Mom with great-granddaughter Selah

My mom’s name was Sara Lea.   And yes, she loved to bake.  Her creations were epic.  Thus, in my family the tagline “Nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee” was amended to “Nobody doesn’t like Sara Lea.”

Mom was known for her fabulous baking and cooking, as well as her quick wit and incredible adeptness at backgammon, cribbage, Scrabble, dominoes, and any card game known to man.  Her love of games and her tutelage is directly responsible for me meeting my husband, who is the love of my life.  The two of them got on famously, of course.  Thanks, Mom, for bringing someone so wonderful into my life.

I grew up in the kitchen with my mom, fascinated by how she could peel an apple in one miraculously thin ribbon of skin before chopping it into slices for her mouth-watering apple pie, or how she could make creating a heavenly pie crust look like the simplest thing in the world.  Her talent for creating amazing dishes from humble ingredients to stretch the budget for a family of seven was like magic.  She was a kind of superhero to me, able to negotiate the pitfalls of a large and often dysfunctional family while still managing to be gracious and loving – though we all felt her wrath at times.  And believe me, her yelling was always preferable to her silence.  She had a cold shoulder that could freeze you to the bone.

Mom had a huge heart and endless love for her family.  She was also opinionated, stubborn and straightforward – all traits that I inherited from her.  And though we didn’t always see eye to eye, I always knew that she respected me.  She may not have agreed with me, or understood why I felt the way I did, but she never made me feel stupid or unimportant.  She spoke to me as a fellow human being, and knew that in order to get respect, you have to give respect.  In short, she was my best friend.  She loved me unconditionally, as I did her.

I lost my mom this past January, after a long struggle with health issues, many related to decades of smoking.  The irony is that she quit smoking back in the late ‘80s cold turkey; no patches, no gum, nothing but sheer willpower.  She was so strong.  And when she made up her mind to do it, she did it.  That strength continued to keep her going through months of sickness, when a lesser person would have succumbed.  It was painful to watch her struggle to breathe even when she was hooked up to an oxygen tank.  Her heart was amazingly strong, and kept stubbornly pumping when her lungs had had enough.

This is my first Mother’s Day without my mom, and it breaks my heart.  Seeing and hearing all these ads for Mother’s Day just tears through me.  It brings home all the pain of losing her, again and again.  I get angry and feel lost, but then I remember that my mom is always with me, in my heart.  I know that in time the pain will ease, but for now I struggle.

To all of the mothers out there, and to all of those who have lost their mothers, I send out love and thanks.  Our mothers are so much a part of us all, and one day just isn’t enough to give them the thanks they deserve.