On the Meaning of Life

On the Meaning of Life post image

This week has been hard here. We’ve lost my Mom who was vibrant to the end, at a slower pace than predicted–with a painful ending no one should have to endure. Some of my Mom’s last words to me were “I just wish all this pain and suffering could help you write a really good blog post.” She was kidding of course, but what the heck.

And because life rhymes, while all this was going on, I was invited to participate in a project gathering points of view on the meaning of life. It’s an amazing line-up of powerful perspectives.

It’s quite an undertaking, and I’m still working on my contribution. 

I also know that our true testament of what we value is how we choose to live. Our daily actions prove what matters to us.

Reflecting on what matters–matters–because it provides us with a daily gut check as to whether we’re living that way.

What I saw as my Mom got sicker, was that what she valued and believed became crystal clear. With a morphine bag and from a hospice bed, I watched her repeatedly worry about the welfare of other people and improving the situations in their lives. Coaching the kid visiting from her church to pursue his musical talents, instead of hanging out with that crowd; wondering if all the flowers folks had sent could be re-used for the mother daughter luncheon she was still planning although she could not attend; apologizing because she wouldn’t be able to help watch Sebastian when I travelled.

And so as a tribute to my mom, Jean Kohlenstein, this Mother’s day, I share at least part of what I know gave her life meaning.

moms adviceShowing up strong and doing something every day to add value (and doing it with class).

Other things that gave her life meaning: her 50 year marriage, her children and grandchildren, friends, church, art, poetry, knitting, humor, cookies, baseball…

Who else wants to play? How would you sum up your perspective on the meaning of life?

Your turn. What do you think is the meaning of life?
Filed Under:   Everything Else
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.

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What People Are Saying

David Tumbarello   |   11 May 2015   |   Reply

I am sorry to hear about your loss. Seek out close friends and talk about her. And take care of yourself.

Life is about … We are remarkable species. The only species that can think constructive thoughts – about building and creating. The only species that can communicate and have symbols represent objects and feelings. We are the the only species that can make plans for the future and cherish the past – and create rituals to hold on to each. These elements — Our thoughts/ Our communication/ Our forward and backward thinking. Meaning might be wrapped in these elements.

In my opinion, life is easier when we are working for others, as I recall you telling about your mother & her plans. And life is easier when we walk with humility and continually grow. But the meaning of life … that’s difficult.

I believe the meaning is tied up in making something, creating something. With other people and For other people. Doing it alone is not enough. Doing this with others is special magic.

Karin Hurt   |   12 May 2015   |   Reply

David, Thanks so much. I love your beautiful thoughts on meaning. Namaste.

Philip   |   11 May 2015   |   Reply

Sorry to hear about your mother Karin
Thanks for sharing and living her values (Showing up strong…)
Warm regards

Karin Hurt   |   12 May 2015   |   Reply

Philip, Thanks so very much!

Jim Ryan   |   11 May 2015   |   Reply

Sorry Karin. :( Losing your mom must have been very hard.

For me, I probably think about the meaning of life everyday. I keep coming back to simply being fully awake to it all. To both the good and the bad, to the people I interact with, to my feelings, to nature. With all my efforts, I’m happy to be awake for maybe 20 mins.


Karin Hurt   |   12 May 2015   |   Reply

Jim, Thank you. I’m with you staying awake is tricky and awesome.

Sue Ceglinski   |   11 May 2015   |   Reply

Karin, while I don’t have an answer to your question (although David T. summed my thoughts up nicely in his comment), I do want to reach out and let you know I’m sorry for the loss of your mother. She sounds like a special lady and one that inevitably will keep an eye on everyone to ensure they are in their best place. My heart goes out to you and your family.

Karin Hurt   |   12 May 2015   |   Reply

Thanks so very much. Yes, David does have a wonderful way with words ;-)

amy rawe   |   11 May 2015   |   Reply

Oh Karin…I’m so sorry she’s gone and had to endure such pain. What a beautiful tribute to her you’ve shared here…Her light radiates through you, for sure. I’m wishing your whole family peace and gentle grace. I love you.

Karin Hurt   |   12 May 2015   |   Reply

Amy, Thanks so much.

bill holston   |   11 May 2015   |   Reply

First, very sorry for your loss, and I am so thankful you shared this part of your life with this community. Your mother must have just been so very proud of you.

Meaning of life, wow.
I can’t help but think of this in a spiritual way, and in my Christian faith tradition. I believe the meaning of life is to know experience and share God’s love. And that is best done by taking the words of the Gospel seriously in welcoming the refugee, feeding the hungry and clothing the naked.

Again, so sorry for your grief.

Karin Hurt   |   12 May 2015   |   Reply

Bill, Thanks so much. Beautiful.

Joy Guthrie   |   11 May 2015   |   Reply

I was saddened to read of your Mom’s passing. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this time.

Karin Hurt   |   12 May 2015   |   Reply

Thanks so much, Joy.

Steve Borek   |   11 May 2015   |   Reply

Karin, my condolences to you and your entire family. This must have been a very difficult time for everyone. My thoughts are with you.

Meaning of life is a heavy and deep question. I’d say -be happy now.- Don’t wait until you get the job, the girl/guy, the house, the boat, etc. Just be happy now.

Namaste my friend.

Karin Hurt   |   12 May 2015   |   Reply

Thanks so much, Steve. Namaste right back at you.

Terri Klass   |   11 May 2015   |   Reply

I am so sorry to hear about your mother’s passing, Karin. She sounded like an inspirational person who gave so much of herself to so many, especially her family. Her words and mantras will stay with you forever and that is how we keep those who have left us alive.

The meaning of life is being authentic and doing the best we can, using our heart and our mind.

Sending hugs and light, Karin. :(

Karin Hurt   |   12 May 2015   |   Reply

Terri, Amen. Thank you.

Kristy Powers   |   11 May 2015   |   Reply


I am so sorry for the loss of your mother. I am a faithful reader of your blog. I hope your writing helps you heal.



Karin Hurt   |   12 May 2015   |   Reply

Thanks so much. Yes, writing has great healing powers for me, as does this wonderful community.

Dr. Crystal Davis   |   11 May 2015   |   Reply

Wow Karin,

What a beautiful post and my heart goes out to you for your family. I have been the primary caretaker for my mother who now resides in a nursing home and so much of your post resonated with me. Thank you so much and I wish you peace and light! Thank God for you Mom!


Karin Hurt   |   12 May 2015   |   Reply

Thank you so much. Amen.

Paula Kiger (Big Green Pen)   |   11 May 2015   |   Reply

I am going to have to think about the answer to your question re: the meaning of life. But I wanted to go ahead and extend my condolences and thank you for what you have shared here. You will be in my thoughts; your mom sounds like quite a personality to emulate.

Karin Hurt   |   12 May 2015   |   Reply

Paula, Thanks so much. This whole meaning of life challenge is a fun one. I keep starting to write it, and talk myself out of it, and start again.

Carrie Koens   |   11 May 2015   |   Reply

Karin – I was so sorry to hear about your loss. This is a tremendous post honoring what sounds like an amazing woman. What a great lesson to take away. My prayers are with you and your family at this time.

What gives my life meaning is seeing the Hand of God on my life, and following the story He is writing for me, honoring Him in all that I do, and keeping an eternal perspective in the midst of worldly chaos.

Karin Hurt   |   12 May 2015   |   Reply

Carrie, thanks so much. Beautiful.

Greg Marcus   |   11 May 2015   |   Reply

Hi Karin,

I’m very sorry for your loss. My thoughts are with you, and I’ll remember you, your mom, and your family in my prayers.


PS I think the meaning of life is to assist in the task of repairing the world.

Karin Hurt   |   12 May 2015   |   Reply

Thanks, Greg. I love that! What a beautiful mission.

LaRae Quy   |   11 May 2015   |   Reply

My condolences, Karin. I am so sorry your mom has passed, and yet I am very happy that she is now free from pain and in a place where she can enjoy her surroundings.

You were able to perfectly capture her essence, however. She did help you write a great post because you were able to convey to us the importance of finding our own purpose in life, and I found her engagement with people around her to be very uplifting.

Thank you for sharing this difficult, and intimate, time in your life.

Karin Hurt   |   12 May 2015   |   Reply

Thanks so much, LaRae. I so appreciate your friendship.

Alli Polin   |   12 May 2015   |   Reply

Just want to say that I’m thinking of you and your family. I’m so sorry about the loss of your mom.

The meaning of life is definitely found in our time with the people who matter most. Living, creating memories and sharing loving moments.

~ Alli

Karin Hurt   |   12 May 2015   |   Reply

Thanks so much, Alli. Beautiful.

Alma Escamilla   |   12 May 2015   |   Reply

Karin, I’m inspired by the support that surrounds you. My personal Thanks to Jean for showing up strong and being the literal meaning of “LetsGrowLeadership”, she really did it!! Your strength in writing today’s piece is a beautiful tribute. The Meaning of Life is so hard to describe as it keeps becoming more grand. All the messages keep me saying, Wow and Awesome!! “A Heart of Service” is my answer, no matter your heart’s current beat even if slow and sorrowful is the most amazing gift. Karin, you never stop serving. We’re all holding your hand Sister. Peace be with you.

Karin Hurt   |   12 May 2015   |   Reply

Alma, I am deeply touched by your message. Thanks so much. Namaste.

zafar manzoor   |   12 May 2015   |   Reply

I am impressed to read this article.
I appreciate the great saying of your mother which is a guideline / benchmark for everyone even the head of states altogether.
I hope you will recover soon from the sufferings and the feelings of big loss due to the death of your beloved mother.

Karin Hurt   |   13 May 2015   |   Reply

Zafar, Thank you so very much. I’m with you, we could use more of this confident, humble approach at the top. Namaste.

Stephen Ballard   |   13 May 2015   |   Reply

My perspective on the meaning of life is very simple – perpetuate human existence. Live your live in a positive manner to strengthen not only your live, but the lives of the people that you have contact with.

Karin Hurt   |   13 May 2015   |   Reply

Stephen, thanks so much. Beautiful.

Dad   |   13 May 2015   |   Reply

Thank you Karin. I am keenly aware right now how one person can embody so much of the meaning of life for another.

Karin Hurt   |   13 May 2015   |   Reply

Dad, it’s been amazing to watch you and Mom through this difficult and intimate time. The meaning of our lives is certainly intertwined. I love you.

Lisa Hamaker   |   13 May 2015   |   Reply

Know you are in my heart Karin as you move forward. I LOVE what your mom said. I am crying now partly for your loss, and partly for the joy of her wonderful encouragement and how it reminds me of my folks, and how lucky we are to have parents like that.

At my uncle’s service a couple of years ago, I asked his brother to tell me his favorite story about Uncle Spence. Soon everyone was laughing and crying, even the teenagers left the TV and came to tell and hear stories.

My perspective on the meaning of life is to make lemonade from lemons, or champagne. Guess who I learned that from?