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What Going Silent Taught Me About Losing My Mom

by Tammi Leader
 ∙ May 13 ∙ 6 Min Read

Last month I spent four days with my kids in complete silence, at a meditation retreat led by Anne “Sussy” Sussman. And what I learned during those 96 hours of silence is this: that loud voice between my ears got as loud as it did because it had been trying to be heard for a while.

Now, after a few weeks back, I am just wrapping up (I think?) the processing of what I heard and what I felt during that retreat, as I prepare for Mother’s Day — my 34th as a mom, and my 4thf without my mom. I am reminded of how much of who I am is tied to being a mom, and having mine.

This little story is in loving memory of my mom (Campowerment’s co-founder), Joan “Grandy” Leader.

. . . .

On the last night of our 4 days of silence, my head was spinning from all the noise that I had muffled…the noise which had, apparently, unhooked from my unconscious over the weekend so I had to finally hear it.

Sussy was leading a Mountain Meditation, taking us through the life cycle of our favorite mountain — from when the dinosaurs roamed, long before we got to enjoy it — in order to help us better understand the notion that no matter what happens to us, nothing can take us down, unless we let it. That we are strong, our spirits: timeless, and that: as small as we are in the scheme of things, we are big in someone’s view.

I saw Beaver Creek Mountain in Colorado, the one where so many of my family’s childhood memories were formed. 

I began to imagine this majestic mountain that we had hiked up and skied down together for decades. I could even picture this mountain existing billions of years ago, its presence having quite a legacy. One I had never ever thought about until right then.

As time passed in my mind, I took that mountain through the thousands of snowstorms and torrential rains that could have rocked its foundation. Picturing lightning taking down trees, leaving fertile ground for more to eventually grow in their place. 

And as my brain tried to play games with reality, I unconsciously began to understand that no storm was ever big enough to take down my mountain. Or any mountain that I knew of, actually.

Then, Sussy threw a wrench into my vision: she told us to imagine that WE were the mountain. And to consider that no matter what challenging elements or circumstances are unexpectedly thrown our way, nothing can ever take us down. 

And that’s when I lost it.

I imagined all those years of climbing Beaver Creek Mountain with my mom, which, with time and age, turned into the many Sundays walking the art shows or lunching at the base of our mountain. We were mesmerized by that glorious mountain every time we brought our clumsy Florida kids to ice skate on the rink at the mountain’s base; every time we made s’mores in the large fire pit under the stars; every time we lied on a blanket, listening to Broadway tunes belted out by the local Philharmonic.

Our family at Beaver Creek Mountain circa 1996

at the peak of that meditation, I realized that it was not beaver creek, but my mom that had always been my favorite mountain. And now, in her memory and legacy, I stand in her place.

For three and a half years since my mom died, I’ve been trying to deflect all the storms that have come for us — or seemed to be headed in our direction. Caring for my dad, along with my sister, and our kids…trying to navigate anything, everything, that threatened to rock our foundation. 

I left the meditation in tears, as I had still not let go of the notion that, although I do feel my mom’s presence with me, she ain’t never coming back to be this mountain in that way again. That it was me who would keep standing here.

It’s taken a few weeks for that concept to settle in. And it’s not been easy. But I’m finally feeling OK enough to understand that this life, this mountain, is the metaphor for my life. Not my mom’s. Or my kids’. 

And that although I may not stand as this mountain in the way that she did, I am the mountain now, in whatever form I choose to be it. 

This summer, I will head back to my favorite mountain with my family, for the first time in a very long time. And I will sit at the base of Beaver Creek and imagine a giant magnet pulling out all my fears that come with being the mountain for so many, and depositing them into the ground, to be absorbed by all the healthy nutrients that have kept this mountain alive, and safe from harm, for thousands of years.

I will count my blessings for this mountain that has shown me what strength looks like, in the face of many storms.

. . . . . . .

My wish for you this Mother’s Day is to take some time to allow your favorite mountain, and its history, to become your teacher. 

She got here long before you did, and she’ll still be standing long after you and your descendants are gone. Learn from her, and let her power inspire you, to stand tall and take the hits that may never stop coming, but may be the seeds that will inspire your own growth.

. . . . . . .

Whatever storms are in your way; whatever source of your learning, your strength, your exploration – I invite you this Mother’s Day to explore in community. Even in silence (rare within Campowerment’s gates), big revelatory moments are better felt in community.

If you’re ready for a dose of that community, join us for some Earth-shakin’ programs, with experts, our best selves and each other, this month.

If you’re ready to collect what you need to move mountains in person, join us September 28-October 1 in the Poconos to find true belonging, connect with your greatest contribution, and get ready to do the damn thing — whatever that may be.

S’more Info on Classic Camp


To the mountains we climb – the mountains we surround ourselves with – the mountains we are.

From the campfire & beyond,

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