highlights the most powerful alternative healing modalities I discovered during my 6 year healing journey.

Get your copy of “From Mediation to Mushrooms” today!

You have Successfully Subscribed!