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Once in a while, we see a headline so jarring, it stays with us.


We think to ourselves.


How can anyone carry on after going through something like that? And that question led me to the conversation you are about to hear. Nicole Avant survived the unimaginable. Yet in meeting her, I'd never know the weight she's carrying. Nicole is not somebody who's defined by her tragedy. Instead, she's defined by the legacy she's carrying on. Nicole has succeeded in so many different fields, from entertainment to politics to philanthropy. But at her core, the title that suits her best is Clarence and Jacqueline Avant's daughter. Though you may not know her father, Clarence Avant by name, you probably do know and love his work. He was a music legend and an entertainment mogul, livingly known as the Black Godfather. Nicole grew up surrounded by some of the most extraordinary artists of our time. Bill Withers, Quincy Jones and Sidney Poitier. Nicole's mom, Jacqueline Avante, was a legendary philanthropist. She turned their home into a place of refuge and inspiration for a generation of geniuses and always modeled the importance of service for her children. Nicole drew from her upbringing to create a noteworthy career of her own as a philanthropist, diplomat, filmmaker, actress, and author. But everything changed for Nicole one night in 2021 when the unthinkable tragedy struck.


Her mother was fatally shot during a failed home invasion. She was 81 years old at the time. It seems impossible that anyone could go on after a loss like that. But Nicole channeled her grief with grit, grace, and gratitude her parents instilled in her, going on to write a beautiful memoir. Think you'll be happy. Sadly, while writing this book, Nicole lost her father. Nicole beautifully articulates her experiences and all the ways love and loss can intertwine. Nicole shares her journey with me, reflecting on managing her grief, finding forgiveness, and moving ahead when the people who defined you and guided you are no longer physically here. Lessons we can all learn from. I'm Hoda Cotby. Welcome to my podcast, Making Space.


First of all, I'm so happy to be sitting across from you. I'm honored that you're sitting here. We have so much, I think, beautiful ground to cover.


Thank you. Thank you for having me.


It's a big deal to take your life and not just your life, but your parents'.


Life and.


Put it into the pages of a book. This is your story. But the title is Think You'll Be Happy. I love the title. Will you explain why that title was the one you chose for this.


Particular moment? My mom, Jacqueline, was talking, actually. We were texting that night. We were texting on a Tuesday night, and she said, Your father, unfortunately, brought back home the sweet potato pride that I gave to you for Thanksgiving. She was so obsessed about me getting pie back. I said, Mom, okay, don't worry, relax. I'll get the pie. It's interesting because I was typing her back a little sarcastically that night. Thank God I listen to my intuition. I was like, She's not going to think that's funny, just for some reason. I was like, Delete, delete, delete. I just said, Okay, mom, made it cool. I gave her her favorite emojis that she loved. I took a bath. And her last words to me were... So her response was, okay, think you'll be happy. I never heard from her again, never saw her again. And when we were putting this book together, I had already been writing on gratitude and Grace. It was everything that my parents embodies. It was about the American spirit, I thought. And then when she passed, I thought, I can't put a book out on just gratitude and Grace. There's got to be, what are we going to do?


And then once the team realized, once we all realized, wait a minute, her last text, Think You'll Be Happy, yes, in that moment, it was about a sweet potato pie. But now that she's no longer with us, it now became my mantra. My mantra for resilience, my mantra to show up in life, my mantra to move forward. Think you'll be happy.


By the way, brilliant. That should be on T-shirts and all over. Think you'll be happy.


Think you'll be happy.


I want to get to everything. Let's just back up because you talk about your mom and dad, my mom and dad like there are mom and dad. But your mom and dad, I have to say, were a little different than the rest of our parents maybe. Your mom and dad were people who were very, very, very well known. You grew up in a home, and I was trying to imagine it when I was reading the pages of this that you walked in your house sometimes and there was Quincy Jones or there was Oprah or there was Whitney Huston or this was a gathering place. Who were your parents for those who don't know?


Clarence and Jacqueline Avante were my parents. My dad was a big music executive and was a music manager and producer and all these. My mom was a great philanthropist and both met here in New York. They started their magic here in New York and then brought it to California. They were involved in sports and entertainment and arts and music, obviously. And what they did with that, though, which I loved and I didn't understand it when I was young, but they opened the door for everybody else who wanted to also be successful, for everybody who wanted to achieve the American dream for everybody who wanted American progress. So Sidney Portier would be in the House as well, or Senator Ted Kennedy. But what I loved about all of them was that they weren't famous people trying to be great. They were great people first, and they just happened to be famous and they wanted the best for other people, and they knew that they were all blessed. They knew that they all were given very specific assignments and opportunities that without serving others and blessing other people with what they had, that it was going to be a waste.


And that's what my mother lived for. I mean, she lived by that rule of blessings are supposed to be shared. You should enjoy your blessings, but you can't hoard them. You have to share them. So they love seeing people's dreams come true. They made magic for everybody who, for whatever energy was in that home, it was everybody, Muhammad Ali, everybody. Everybody showed up and everybody was for everybody. There was a difference. Everybody was rooting for each other. Everybody made sure that they would talk about their ancestors and talk about the people who came before them and talk about everybody and civil rights that doesn't have a name to their face. But they knew we're all here.


Those precious conversations that were happening in your living room, those moments of watching people who, like you said, were already great people and fame was secondary or tertiary, even it wasn't even in the top. That's right. What was that like? Now, I can imagine walking in, but as.


A little girl and.


Bearing witness to this, how did you see what was happening and your place in all.


Of this? It was interesting because at first, I actually really didn't understand the magnitude of what I had and what the energy was that was actually showing up in my house. So when I was younger, I was always thinking, Why are all these people always at my house? I wish I could just have my mom and dad by myself. Then I realized as I was getting older, it was my friends' reactions when they come over for a play date.


Who freaked.


Them out the most? It was, I think, Jermaine Jackson. There was one girl who almost passed out. She just passed out. Then Randy Jackson, I thought I was going to marry him. But Harry Bellafonte was at the house, and my friend Andrea's mom was driving us to the house. She said, Andrea, you and Nicole got in trouble at school. You are not sleeping at Nicole's house. You're on punishment. We're dropping and we're not going to call home. So she drives up, and Harry happens to be standing in the driveway with my father, just talking. And she pulls up and this is, is that Harry Bellafonte? And I said, How do you know Harry Bellafonte? That's how ignorant I was. I was maybe 11 or 12 years old and I said, How do you know him? And she said, Is that Harry Bellafonte? And I said, Yes. And she looked at Andrew. She said, You can stay. I'll be back with your clothes. Don't you worry. But I did have a moment, Hoda, where I thought, Uh-oh, what am I supposed to do with my life? What am I going to do with... I remember looking at my brother, I'm like, I think we have to do something.


We didn't know. And my parents were great. They just said, do whatever.


But did they...


Although they said they wanted you to be happy, I would imagine having parents like yours, as successful as they were, they set expectations.


They expected you.


They had expectations.


Of you. High expectations because my mom was a big believer and lover of history, and she wanted me to honor my ancestors. She said, There are people that you will never be able to thank in person. And you are a free woman because of those people. People sat in for you. They marched for you. They were enslaved for hundreds of years, and they didn't give up. And you are the promise of all of these people before you. The least you can do is live a life. Give them a life. You owe them a life. And she really... It was her. She said, You can never forget history because it's significant. And then her big thing was everyone is important. Everybody is here for a reason and everyone has meaning. It doesn't matter about the title. She made very sure that I didn't attach myself because I'd say, I want to be this and I want to be called this. And she said, No, you want to be a really good person with great character moving through the world. That's what you want. Whatever title, that's the icing of it. But the cake is what you need to be.


But I would look at... She had this great wall I always talk about, and it was Ida B. Wells and Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglas and Booker T. Washington. So she'd say, every day when you walk by this, you'll know what stalk you come from. You'll know who you come from so you can survive.


Your mom is, when you talk about her just not just her in general, but her service, you learned not because she told you to do things. You learned probably because you watched her and said, Oh, because I have young kids. I've adopted two children, so I'm trying to... I'm like, How can I make them more of service? And X, Y, and Z. And I'm like, Oh, I think I know. Just do what I do.




Be of service.


Be of service.


And I remember I asked Maria Shriver, who's a good friend of mine and her whole families of service. And I said, What did your mom do? How did your mom and dad, because her dad started the Peace Corps and her mom started the Special Olympics. And she said they never mentioned the word service. They just did it.


They just did it.




That similar? 100 %. They just did it. My mom just did it. I was out with her in Watts all the time in California. We'd leave Beverly Hills. And she didn't say, We're going to go serve the children in Watts. She had books in the car. She had tapes, casettes, anything they needed. They wanted music, they wanted books, they needed tutoring. It was, We aregoing, we're going. But I just watched my mom be of service, and that made the biggest difference in the world because then it didn't feel like service. Then it became, this is how you move in the world. This is life. Yeah, this is life.


Did you, when you have very busy parents, and I think anyone who's listening who's got two working parents, no matter what the field is, did you feel seen as a young girl in your home, given how everything must have been.


Good question. Yes. It's interesting. My mom, I used to tell her, I said, Oh, my gosh, you were like a helicopter, but a different helicopter parent to the point where she's like, What are you doing? Where are we going? What are you doing? She loved putting me in situations that I was uncomfortable. So a new camp with no friends from school. I'd say, Mommy, I don't want to be here. She said, No, you're going to be uncomfortable for maybe a week, and you can't come home, and you're going to learn to make new friends. I have to put you in uncomfortable situation. So she told.


You what she.


Was doing. Yes. But I definitely felt seen because when I was younger, I didn't appreciate it because I felt it was just so much of, Can I just take a break today? Sometimes like, Mom. And then now I look back and she knew everything. She knew my schedule. She knew I needed a tutor in geometry. She showed up for me all the time. So that's how she showed her love was being involved in school projects and making sure I had everything. She knew where I was, what I was doing, what classes I was doing. So I did feel seen for sure.


Your father was a huge music executive. What did you call him? The Black Godfather? Yes, the Black Godfather. Which is your documentary. Yes, very cool.




Was he like as a professional person? How did you as a little girl? We all see our dads and we watched them navigate. How did you view him when you were younger?


I saw the movie, It's a Wonderful Life. My mom had me watch it every Christmas, and it really did become one of my favorite movies. I love the theme of the movie. Then the angel in the movie happens to be named Clarence. As a young girl, I went, Oh, that's what he does. That's what my dad does. I looked at him like the Wizard of Oz. He's a man that loves making people's dreams come true. Because I could never pinpoint exactly, he was in so many things. He was a real entrepreneur. He tried everything. Some things he was great at and some things didn't work, but he was always putting his energy out there. But his greatest life experience was seeing other people's dreams.


Come true. Describe when.


That happened. Like Hank Aaron. Hank Aaron was going to break Beirut's record, and my father didn't know him. But he kept saying, Where is his endorsement deal? Wait, he's supposed to have an endorsement deal. He called Ambassador Andrew Young and said, Do you know him? He said, Yeah. He lives around the corner. He said, I need to meet him because he's about to break the record of Beirut. But there's nobody behind him. My dad took him to the President and went up to the Coca-Cola offices, went up to the President's office. He got one of the biggest endorsement deals ever at that time. And the beauty of that story for me is that Hank and his wife ended up starting a scholarship foundation for children and putting people through school. So that's what I always was able to see from great people like Hank Aaron or Bill Withers or any of them. They all gave back. They all turned around and passed the baton and shared their blessing. Yeah.


Oh, my God. That's so beautiful. Also just to say, what about that person? And why doesn't that one has... So tell me about how your dad was viewed in that circle. Was everyone waiting for your dad to call?


Always. I mean, the phone constantly was ringing. And it was always, Can you fix this? Can you do this? Can you help open this door? Can you introduce me to this person? He and Quincy had it in spades. I mean, it was both of them. All of us kids would look at them like, What are you guys doing? You're always opening a door. You're always taking a meeting. But they felt this genuine responsibility. I think Quincy and Clarence couldn't believe the lives that they ended up having, and they just knew, oh, wait, you know what? If we stop this train, this train might stop for everybody. So we're going to answer every call. We're going to open as many doors as we can. And they did. And it was really great to watch because it's taught me to move through life like that. I love seeing it happen to people, too.


Being the daughter of such incredible people. You said there was like, What.


Are we going.


To do? You and your brother, how are we going to do? How did you navigate that?




You have to find your own voice because.


Those are big shadows. There's big shadows. And thank God for my parents for telling us our shoes are already filled. My dad would say, I'm in my shoes, so you don't have to try to film. Really? Thank you. Okay. And he would say, my parents made a commitment to put my brother Alex and I in as many different situations as possible and that we would find our way.


What were some of the situations?


Imean, my mom, well, first of all, she said, you're going to work at a very, very young age and you're going to work in service. I need you to work as I want you to be a waitress. I was a waitress. I was a hostess. I sold shoes. I worked at a dry cleaner. I did everything before I was 21 because she said, you will not understand people and basic humanity until you are in service of others. And then you will see the best of humanity and the worst of humanity. And I did as a waitress. What was your first job? Oh, my goodness. I would come home some days laughing and then some days crying. These people were so mean to me today. I'd say, Hello and welcome. No one would look up from their menu. You felt invisible. But the best gift that they gave me was to never make someone feel like that because I had already had the experience.


You knew what that.


Was like. I knew what it felt like.


I was just thinking also anything that came.


With, Oh.


You're so and so's child. Yes.


That was erased.






Every other.


Kid, every other person. My mom made sure. She said, I want to make sure that you'd never get... Some doors will be open to you because you are Clarence, you are a child. But I never want your ego to get so inflated that you feel that you deserve it and you become entitled. Her biggest fear was entitlement. So she'd say, Listen, I'm going to raise you guys this way. Now, you could choose to be entitled, but I'm not going to let the world think that I raised you entitled. That's the one thing she really... She said, That's not okay. Being a brat is not okay. Being a bully is not okay.


Right. Did you guys have chores when you.


Were kids? All the time. Yeah. Yes, sure. Is the making up the bed was a big thing for my mom. You make up that bed before you leave the house. But I did dishes every time I came home. Everything. You take out the trash, all.


Of it.


All the things. All the things are important. When I went to college, she would always say, Oh, Nicole, don't complain. It's home training. This is home training. This is what it's called. And she said, You'll be so happy to see what I've given you once you go to college. And she was right. I had roommates in the dorms. They didn't know what to do. They didn't know. They didn't know how to make up a bed. They didn't know how to take out the trash. You're like, Who are you people? How are you not surviving? How do you not know how to.


Do this? What did you study in college?


Communications. Yeah. And I wanted to be a broadcast. I wanted to be on the news. I studied broadcast journalism, and I loved it. I studied psychology. Interesting. I really love psychology. And my mom said, try everything. Let's see where you land. But I also loved music because it was in my blood. And so the first job out of college was at A&M Records. Oh, right. Because I actually met Bobby Shriver, Maria's brother, and he was working on the Special Olympics albums. And he taught me, it was the first time where I really saw you could do what you love, which is music and be in music and work with artists. But then also put something else out into the world that helps other people, that serves other people. It was the first time that I saw it- Those two together. Yeah, and it was great. It was.


Really great. Wow. So you venture out of college and you work there for a bit and then.


What happened? Yeah. So I worked at Adenham Records and then I had a couple of jobs and I worked at Warner Brothers television. And then I worked as a counselor, as a high school counselor, as a student counselor, as a mentor down at USC, and that's where the psychology of it came in. I was able to work with students for a few years and help get them on the right path. And then politics just came knocking.


On the door. They came knocking on.


The door. Now, that must have been such an interesting and exciting time for you. You became an ambassador. I mean, to get the phone call from President Obama must have been like, Wait, what? So tell me.


About that story. I've said a few people from his team kept calling saying, Listen, hey, you've done all this. You were the Finance Chair from California. He's now in the White House. How are you going to continue to serve? What are we going to do? And then I kept saying, Oh, no, I don't want to do anything. I actually want to take a break.


For a minute. Yeah, I.


Need it. And then my husband, Ted, said, No, when the President calls, you say yes. He's asking you to serve and he's asking you to represent him overseas. I said, Ted, we just got married. I'm tired on this. He said, Who cares? This is nothing. You have to say yes. And it was really Ted who convinced me and then my parents, of course. My mother is like, Oh, this is fabulous. This is exactly what I've dreamed of.


You were the ambassador.


To the Bahamas.


To the Bahamas.


And. It was fantastic. I was 40 years old.


Did you have children at.


That point? Yes, I had two children through Ted, so two step-children. And they were 12 and 14 when I met them. So they were young and excited, though. So it was a whole new chapter, but everything in my life was new. 40 was my year of just saying I'm saying yes to everything. So Ted came in at 40. I said yes. The Bahamas, everything I just said yes.


I love that. A friend of mine called that repotting.


I love that.


You've had a certain life you've had roots in. And then every now and then we all need repotting. We need a new place to be, a place to grow, a freshness that comes with it. And and it sounded like that's what that.


Gave you. Yeah. I just put new seeds out there and new seeds out and a harvest came and it.


Was great. And your communication with your parents during all this time, did you still call them for advice or how did the.


Relationship change?


I did. I did call them for advice a lot, and especially during the Bahamas. During my tenure in the Bahamas, my mom was great because the first thing she said, I said, I'm so nervous. I have to meet all these ministers. She said, Go meet somebody from the Special Olympics. She said, Do they have a Special Olympics there? I said, Yes. And she said, Meet the President. Just get into what you love first to make yourself feel a little comfortable. So you love my mom always anywhere we went, it could be Paris, it could be London, anywhere we traveled, Africa, where's the orphanage? She always took us to an orphanage. She took us to orphanages and museums. In the same day, my mom always looked for, My children need to see people without and my children need to see art. But it was always, this is life. This is see how this is. Life is everything. It's all mixed up. But these orphans are just as important as you are, and you need to see them. She didn't want me just reading about things. So anywhere where she could show me and any time they had allowed us, because some places were like, They're too young, you can't obviously come in.


How old.


Were you guys?


Oh, young. I mean, maybe eight and 10 and 16 again. And then we went on tour. My dad promoted the Michael Jackson Bad tour. So we went all over Europe for that tour.


Did you know Michael? Yes, of course, you did. I don't know. I just wanted to hear that.




I ask, how is your mom so knowledgeable? Because to be that a mother.




Know, because we can have our values, but to be.


Able to teach that, just that gesture.


I have no idea. She was so smart and wise beyond her years. She was born here in Jamaica, Queens, on her kitchen table, on the kitchen table. And she modeled and she did everything. She would love science and math. And her mom, my grandmother, Zela, said, You can make a little extra money modeling, which she did. She loved history so much that she'd study from around the world. She'd study Great American Women and she wanted to be an editor. My mom dreamt of being a newspaper editor or a book editor. She was in the library all the time. And she studied these women to the point where she said, I'm going to move through the world like that. I ran into someone in Queens. She took me to Queens once when I was younger to see her family. This woman said, Oh, my gosh, it's Jacqueline gray. It's Jacqueline gray. I said, Who's Jacqueline gray? My mom said, That's my maiden name. She said, We loved you. We were so proud of you because my mom would model and do all these advertising. And then she'd say, And you marry Clarence Avon? And my mom would say, Yes.


She said, You're Jackie A now. You are our Jackie A. And that's when I knew my mom was a big deal.




Symbolized so much. Wait, I was like, Jackie A? And my mom said, I'm Jackie A. But it was great because to your point, the values and the way she expressed herself in life, the way she decided to move through life as a black woman. And when she picked me up from school, I said, Can you please dress like all the other moms? They're all in jeans and they're casual. She said, No, I'm going to wear my suit. My face is on. Many of these people will never see black people dress this way or look like she knew there was representing more. She was representing more. It was an early time. And she said, We just got our rights here. I'm showing up. And she talk about.


Racism she faced. Did she express it or did she try.


To show you this? She did because she comes from a mixed-race background. They passed for anything. They passed for Italian. She does have it in her. Her whole thing is like, Listen, I love all parts of me. I love the European parts of me. I love the black parts of me. I love all of it. But she said all of her friends said, just be anything but black because you can pass for anything. So why don't you just say you're Italian or Russian or this? You could pass for anything but black. And she said every time someone said that to her, she said, As white as I might have looked, I decided I'm going to make black great. I'm going to make it great. I'm going to make people proud. I think that was what drove her to be who she was in the world and support black artists and writers, Jimmy Baldwin, anybody.


What a beautiful relationship you have with your mom and your dad. Beautiful.


Still ahead, Nicole recalls the night that changed everything, what she lost and gained with the death of her mother. Stay with us. Wow.


This person is trapped in the rock story, and we got to get them out of that story.


My name is Kevin Miller.


I'm the host of the Self-Helpful podcast. So many of the books that we read about family relationships, it's based on a theory.


Join me as I curate and translate the most.




Self-help wisdom to help you elevate your personal experience and improve the way you show up for others.


Hi there. It's Kelly Rippa, and I have.


A new podcast called Let's Talk Off Camera. You might.


Know me from your TV, but now we're turning the cameras off and getting real.


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Wherever you get your podcasts.


Take us to that night. Your mom was 81.




81. You know, my mom's in her 80s. There are ways that we imagine or expect our mom to leave her body and go on. You can picture it. But the way your mom died was not at all.




The depths of our horrible imagination that didn't even exist there.


No, ever.


So you talked about at the top of this, there was a text exchange over some sweet potato pie, and she writes you a text. Okay. And so she writes you a text, which is the title of your book. It's called Think You'll Be Happy and you go to sleep. Sleep. Okay. And then what?


Then in the middle of the night, around 2:30, 2:45, you know how something just wakes you up and I happen to turn over. I'm a pretty deep sleeper, but something woke me up. I saw all these missed calls from my brother. I thought, What? Then as I picked up my phone to call him back and immediately I thought, Oh, something's happened to my dad because he was almost 91. To your point, I was like, Oh, well.


It's- Something.


Happened to dad. -something happened to dad. As I'm dialing Alex back, the phone rings and it's my husband, Ted. I said, What is going on? What is going on? He goes, Love, listen, I don't know everything. You need to get dressed. You need to hurry up. You need to get to the hospital. You need to get to Cedars. I said, What? He goes, Your mom's been shot. I just stood there, Wait, shot by whom? Where was she? Because I couldn't even figure out what time it was. I go, Were they out at dinner? Because, Nicole, I don't know anything. Your mom has been shot. She's at Cedar. You need to get there. You need to gethere immediately. I'll meet you there. I stood frozen for a minute and I felt my knees buckle. My heart was racing. I thought, Wait a minute. What? Then I took a deep breath. Then youknow, then your brain holds on to anything. You're like, Oh, well, she's at the hospital. Right. How bad can I don't know. She's probably fine. I didn't know anything. Right. I was like, and then I got in the car and I drove. I remember driving down Sixth Street in Los Angeles, and I was making a right to get to Cedars and this green light started flickering.


I just took it as a sign and I said, Okay, mom, I don't know what's happened to you, but I don't even know if you can hear me, but I just need to say this. I love you and I'm praying for you, but you don't have to come back. I can take care... I just went into this.


I got it. Everything was coming out.


I'll just take care of dad.


Was there panic in you?


Panic. There was panic. My heart felt that it was sitting out of my chest. I was shaking. I found myself. It was just such a place that, like you said, you can't even imagine it. You've been your worst nightmare. You don't imagine this and you don't imagine the words, Your mother's been shot. I got to the hospital and I waited and we waited around. They came in and then they told us, and it was the police officer, thank God, who was at the hospital. He was the one who said to me, I was in the ambulance with your mom, and I want you to know how strong your mom is so strong because she was alive and she was fighting and she's a real survivor. I've seen this happen to gang members at 23 and they're out. When he said that to me, there was something that he gave me. It was a gift that he gave me of telling me how my mom was fighting and she wanted to survive because she really did love life. My mom loved living. She loved it. It was a really good gift that he gave me that I've carried.


I've seen him quite a bit. I just had a memorial for my parents last week, and I invited him and the police chief because they showed up. They showed up for her. And people forget, first responders, all of them, their first job is to show up. I just thank him so much. I said, Thank you for not leaving her alone in the ambulance. I understand what they do, and they're all afraid because we're all human. And then it was my life, just as soon as the doctor came out and said, We're very sorry to tell you we did what we could, but she lost a lot of blood and she's gone. Everything just changed.


Who was with you in.


That moment? It was my brother and his friend and Ted and my husband and my father. My father was sitting next to me and just slumped over. I shot up like an arrow. He said, Your brother wale. Your dad slumped over and you shot up. Then he goes, and you became Jackie. In two seconds, I said, Okay, you go over here, dad, you get in the car with Ted because he drove separately, but you get in the car with him. I'm going to go to my car and I'm going to meet you at my house. And my dad said, I need to go to my house. We're not going to your house because I don't know what is going on. Somebody broke into your house. I don't know what's going on. We're going to go back to my house, and then we're going to sit as a family, and then we're going to... He never left. He never left.


When you said the words, she's been shot, there was an intruder. What happened?


There was a person who had been on a spree that night of different houses. There must have been, the house must have been targeted because many were around at that time, post-COVID. It was a lot of stuff happening in Beverly Hills, but everywhere. My parents' house was on his list and my mom happened to be up. It's interesting because she used to text me all the time or email me. I'd wake up in the morning, I'm like, Mom, what are you doing up at 2:30 in the morning? And she'd say, Oh, honey, when you turn 80, you will not ask that question. Things change. And she happened to be up. They were opposite sides of the house. So my dad was all the way over here. And had my mom been with my dad, I don't think it... I think he was going in snatch. He went in out and he ended up then he goes to another house and ends up right next door to one of my best friends.


Oh, my gosh.


Yeah, 20 minutes away. Oh, my gosh. Yeah. In that moment that night when that same police officer told me what happened, he said, Listen, somebody broke in. He's on a mission. Your mom, unfortunate, it was like she was struck by lightning. She just happened to be in the crossfire. She encountered him. She fled. Then he just... When you shoot a rifle, not one bullet comes out. A bunch come out. One of them hit her in the back and just struck her in the back. It's just hard to get it. I know.


It's just hard to fathom that that was how a life of service was ended.


Yeah, because I said in my letter to the judge, and the woman who lived like that should not have had to die like that. It made no sense. The energies were so opposite. But I know her. She still lives on within me. It's still shocking.


I'm obviously not going to give the horrible assailant any ear time. But I did read, and correct me if I'm wrong, that you have found it in yourself to forgive him.


Yes. But when I forgive him, it's really forgiving for myself. I don't know his name. I don't know anything about him. I don't want to know anything about him. I don't care about him. I don't condone what he did. I do not make an excuse for what he did. I'm not a person like, Oh, he had a bad childhood. I don't care. A lot of people have bad childhoods and they don't do terrible things. But I forgave for myself because I have a good heart and I have a happy heart and I wanted to protect my happy heart. I could not hate him and be at peace at the same time. I tried. It doesn't work. The forgiveness was more for me of giving up the anger and giving up the questioning and the why because I started doing that, Hoda, and I thought none of this is bringing her back anyway. No. I just thought, you know what? I'm going to forgive for myself so that I can be at peace so that I can move forward and that so I can honor my mother's life and live the way she'd want me to live.


With the bitterness and the anger and the resentment that showed up through him, I had to choose, is.


Forgiveness a daily practice? You have to wake up in the morning and say, Here.


We go again. Here we go again. And I always say it's like the dirtiest washcloth. It's been dipped in tar, a white washcloth, and you have to just do it again. And some days it does get easier, though. Some days are easier than others. There's many times I don't even think about this person because now I guess I've compartmentalized it. Right. Now it's only Jackie and what she loved. I listen to her music and I watched the movie she loved. I take care of her art and her locker. I just want to be in her energy and her space, so he has no-.


No room.


There's no room. There's no.


Room for him.




There's room for grief because we all... And I know there are people listening who've lost someone somehow. Yeah. And dealing with grief can be crippling because they say your grief equals to the amount of love you put into the relationship, and you're obviously overflowing with both. So where do you place your grief? How did you and do you deal with it?


You know, it's like a roller coaster and it goes up and down and hits you in different ways. And the grief, I just choose to move through it. So when it shows up, I feel it. I don't try to push it down anymore.


No exercise, extra work.


Work, blah, blah. I always used to busy myself. Now I'm like, I'm going to feel this. I'm actually going to feel this sadness. I'm going to feel this and know that it's not going to destroy me. I'm just feeling a sadness. And then the sadness reminds you of how much you loved someone. The grief is the receipt that you loved and you were loved. And the music, things that remind me of my mom. She loves Johnny Mathis. So if I hear him on the radio, I'm hysterically crying. But at the same time, I'm also smiling that she loves this. So grief is going to come to all of us because we're human. And I think people need to be reminded that on our existence and on our journey in life, grief and trials and challenges, it's inescapable. Part of it. But to your point, moving through it and owning it, as opposed to trying.


To- Right. Outrun it.


-outrun it and out exercise. Let me go for a 10-mom. No, let's just feel it for a minute. It's okay to grieve. That's another thing that I had to learn. It's okay. It's part of the human existence is to grieve. And so to try and look at it as if it's this terrible thing that we need to push away or get rid of, no.


Well, after her passing, you were given a gift, and that was when you said that your dad never left your house. So sometimes and anyone who's grown up with a dad who works a lot, you don't always get all of the one on one you'd want. That's how life goes. But then something happened. It was all one on one.


How was that? It was the best gift I could have ever received, especially after what happened. The wisdom and the kindness because he was almost like a little boy. I had an eight year old... The small things in life made him happy. Taking him to the store, taking him to the newsstand, I'd still go outside and get his New York Times for him and make sure that he had his New York Times.


Every day.


But making meals with him, sitting down and having breakfast with him and then making sure he had something to eat at lunch and then cooking dinner with him. We started to create new habits together. That's why I said to him. He said he never said the word killed. He'd always say, I said, Well, Mom was killed. He said, When Jackie disappeared. Is that what he said? Yeah. He always said, Jackie disappeared. That's the way he felt. For me, I said to him, We're going to begin again. I don't know what it's going to look like because we're beginning again, but we're going to try new things. We'd take walks around the property or we'd walk around the neighborhood. He'd love watching the news, which I hated. But I'd sit and watch the news and we'd listen to music together. Just having him for 20 months every day was... I never had it. I told Ted, I go, I don't think I've had this much time with him in the 52. No, never had that time. So the fact that we got it all the way up until the end, until it was last.




Was a gift that I am forever grateful for and cherish.


You talk in the book about at your mom's funeral, how your dad was holding your hand, which is beautiful in and of itself. But it was more what it reminded you of or symbolized.


The bicycle. Yeah. Yes, and jaywalking.


Across the street.


I remember we went to get to... I used to go to this bicycle shop. I remember it's on Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles, and you'd have to jaywalk. I remember every time we went to get a new bike, it was the only time where my dad would hold us, really try to go, Look both ways like.


You're in New York. We run across.


But I remember those are the only times where I could remember feeling his hands and really grab mine and protect me. I felt very protected every time. I think I purposely would break my bicycles or something because I.


Always wanted him.


To hold.


My hand. There was a whole generation of my dad was that way, too. A whole generation of dads that were not the way you see dads today. We're all pushing the strollers and all those things. So you're with your dad. You have all these beautiful weeks and months. What did you learn about him that you did not know or that, I don't know, that just came to light maybe.


I didn't realize how sensitive of a person he was and how he used to make jokes about reading the obituary column all the time. But then once I lived with him, he would really read it. I would watch him. I go, Why do you read this? He says, Oh, I like to learn about people. I like to learn about their lives. It's interesting to me. I said, Really? I used to say, Oh, I'm just checking to make sure I'm not in here. I was just talking that. He goes, I really like reading about someone's life, what they did, how many children they have. I said, You do?


Wow, that's interesting.


I didn't know that side of him. I never saw him and the way he listened to music and what it really did to his energy. I was able to really witness it. When I put on Duke Ellington or I put on Frank Sinatra, my dad went to a completely different zone out of his body. He'd always say, There's nothing like music. It heals the world. It heals the world. There's nothing like it. I got to know the softer, gentler side of him. He was very curious. He became very, very sensitive.


Really sensitive. That's funny to see that.


Side of that stage. I was like, Wow, dad, and very emotional about just... As he got older, I had seen it. But once I was living with him and saw his habits in a new way.


It's hard, obviously, to lose a parent and then to lose both your mom and dad over the span of just two years. Under two years. -under two years. Your dad passed away.


He was 90? Almost 92. 92 and a half.


92 and a half. How was that for you? How did you handle that?


It was absolutely, it's such a weird word to use, but beautiful because it was so opposite from my mom. We were with him and it's as sad as it was he was older. I was shocked that he lasted 20 months, to be quite honest. I thought we were going to lose him in a couple of months. But he was at home and he was around his books and we played his music 24/7. It was me and Teddy and a few friends. My friends would come over and they would take care of him. My friend Amy would come over and give him massages and make sure he had his popsicles. Laura would bring him books and people would just come over and sit with him. But to be a part of his transition that was peaceful and dignified.


That was.


Everything for me. I said, if we get this peacefully and dignified, then I've gotten everything because he really did live his life. He lived a full life. And I got to tell him that on his last day. I said, Daddy, you're safe to go. And you have really run your race and you won. You didn't quit. You ran. And I thank you for running for me. I thank you for running for everybody, people that you do know and people that you've never met. You've run for them. And I thank you for that. And you can now go be with mom, be at peace. And thank you for living and not quitting.


Oh, my God. What a beautiful sentiment to say. It's your last statement. Did he have any last thoughts or words or gestures for you? Yes.


He told me his last words to me that I understood clearly. He pointed at his head and he goes, Girl, keep your mind right. Keep your mind right. And I said, I will, Daddy. And that was his version of think you'll be happy because they were very big believers in whatever you think and whatever you say, it's going to become. It just is. We're creative beings. And so my father always saw he could see how sensitive I would be or I would get very disturbed by things very easily. And he'd always say, get your mind right. Don't give people your power. Don't do that. Get your mind right. How are you going to think about this situation? It's not about just being happy and positive. How are you going to be constructively thinking about this situation so that you can turn it around? But if you're all frazzled and you're giving your power to this person, you're saying, Why did he treat me this way? Why did my boss talk to me this way? He said, You got to... He always say, It is what it is. Now, what are you going to do about it?


What are you going to do about it? And he said, Daddy, a lot of people don't like it is what it is. They think it's hard. He goes, No, I'm telling you just to accept what it is. You just own it. Just accept it first, because then you can change it. But if you don't accept it.


You can't.


Change it because then you're in denial. So he wasbut his last words, Keep your.


Mind right. Keep your mind right. Wow. I interviewed Winona Judd after her mom, Naomi, passed. And she said it was interesting. This happened with Kathy Lee, too, now that I'm thinking about it. When both of their parents passed, they said they used the word orphan, which I found interesting for someone who have lived these big, beautiful lives themselves, because often I think we're defined we are our parents' daughter. That's who I am too. I don't know what feelings you had after your father passed, but how did you feel when you realized that both of your parents.


Were gone? It felt different. The orphan part didn't... I know a lot of people say I'd never felt that way. I felt very grateful and even more aware of how blessed I was to have been raised by people like Jacqueline and Clarence Avon. All of a sudden it became, Oh, I must focus on their legacy, and I must make sure that no one ever forgets who they are. I was so proud. All of a sudden it was a new gift of, Oh, I get to talk about them and share them and share the lessons that they gave me. It's an offering. This book, for me is really an offering. They did live with grit, grace, and gratitude in different ways, but they both did. I look at it now of I'm so fortunate that I'm 55 and had them for as long as I did, because the Ukraine War started at the same, right when my dad was living with us. It started not too long after. He was so disappointed and so sad when he saw a hospital being blown. He'd say, My goodness, these children, the families are destroyed. Then he saw a picture of the babies.


He goes, They have no parents. They have nobody. And so his reaction to that reminded me.




How fortunate I am that I got 55 years with my parents. How fortunate am I? I'm not five. This didn't happen to me when I was five or 10 or 30 because you know what? I don't know how I would have been at 25 or 30.


Yeah, you're right.


Still ahead how Nicole is making space in her life by nourishing her soul when we come back. Hey, everybody.


It's Hoda Cotby.


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Hi, everyone. I'm Jenna Bush Hager from today with Hoda and Jenna and the Read with Jenna Book Club. There's nothing I love more than sharing my favorite reads with all of you, except maybe talking to the exceptional authors behind these stories. And that's what I'll be doing each week on my new podcast, Read with Jenna. I'll be introducing you to some of my favorite writers. These conversations will leave you feeling inspired and entertained. New episodes of Read with Jenna are released every Thursday. Listen now.


Wherever you get your podcasts.


This book, by the way, is full of so many beautiful life lessons. I love that you call it an offering. I mean, that's such a beautiful.


Way to put it. Thank you.


I feel like this is the book that anyone can pick up and read and read a part of it because the knowledge that you've just shared in this interview, forget the book for a second, but the knowledge from your parents and the life lessons, I think there are things that are applicable. Like, if you're at home going, I want to be.


Better, you.


Can be better. So this podcast is called Making Space because we like to make space for ourselves.


So when you.


Make space for yourself, how do you spend that time if you had a day and it was just for you and you had zero responsibilities and it could be about nourishing yourself or just letting loose? How would you spend that time?


I love, I'm always in my closet, reorganizing my closet with my- You're that person. I'm that person. And I have my Spotify playlist on, and it's a 1976 top 100. I am redoing my closet. I am so happy. The phone is on silent. Don't call me. Don't anything. You love that. I love that. And my bath time is everything because I go into prayer and meditation when I'm in the bathtub and I light a candle. And I really purposely every time I can get in the bath. And my time is bath time. And I reflect on everything, things that I was aware of that day, things that I wasn't aware of that day, or, Oh, my gosh, I didn't think of even saying hello to that person behind me at the store, what have you. It's my time where I know myself more and I want to be with my soul because you have to nourish your soul and you can't nourish it. When I clean the closet, it's not busyness. It's really me looking at expressions of me in my closet. I was like, Why would I have ever bought that? Exactly. But those are my private and then me with my dogs.


If I'm with my dogs on the sofa-.




Never happy. I'm never happier. No. And they're all over meme. And it's the same kids as my guys. But that for me is I'm good.


I'm happy. Finally, do you think about when you will see your mom and dad again? Yes, I do. And how do you envision such a beautiful moment?


I think that they are just going to be clapping and cheering. And my mom's going to be like, I.


Knew it.


But I'm excited for that. I know that that moment will come, and I really do believe that. And what made me happy when my father crossed, it sounds weird, but I was so happy for their souls to be reunited. I was actually happy for them and that they would be reunited and that they could look at each other and say, Well done.






Beautiful. Pick up this book, please. It's called Think You'll Be Happy moving through grief with grit, grace, and gratitude if you're going through a difficult time, this is really the book.


Thank you so much, Nicole. Thank you so much, Nicole. I appreciate it. I appreciate you. Thank you. Thank you. Hey, guys.


Thank you so much for listening and for coming on this journey with me. If you like what you heard and I hope that you do, please give Making Space a five-star rating and review on Apple Podcasts. Make sure you tell your friends. Follow us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you're listening right now. Making Space with Hoda Codby is produced by Allison Berger and Alexa Kasebeka along with Amanda Sidman, Abigail Russ, and Kate Saunders. Our production assistant is Megan Ceeleau. Our Associate Audio Engineer is Juliana Mastarili. Our audio engineers are Bob Mallory and Katherine Anderson. Original music by John Estes. Bryce and Varnes is our head of audio production. Missy Dunlock-Parsons is our executive producer. Sharise Williams-Laredo is our senior producer. Hi, I'm Tom Yamas, and for me, the news is so much more than a headline. It informs, it inspires, and it still matters. To cover it, you have to be in it. We'll take you to the front lines of the story where it's actually happening with BBC News journalist on the ground from all over the world. We cover what you need to know and bring your news feed to life. In Prime Time and streaming live, it's Your News playlist.


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