This week my mom, Gertrud, turned 84. It's not been an easy run-up to her birthday, as mom had been hospitalized for over a week before being transferred to the skilled nursing care unit at her home, Calvin Community. The diabetes that has plagued her for most of her life continues to ravage her body and mind.
But nothing has been ever easy for mom. She grew up in the foster care system in Nazi Germany, relocated to a new country without really knowing the language, and worked hard alongside her husband raising two kids living paycheck to paycheck.
In November 2020, she and my dad got COVID in the same week. Dad, unfortunately, did not survive it. Mom did and was placed in a locked down assisted living facility. That Christmas Day, the facility arranged for her to speak to family members via Zoom as no one was allowed to visit. As the call came to a close, mom looked defiantly into the camera and told us to let everyone know that "I am STILL that bitch."
Maybe that last sentence offended you. But we all knew what she meant. My mom instilled in me what I call a "practical optimism." I always have hope and optimism for the future. It's not because I am naive. It is because I am tough enough to conquer all the challenges that life throws at me. My mom has never seen herself as a victim. Neither am I. Life can be tough. She is tougher. So am I. And doing it all with a smile seems to be much more satisfying than succumbing to bitterness, judgment, and victimhood. My mom never let the world change her. She is, and always has been, her authentic self.
I don't know how much longer God will grant us on this earth with my mom. Regardless, her spirit, her perseverance, her relentlessness will live on in her daughter and me. It's the greatest legacy she could leave behind.
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