Advice from a Mother Before Her Execution

I heard from my legal representative that you are doing well in school, and that you want to continue…I was very pleased. But even if you would one day have to leave school and to work for your livelihood, don’t stop learning and studying. If you really want to, you will reach your goal. I would have liked for you to become a medical doctor—you remember that we talked about it. Of course you will decide yourself and circumstances will, too. But if you stand one day in the traditional alma mater and carry home from graduation not only your doctor’s diploma, but also the real ability to bring people relief as a doctor—then, my little girl…your mother will be immensely pleased…But your mother would only be…truly happy, no matter where you stand, whether at the operating table, at the…lathe, at your child’s cradle or at the work table in your household, if you will do your work skillfully, honestly, happily and with your whole being.

My mother and I have been at odds with each other over many of the decisions I have made in my life, and my career has been one of those things. She’s a tiger mother, so she can’t help it, of course, so although she often insists she wants me to be happy, she also doesn’t understand why I didn’t decide to practice medicine (or understands the Internet, for that matter), but we have love and that is what counts. This is why I appreciated Milada Horáková’s letter to her 16-year-old daughter before being executed in 1950 (Horáková was a 48-year-old Czech politician accused of leading a plot to overthrow the Communist regime), and also her advice on love (“And don’t forget about love in your life…I am thinking of love without which one cannot live happily.”) and friendship (“Have your gang, little girl, but of good and clean young people. And compete with each other in everything good.”). I can’t imagine what it must have been like for her daughter to receive this letter.

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