renee-michelle-harris_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times — Pursuing my dreams takes on an especially poignant reality for me during the month of October. Because it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, memories of my late mother and her impact on my life are vivid. I feel her speaking to me, convincingly informing me of my obligation to get it right. Her message goes beyond the obvious entreaties for self-exams, mammograms and taking care of myself.

Her message is bigger, bolder.

She’s telling me to live my life with a sense of urgency. Not the rushed, “how does she do it all” fast-food mentality that would have me missing the forest for the trees. Not the people-pleasing, saying “yes” when I mean “no,” juggling act that leaves so many of us exhausted in mind, body and soul. She’s telling me that it’s really not a dress rehearsal and that giving my children an example of an authentic life is far more valuable than just giving them things.

My mother died when she was 38. In the grand scheme of womanhood, she was primed for a peak that never arrived. Women 40 and beyond know that something special happens after amassing four decades on the planet. Some of us feel it forming as we approach the big B-day, others discover in retrospect that we’ve changed, grown wiser, more confident — and as we try to track down the reason for the new pep in our step, we realize that we turned 40 and an inner Light was flipped to the “on” switch.

My mother’s message to me is full of all of that delicious 40-something moxie and then some.

Naomi Carter Hollinger wants me to activate and rely on my strong faith as though my life depends on it — because it does, an authentic life anyway. My mother hopes that I will take every single dream that God has placed in my heart and see them real, in rich, vivid Technicolor, with me marching towards them with certainty and conviction — and then savoring the success unapologetically.

She wants me to regularly set aside time to just be — feeling no obligation to go anywhere or to say anything, simply basking in the sacred silence. She’s reminding me of the power of forgiveness — that it frees us from the core as it frees up invaluable space for God’s blessings to arrive.

She’s reassuring me that her prayers for me didn’t stop when she died. She prays for all five of her children but her prayers for me, her only daughter, are different.

I get it.

She wants me to experience what she did not. She wants me take what I’ve been given and to make it into something more. She wants me to get out of my own way and allow God to work magic here, now.

She wants me to outlive her by far more than the 10 years that I have so far.

We mourn women who lost their battles to breast cancer not only because of who they were while they were here but also because of who they might have become. We, their descendants, their sons and their daughters, honor them by living our lives fully.

Renee Hollinger-Harris is a filmmaker. Her first feature film, Keisha’s Journey, is slated to begin production in early 2012. Learn more at, and for other information about Breast Cancer Awareness Month, log on to

Photo: Renee Michelle Hollinger-Harris