What makes you who you are?

We string together experiences and lessons one by one like pearls. Some are born out of irritants, but they help us develop many beautiful layers of strength and courage. Others are timeless gifts of wisdom graciously given by those closest to us.

My mama was beautiful, not just in the classic sense of physical beauty but in her spirit as well. When I was young, I would love to watch her get ready to go out. My parents did not go out often, but when they did it was a big deal. My mom would get her hair done and bring out one of her special occasion dresses. The outfit, no matter how stunning, was not complete without her pearls. They were a gift from my father and always the perfect accessory to complete her look beautifully. During those quiet moments, she taught me how to present myself with confidence and dignity. As I got older, I was allowed to borrow the pearls on special occasions like prom and most memorably, my wedding. To be honest, I was always a little nervous wearing them. What if I lost them? What would I do if they were gone forever? Mama was trusting me with something very precious to her and I didn’t want to let her down.

One year for my birthday, my parents were visiting us in Washington, mama had the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s and she knew that her memory was fading. Soon trips like this would become impossible for her to manage. Mama handed me a gift in a familiar box and my heart skipped a beat. I opened the lid to find her iconic pearl necklace nestled in its bed of cotton. As I looked at her with tears in my eyes, she smiled and said that they were mine now. She wanted to give them to me herself. I didn’t know what to say and was not prepared for such a priceless treasure. All I could do was hug her and thank her for knowing how much this gift meant to me. Owning those pearls is like having a piece of her with me always, part of her legacy that I can someday share with my daughter.

My mom has been gone for almost nine years. I miss her. As much as I love her pearls, the gift that I hold most precious is the wisdom she graciously shared with me throughout her life. Did I always appreciate her input? No. However, I can look back and see she when was right. She was sage but also kind, generous and loving. Passing down to me a piece of herself with each lesson.

I have been a mother for a little over 25 years. It was Mother’s Day 26 years ago that I joyfully called my mom to tell her she was going to be an Oma. I had no idea what I was in for, but her guidance, strength, and love helped me to be a better mom and the example she set helped me be a better woman.

For that gift I am forever grateful. Happy Mother’s Day!

With love, Debbie

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