A Grandmother’s Gift: Lessons for a Life of Balance


    Editor’s Note:  Kari Hayden Pendoley, ESG | DEIB | Board Member | Female Founder | Fortune 50 Clients | Impact Savvy, joins us with her thoughts on Mother’s Day. Join me in welcoming her guest contribution to San Francisco Bay Area Moms.

    Written by,

    Guest Contributor, Kari Hayden Pendoley, of Impact Savvy

    As I look ahead to Mother’s Day, I am filled with both happiness and longing. I am the mother of a beautiful 7-year-old daughter. She is thriving, becoming her own wonderful person, with my husband’s laugh and my blue eyes. Those blue eyes came from my maternal grandmother, and the last time I got to look into those eyes was to say goodbye, one year ago on Mother’s Day, when she passed away at 97 years young.

    Dr. Barbara Helen Makaroff Hayden, affectionately called Barb or Babs, was a force in any room and most importantly in my life. Born in 1924 in Saskatoon, Canada, her father Peter Makaroff emigrated from Russia just 25 years prior. Peter was a member of the Doukhobors, nicknamed Spirit-Wrestlers*, a radical group of pacifists who after making non-conformist waves in Russia fled government persecution with financial assistance from Leo Tolstoy. Once in Canada, Makaroff broke with sect tradition by receiving a formal education and ensured his children did the same. Barb earned her bachelor’s degree in 1944 and received her medical degree in anesthesiology in 1948 both from the University of Toronto. In her medical school class photo, you can’t see those blue eyes in the black and white picture, but you can see her eyes beaming with pride as she stands together with only three other women in a group of a hundred men.

    In the final days of her life, my family took turns sitting with her, talking to her, and looking through her old photos. The pictures let me see a different version of my grandmother than I had known. Each photo captured a look on her face that embodies adventure and bravery. There were photos of her playing sports, in a two-piece bathing suit, acting in school play, dancing with many suitors, smoking in a big group of friends – all the things I am sure a young lady was discouraged to do given the era.

    This was a different side of Barb from what I had seen or maybe what I had imagined. During her medical residency at Vancouver General Hospital, she met my grandfather William (Bill) Hayden, a U.S. Navy man who was briefly posted to Vancouver in a rotating pre-med internship. The story from this point forward, as I had pieced together: Grandma met Grandpa, they got engaged, moved to the U.S., where he continued practicing medicine while she gave up her career to raise four children.

    Not that she didn’t have a chance to use her skills. My grandfather became the only doctor in the rural town of Big Creek, California. With no other medical facility for 50+ miles, and despite her Canadian credentials not permitting her to practice in the U.S., it was clear that patients were receiving two doctors for the price of one.

    Barb also performed surgery twice a year on hundreds of unsuspecting turkeys at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Her kitchen was her OR and I was her surgical first assistant. My eyes widened as she wielded her knife with precision and taught me surgical knots to secure the bird. She also transferred her surgical suture skills to sewing making at least four custom wedding dresses over the years for her daughters and granddaughters.

    Barb taught most of her kids and grandkids other medical basics. We could take our own blood pressure with a pump cuff and stethoscope, using the second hand on her wristwatch. Whenever I was too sick to go to school, I was at Barb’s because I had a doctor and teacher all in one go. She would diagnose my symptoms, monitor my vitals, and quickly pivot to an algebra lesson. Everyone knew she was the smartest one in the family and my parents would send me to her house during high school for help with advanced math and science.

    In the final days of her life, my memories of her began to rewrite themselves as a life filled with balance and joy. I recalled how she painted hundreds of watercolors, grew amazing daffodils, played a mean game of cribbage, taught me to golf, and took me to every local collegiate basketball game starting at the age of 4. She instilled in me a drive to pursue my best self. For the longest time, I pursued my best self through career achievement, something she didn’t get to do. But now I see her story for what it was, personal achievement through her vocation of medicine balanced with all her other talents and interests.

    I am two years into rebalancing my own life. I have shifted my values away from my self-imposed career-obsession, where I lived for so long. I am wrestling with my own spirit to build my own business that allows me to select client work that aligns with my values and leaves space to bring back the other pieces that bring joy to my life, like family, friends, cooking, and painting. I see Barb’s accomplishments, but more than anything now, I see her balance.

    I think of my grandmother often. I know this Mother’s Day will be especially hard for me and my family. There is a hole we are left with that will never be filled. Barb showed me what it meant to break the mold, challenge the status quo, and I am forever grateful for the time I had with her. The photo of Barb on my desk stares back at me with her blue eyes reminding me to be in balance. So it is easy when that other pair of younger blue eyes, from my daughter, walks into my office and asks if I can stop typing on my computer and play with her – my own blue eyes answer back “yes!”


    *The term “spirit-wrestlers” was first assigned to the Doukhobors by an Orthodox archbishop intending to mean “wrestlers against the Holy Spirit,” but the group adopted it, and reinterpreted it for themselves to mean “wrestlers for and with the Spirit.” Learn about their fascinating history of nude protests and burning of weapons to publicly demonstrate the commitment to their values.


    More About Contributing Writer, Kari Hayden Pendoley

    Kari Hayden Pendoley is a dynamic leader designing award-winning social impact programs rooted in empathy and equity, that also deliver a return on investment. For more than 20 years, Kari brings profit and purpose together for Fortune 5 companies, Nobel Laureates, Forbes Top 10 Self-Made Women, celebrated social entrepreneurs, and government agencies to advance the work of ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance), DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging).


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