In today's world, when a friend tells you he/she has met a female with a million-dollar smile, you automatically visualize a Miss America contestant or a young person whose beauty is exceptional. What you probably do not conjure up in your mind's eye is the image of a ninety-six and a half year old, teeny, peanut-sized woman who is the owner of that fabulous smile. Yet, that is the trait for which what my mother was most famous. I sigh as I say 'was' because, you see, my mom died on May 5th.
When I was a child, we faithfully watched a few TV shows. One, 'I Remember Mama' was an early sit-com in which we saw situations that could have gone bad turned around because that TV Mama had the wisdom to find the good in the situation. So it was with my Mama. She was the steadfast rudder that kept our family ship on true course, even through the stormiest times. Since my amazing, talented, and funny father came back from WWII carrying the dark memory of the carnage of the Pacific and Japan in his gentle heart, he often turned to drink to drown the pain. The storms were many; mom's calming influence unfaltering. She loved him unconditionally and in her quiet way, encouraged us to do the same, for him, and for others. She was 55 when she buried Dad, but it was only after that when we began to discover the depth of this remarkable woman.
It turned out she had incredible talent, no matter what she tried to do. She took a sewing course and learned to make bridal dresses from photographs; she created not only beautiful wedding cakes, but also delicious ones; birthday celebrations were not complete without a fanciful creation by "Gram," as most who met her called her. In the winter, if she was not baking, she might have been crafting . You could always find her when entering her house if you would just listen for the happy humming, which she did during practically every activity she performed. She built dollhouses and furniture from scratch; she lighted them and displayed her collection in a fantasy display on our old ping-pong table that delighted everyone. Her porcelain dolls kept all the cousins and grandchildren entertained for hours. The aromas that filled her kitchen kept us wanting for more of the Polish meals and baked delicacies she turned out on a daily basis.
But, her gardens were quite possibly her crowing glory. One could become lost in them, enchanted by the fragrance of the abundant roses and tempted by the grapes that grew in delicious clusters. She kept healthy and fit by dancing several times a week, washing her boyfriend's car, mowing the lawn or just doing whatever had to be done. All of these stand on their own in making her a very memorable, matchless, good humored, youthful lady, but they pale in comparison to the ubiquitous smile that everyone remembered and the lessons she taught simply by living her life in a faith-filled, peacekeeping way.
After breaking her hip on March 2, Mom stayed at the Rehab until the day she died. Since it took energy to speak at length, she rarely did, other than her many 'thank you, honey's' that she dispensed regularly, preceded by a huge and genuine smile. Others knew her only by watching her quiet dignity, her genteel manner, her smiling greeting, and her interaction with her doting family. St. Francis of Assisi said, 'Preach the gospel at all times...when necessary use words.' Mom lived by those words. Those around her learned well from her silence. It was a sad day at the Rehab when she passed. Her dinner partners and those around her cried, hugged me, and told me how much they would miss her. Visitors who were there regularly cried; nurses knocked on her door and asked if they could just give her a final hug or kiss. Truly, it was beautiful to see how she affected those around her.
Thanks to her longevity and youthful thinking, we have vast amounts of lovely memories of her life. More importantly, we have the lessons. We would all do well to take away some of those she taught: love one another without conditions; forgive and forget old grudges; laugh lots; dance and play now' you can sleep forever when you die. Eat dessert (and lots of it); keep interested; think young; greet others with a genuine smile; go with the flow; make peace, keep peace; make a garden retreat and go there often; don't sweat the small stuff, and, the biggie for her ... pray unceasingly.
My mother was my anchor. For the past several years, my life revolved around her. I truly miss her, but I am probably one of the luckiest women in the world to have walked on the same path with her for all of my years. We ended our precious relationship as it began -in each others' arms. I cannot ever pretend to fill her shoes, but I see others in my family line that might successfully fill the gaping emptiness she has left behind. And the world will be better for it.
Submitted by Anonymous
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