I believe I am blessed by remembering and celebrating the best gifts of my mother’s life—her love, life lessons and legacy of values that make me who I am today. And I believe that giving thanks for those gifts—even nine years after her sudden death—makes my journey quite remarkable.
For 34 years, I celebrated Mother’s Day with my mom, picking dandelions and sending cards to say thanks for raising me. But it wasn’t until I could no longer send a card—my first Mother’s Day without Mom—that I realized how much I’d lost when she died.
For all the years of my busy Baby Boomer life, I took Mom for granted. After all, she did what mothers do: she was simply always there. When I was sick, happy, sad; when I went off to college and off to marriage; when I became a mom myself, she was there for me, always cooking my favorite food and crocheting yet another afghan or growing another garden.
Mom’s sudden death from a heart attack meant no goodbyes, but nine years later, I took the unplanned journey of writing letters to Mom that became those final conversations, allowing me to look back at life with her, remembering stories in laughter and tears, and celebrating what I discovered: that Mom’s simple, ordinary life on the prairie was a container overflowing with real, authentic values that have guided my entire journey in life.
Mom taught compassion by keeping a litter of baby kittens alive after the Mommy cat died, using a medicine dropper to feed each kitten several times a day. Mom taught generosity and sharing by telling me I could cut the brownie in two, but my sister would get first choice of pieces. And Mom taught hard work and resourcefulness the old-fashioned way, by raising four kids on the South Dakota prairie without running to the store every time she needed something.
I didn’t realize what I had been given until I remembered the stories that held the evidence of Mom’s love and the lessons that taught her values. Her values strengthened me, because unlike values that divide and polarize Americans today, a mom’s values build us, creating an internal compass that guides us through life as it connects us to the goodness of other people.
I believe every imperfect, ordinary, taken-for-granted mom gives her children these gifts, and I believe that when we realize what we’ve been given and offer thanks, our journey becomes incredibly blessed. I know I took her for granted, but I believe Mother’s Day—with or without Mom—is a great day to remember and celebrate the best gifts of every mom.
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