She was a beautiful lady, both inside and out. As a child, I often wished to be as pretty as she, but I settled for "smart" because it at least seemed something positive I could hang my hat on.
Mom went through life with an attitude that was part-positive, part-negative and part-resignation. She went about the business of keeping our home (when we finally had one of our own) as inviting and warm as possible. She wasn't big on cooking, and thus I didn't learn to be a creative cook, settling instead for feeding my family a steady diet of same-old, same-old. She kept the house neat, often reminding me that, if a house isn't cluttered, people will automatically assume it is clean. I follow that philosophy to this day.
With all the turmoil of my growing up (fears, insecurities, boyfriend troubles, etc.), Mom was the steady comfort I could always count on. When I dated a foreign exchange student from an Asian country, she masked her discomfort and welcomed him into our home. When later I chose a man 17 years older than I (and married), she spoke her mind but then allowed me to work myself through that traumatic period of my life.
Mom loved me unconditionally.
My stepfather used to say she would defend me if I committed murder. He was far too early for the Trump brag of the same nature, but he meant it in the same way. To my mother, I could do no wrong, even when I was very wrong.
She had her first mastectomy when she was 48. We waited out the five-year mark and rejoiced when it passed with no new cancer. But then, in the sixth year, another mastectomy, the spread from breast to bones to brain and after that year she died. Thankfully, the cancer destroyed the pain receptors in her brain so her last few hours were serene.
I'm told I look like her. That is a large compliment. I know I don't have her patience and her faith. What I do have is the legacy she left: it is possible to love without condition, without concern for self. Mom gave that to me in huge measure.
I think of her every day and wish she hadn't gone.