Growing up with my family in England, I never really appreciated my mother until later in life when I had to deal with life’s challenges and change. Her wise words resonate to this day.
Mieke Frankenberg didn’t so much talk the talk, but walk it. She was born in Deventer, Holland, and raised by a very Victorian chief of police father and beautiful but emotionally damaged mother. At 20, my mother married the first boyfriend she’d ever had and left for Indonesia to live on a tea plantation. She literally lived in a jungle with little social interaction, and her husband was very abusive. One day, she confided in a friend who told her to run, so she left not knowing what she would do.
The war broke out soon after, and she stayed to support her best friend who was pregnant. They both ended up in the same Japanese internment camp. Three-and-a-half years later, having used her Red Cross nursing skills and basic ability to talk and calm the people who were dying, she realized that her will to live came from being needed by others who were far worse off. She always told me that in times of great challenge, accept what is happening and look to see what you can do to help others. By doing that, you have a purpose in life and by opening your heart, love will find its way in.
The stories my sisters and I have heard about our mother during those years were so inspirational. She gave her limited rations to pregnant or lactating mothers and found a way to catch flying ants, snakes and snails and cook them on the back of a discarded iron. Growing up, I saw her spend a large part of every day, until the day she died, caring about how her friends were coping with the ups and downs of life. She would talk for hours with friends who were blind, and she would open her home to single mothers, allowing their kids to join in with our family.
Every time I have had to deal with an unexpected challenge in my life, she would inspire me to get out of my head and accept the circumstances. She would always encourage me to open my heart when it was desperate to close off and realize that I could help others instead of hanging on to something that was over and done.
I’ve learned to grow from adversity and take it as an opportunity for positive change in my life, and that has been so important for me that my family and I created the Open Hearts Foundation to honor those who live with that philosophy and inspire those of us who are hurting and stuck in our pain.
The funds we raise through the Open Hearts Foundation go directly to nonprofits that were founded or supported by Open Hearts Award recipients. These people, famous and unknown, lead us by their example — the example that my mother gave me to live with an open heart.
– Jane Seymour