Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Like Mother, Like Daughter

This past Sunday night, my mother passed away after a long battle with ovarian cancer. Not surprisingly, family and friends have surrounded me and our whole family with love and good wishes. There have been too many heart-warming comments to mention them all, but I will admit that there is one category of comments that has made me especially humble and proud: the comments that compare me to my mother.

I’ve always been compared to my mom, both in looks and in temperament. My favorite “You look just like your mom” story is from way back when I was in 6th or 7th grade. My mom and I were shopping together and a woman my mom’s age stopped me and said, “You MUST be Martha Riesen’s daughter.” I said I was and pointed out my mom, who had just walked past the woman. She introduced herself and it turned out they had gone to elementary school together. She had seen Mom without recognizing her, but since I was about the age Mom was when they knew each other, she recognized ME, whom she’d never even met.

Another favorite comparison was kind of through a third party. When my mother went to college, she cut off her nearly waist-length dark, curly hair into a very short, close-cut ‘do, and immediately became a dead ringer for Leslie Caron. When I was in my early 30s, I had a similar haircut and one day a dear friend remarked to me, “I was watching An American in Paris the other day and realized that you remind me a lot of Leslie Caron!” Yet another reminder that I bear an uncanny resemblance to my mom at my age.

But the comments I’ve been getting lately are not so much about my resemblance in looks, but my resemblance in character and spirit, and to me, that is the highest compliment. My mom had such a sweet, gentle spirit. She rarely thought badly of anyone, always gave people the benefit of the doubt, and did everything she could to make the world a happier place. Her deep-rooted faith in God gave her an optimistic outlook that shone through even during her final months, when she was suffering so terribly. Despite that suffering, she was unfailingly pleasant and undemanding with the medical staff, never complaining, always sweet and gracious and thankful. Her doctors and nurses all commented on what an unusual patient she was. She had every reason and every right to be angry, to be picky about how she was treated, to demand quick attention to her needs. But she chose to be patient and kind.

So whenever anyone says that I share her sunny disposition, I take that as a point of pride. I am honored to carry any small piece of my mother’s spirit. I learned that patience, that kindness, and that optimism from my mother’s demonstrating that character throughout my life. And I hope that my children will learn that same character from me. It’s the least I can do to pass on my mother’s great legacy of faith and hope.

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