Worth Fighting For

No one has taught me more about optimism in the face of adversity than my mother.  When she was only 35 years old, she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer.  She told her doctor that she would not lose the battle—that she had three little girls to raise—and she fought for 13 years to make that happen.

We were just 8, 6, and 3 when she was first diagnosed, and we were confused and frightened by what was happening to our mother.  After many months of chemotherapy, she spent almost three months in the hospital recovering from a bone marrow transplant.  Before her operation, she recorded our favorite storybooks on cassette tapes so we could listen to her voice reading to us each night.  I have a vivid memory of snuggling up next to her and my sisters, watching as she fiddled with my dad’s dictophone and listening as she read “The Magic Pot” in her energetic voice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the months that she was in the hospital, we occasionally got to visit if she was healthy enough.  I remember climbing into her hospital bed one day and telling her that I wished she could see me in my Halloween costume.  I didn’t understand then why tears streamed down her face as she told me that there was nothing in the world she would like more.  She didn’t get to go trick-or-treating with us that year, but we did pay her a visit in her hospital room.

 

 

 

She came home on Thanksgiving Day.  Her little girls dressed up as Indians and pilgrims and stood on the porch awaiting her arrival.  I still remember the way that my heart pounded in excitement as the brown station wagon pulled up to our house and my frail mother emerged, clinging to my dad’s arm, smiling and crying.  Truly, it was the most joyous Thanksgiving our family has ever had.

 

 

She had lost her energy and her hair; but she had not lost her spirit and her sense of humor.  On Christmas morning that year, she posed for a photo with my new Mrs. Potato Head doll, just to make her little girls laugh and to remind us that she was still our goofy mom, even with her swollen face and bald head.  When I look at this photo of my mother, I see true beauty.

 

 

 

Over the subsequent years, she went in and out of remission many times, but through it all she kept her sense of humor and her determination to love and raise her daughters. Her optimism blessed us with so many beautiful memories.

Planning fun for her family was an “escape” from her illness, and she loved to plan creative birthday parties, such as the Westover family Olympics!

 

 

My mom was so grateful to make it to her 40th birthday and to celebrate her health with family and friends.

 

 

 

She loved cozy moments with her daughters, like this one on Christmas morning.

 

 

Always a good sport, my mom joined in her teenaged daughters’ antics, such as posing in our fancy hotel bathrobes when we were on vacation as a family.

 

 

 

 

In the height of her illness, my mom helped me plan a Harry Potter party for my 19th birthday.  It was a night of silliness, whimsy, and joy, despite the trial our family was facing.

 

 

On the morning of July 14, 2003, I climbed into my mother’s bed, just like I did when I was a little girl. I was 19–my sisters were 21 and 16–and five months earlier, we had received the news that our mother’s cancer had reached her brain, and we didn’t have much time left with her.  That morning, I wrapped my arms around her and told her I loved her and was so grateful for the life she had given me.  With tears in her eyes, she said to me, “All I ever wanted was love in our home—and I got it.  I got everything I ever wanted.”  She passed away just a few hours later.

I honor and thank her for everything she gave me, particularly her example of enduring even the most difficult of life’s trials with optimism.  I’m sure there were many days when she cried bitter tears of sorrow, pain, and anger; I’m sure there were times when she lost her temper with her daughters due to exhaustion and physical pain; but through it all, she was somehow able to face each day with faith, joy, and, above all, a deep love for her family.

I think of my mother every day, particularly when I am going through a difficult struggle. Before she passed away, she made a baby blanket for each of her daughters so when our own babies arrived, we would be able to wrap them up in their grandmother’s love.  My journey to motherhood was long and difficult, with years of infertility and adoption disappointments, and I often longed for my mother’s advice and comfort.  But I tried to face those challenges with the optimism and resilience that she had always modeled for me. When my son finally arrived through the miracle of adoption, I cried tears of joy as I wrapped him in my mother’s blanket and sang him the lullaby that she always sang to me.

 

 

 

 

The greatest legacy that my mom left her daughters is her example that life is beautiful and motherhood is beautiful—and both are worth fighting for.

 

 

 

 

QUESTION: What did you feel as you read this post? What is one thing you would like to do as a result of what you felt?

CHALLENGE: (From Rachel) I am so glad that my mom allowed those photos to be taken, even when she wasn’t looking her “best.”  I treasure those photos and think they speak volumes about my mother and the love she had for us. Make sure that you are putting yourself in your pictures with your kids.
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Comments

  1. stuart.r.taylor@gmail.com says

    Thank you Rachel for sharing this. That was really hard to read, so I can imagine that it was hard to write.

    • says

      Thank you so much for commenting, Stuart! You know, this actually wasn’t hard for me to write because I am so proud of my mom, and I absolutely LOVE sharing her with others. It makes me very happy to know that her story still touches other people’s lives, almost ten years after her death. I love to write about her, and I am grateful for people like you who will read it. Thank you.

  2. Carrine says

    Thanks for this beautiful reminder of the blessing of motherhood.

    Now I have to go fix my mascara because I cried through the whole thing!

    • says

      Thank you so much, Carrine. I really appreciate your comment. I am so glad to know that my mother’s story continues to impact others, even ten years after her death. She was awesome.

  3. Myrna Welch says

    Dear Rachel, What a beatuiful tribute to your mother!! I know she was a wonderful person as she raised three smart. beautiful, caring daughters! You have a beautiful way of writing and i enjoyed this so much! Congratulations on your baby boy and i hope you enjoy every minute with him! They grow up so fast! Love you , Myrna Welch

  4. Erica says

    Beautiful post! This story inspired me to cherish every day with my babies! I often have so much planned that I’m rushing my 2 yr old around from place to place and with a rushed and stressed out attitude. After reading this I want to slow down and spend quality time with my boys! Thank you!

    • says

      I am the exact same way with my 15-month old. It’s in my nature–I am a “to-do list” mommy. But I also want to stop and savor the beautiful moments in life and in motherhood, and my mother’s experience always reminds me to do that. Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

  5. Launa says

    Thank you. I feel the same way about my mom as she is fighting stage 4 pancreatic cancer. I am a tearful mess right now, but am thankful for all the years that I have had with her and my son has also been able to know her. God bless!

    • says

      I am so very sorry, Launa. The months just prior to my mother’s death were the HARDEST of my life…having her right there but knowing that I was losing her. You will be in my prayers. If you ever need to talk to anyone about your experience, I am here. rachel dot nielson at hotmail dot com.

  6. Dodie says

    Today is the 8th anniversary of my Mother’s passing due to breast cancer. What a lovely tribute you made to your Mother. I was in my twenties when my mom was first diagnosed and she passed away when I was 30. I can’t imagine what you and your sister’s went through at such young ages. It was very hard for my brother and sisters and we were adults. Hugs to you! Maybe our Mom’s are sharing some laughs together in heaven!!

    • says

      I am so sorry for your loss, Dodie. What a coincidence that this article was published on the anniversary of your mother’s death. I bet you’re right that our moms are friends in heaven. xo

      • Dodie says

        Thanks Rachel! and congrats on your son! I too struggled with infertility but I’m blessed with Fraternal boy/girl 4 year old twins. I know my mom is watching over them as I’m sure your mom is watching over you and your son. XO

  7. Layla says

    Being a grandaughter, daughter and mother, this story has touched me on many levels. Each of us will view it differently but I think Gratitude is the power emotion here. Being grateful for those who were a part of our lives, for what seems a short time, and the memories that carry them and for those who are still with us to cherish everyday. Thank you Rachel for sharing your heartfelt personal story and beautiful message.

    • says

      I agree, Layla! I feel so much GRATITUDE when I think about my mom. And amazingly, she always expressed so much gratitude for her life, even in the worst moments of her illness. She was my role model in that as well. Thank you for much for reading and commenting.

  8. Robyn says

    I think that the real evidence of the impact of Sally’s mothering is in the lives of her 3 girls. I’m sure that her influence is felt daily as these women have become mothers themselves. Thanks for putting the pictures to your beautiful words. I think about Sally OFTEN, and I see a part of her in each of you.

  9. Doree says

    I recently lost my father to Cancer. I was the baby of 10 kids and 28 when he died. I thought that was hard, but a mother is so important and special. What a blessing that you had her as long as you did. Thank you so much for sharing it. It makes me want to be a better mother and person.

    • says

      I am so sorry for your loss, Doree. I am 28 now, and I don’t know what I would do if I lost my dad. Losing a parent is excruciating. You are right that it is such a blessing that I had my mother for as long as I did, especially considering her prognosis was so grim from the start. I am grateful every day that she lived to raise us. Again, I am so sorry about the loss of your father to cancer. You will be in my prayers.

  10. Vicki Varela says

    Oh my goodness, Rachel. This stirs up so many happy memories of your mom and her amazing mothering. I will tell you she was as amazing of a friend as she was a mother. I will never forget when my own mother died young and unexpectedly. Sally was one of the first ones there. After my mom’s funeral, Sally got all of us going on funny stories about my mom. She modeled for me what you are modeling here — always keeping her present and part of my life by keeping the stories alive. Thank you thank you for this great tribune.

    • says

      Thank you for sharing this memory of my mom, Vicki. Each time someone shares a memory of her that I have not heard before, it’s like I am given a new memory myself–another story to tell. I am so glad to know that she was such a wonderful friend (though I’m not surprised). It was great to hear from you!

  11. Heather DeShazer says

    Rachel, I am more and more amazed at how awesome you are the more I learn about you. But I shouldn’t be surprised with such an awesome family! You are such a cute mom and fun friend. You made me cry…that seems to be a trend with your writing! Keep it up. :)

  12. says

    Thank You for your post. It was very touching. My sister was also diagnosed with breast Cancer at a young age (33) she has three children (boy, girl, boy) Her story was a little different however, she passed away a year ago (on Oct 24, 2011) after battling four years. Heavenly Father had a different journey for their family. But I have still witnessed the blessings of her trials in our lives. And how much what she did in serving others in her time of suffering. She was very determined to make amazing memories with her family for as long as she could. Needless to say with it being Breast Cancer Awareness month and the one year anniversary of her death i have been thinking a lot about her… and a lot about her children too. they are still very young. But I can see the way she has shaped their lives and how much they love her always.
    Thank you again for your wonderful post. I’m so glad you have all those pictures with your mom. What a wonderful way to remember her.

    • says

      Jillian, I am absolutely heartbroken to hear of your sister’s death. Your family and your sister’s children will be in my prayers. I am devastated that they lost their mother so young. I am so very very sorry for your loss. It sounds like she was a remarkable woman, and I’d love to know more about her story–if you have a blog where more is written, let me know. Isn’t it amazing how some people bear trials with such grace and selflessness? Such an example for all of us.

      When my mom passed away, I was too young to really think about the impact that it must’ve had on her sisters. I knew they were sad, but I think I was mostly just consumed by my own grief. With a few years’ perspective, I have thought time and again about how much my mother’s death must have affected them. My sisters are my very best friends–they know me better than almost anyone in the world–and if I lost one of them, I would never be the same. My aunts have always made us the priority (they are just like my mom that way), but I know they desperately miss her. Again, I am so so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your sister’s story. It has reinforced just how lucky I am to have had my mother for as long as I did. Thank you.

  13. says

    What do I think? It’s more about what do I feel…Rachel you told this story so beautifully. Your Mamma was an inspiration to me through all of those difficult years. What a wonderful tribute your beautiful writing is to her and her great spirit. She lives on through you three amazing women. WOW, she would be so proud.

    • says

      Auntie Muriel, Thank you so much for your sweet comment and for your own tribute to my mom this year. Your beautiful paintings of these photographs are truly priceless. I love you.

  14. Jennifer says

    An amazing post. I sat and cried and walked up to my children’s rooms and kissed them while they were asleep. I hope to be a mother like your mom. Thank you so much for sharing!

    • says

      Jennifer, Thank you so much for reading and commenting! I too hope to be a mother like my mom. Whenever I feel tired and cranky, I think of her–and try to press forward with joy and kindness. Don’t you love kisses your sleeping children? All the stress of motherhood melts away. Thank you again for the comment.

  15. Jaimee says

    Thank you for sharing this. After a nine month battle with breast cancer, my mother passed away on Thanksgiving day in 2004, and my husband lost his mother also to breast cancer when he was a small child. I am amazed at your composure in writing this-just thinking about my mom still turns me into a mess of tears. I loved all of the pictures-many of my favorite pictures are of my mother without her hair, I just never thought about it in the way you put it-that it is a gift she gave me that she allowed us to take so many pictures of her when she was certainly not feeling or feeling like she was looking her best! Thank you for your insight!

    • says

      Jaimee, I am so very sorry for your loss and for your husband’s loss as a small child. Breast cancer is a devastating illness that I hope won’t affect our children’s generation. I don’t think a person ever really recovers from the death of his/her mother, and I am very sorry that you’ve had to endure this trial.

      Thank you for your kind words about the essay. Writing has always been my “therapy” through all of this. I don’t know why I am able to write about it–it’s the only way I know how to process my grief. In the months right after my mom died, I rarely cried, but I wrote and wrote and wrote. It was my outlet. She is still such a part of me and of my life. I write her a letter every year on Mother’s Day, updating her on my life and the lives of my sisters and my father, and it has become a tradition that I love and look forward to. I do believe that she is aware of me in heaven, but oh how I miss her presence in my daily life.

      Thank you again for sharing your experience.

  16. says

    I have to say that was one of the most touching posts I’ve read in a long time. I lost my mother to cancer – I was a bit older – 28 – but what a beautiful legacy your mother left you all and how great that you honored her memory in this way. I, too, miss my mother every day. She never met my husband and hasn’t met my children – yet. One day we will all be together again and that is a comfort to me.

    • says

      Thank you for your comment, Ann. I am so sorry that you lost your mother at a young age. I don’t think a woman could ever be ready to lose her mother. I am 28 now, and I still feel like a kid who needs her mom sometimes. (I have been a little teary all day today wishing I could talk to my mom and bring my son over to see her in his Halloween costume. I think writing this post and reading everyone’s comments has made me miss her even more than usual.) You are right–one day we will be together again, and that is a real comfort. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  17. Elsje says

    Rachel,
    Thanks for sharing these beautiful photos of your mom and for touching my heart today. I was reminded how precious each day I have with my children is. Thanks for reminding me that I don’t need to be perfect in a picture to be Mom.

  18. SCR says

    Thank you for sharing those photos of your mom and writing about her. I needed this today as it was an answer to a prayer, sending me in the direction I need to change my direction.

  19. Mary says

    Thank you for sharing these beautiful memories. My mother was diagnosed with cancer when I was 16 and with treatment has now been cancer free for many years. She was exhuasted and bedridden for 6 weeks after her surgery but I still remember her wanting me to come in her room after school each day and talk. She and I bonded during that time over us both reading the Harry Potter series together. I remember she was in the hospital over valentine’s day and we were just going to skip the celebration but she wouldn’t have it. We all piled in to her hospital room around her bed and carried out our various traditions for that day. I could tell she was tired and just wanted to sleep but she didn’t want to miss a single moment or memory with us.

    There are so many times as a mother when I am so focused on the little things that I forget to look at the big picture. Though I read your article yesterday I just keep thinking about it and coming back to it. It’s a beautiful inspiration and reminder to me of what being a mother is all about.

    • says

      What sweet memories with your mom, Mary. I love how the trials of life are what bring us together. I am so glad she is healthy now! Loving mothers are so very important. I’ve enjoyed reading your articles on the site, and I know you are a fantastic mother yourself! (It sounds like you had a great role model!)

    • says

      Thank you so much, Johanna. It is so difficult to cherish every moment with our children, and I doubt my mom cherished EVERY moment (because let’s face it, motherhood is really hard sometimes!), but I know she truly loved us and LOVED being our mother. If our children know they are deeply loved, that’s all that really matters in life! Thanks again for reading and commenting!

  20. Heather says

    Thank you so much for sharing. I cried my eyes out after reading this. You know, there are so many times where I feel down or upset about stupid little things in my life. What an awesome reminder that all I need is love in my home. Thank you thank you for this. You have no idea how much I needed this today.

    • says

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Heather. I am so glad that you were touched by the essay. I love sharing my mom with others! I too get down and upset about the little things in life (it’s so hard not to), but my mom’s memory helps me to refocus on what really matters. Thanks again for your sweet comment.

  21. Danielle G. says

    What a beautiful post and thank you for sharing such wonderful memories of your amazing mother, it definitely made me tear up. I only hope that my girls will feel the same about me. They are still very young but I make sure that I express my love for them so many times a day. Life is so short and every breath, every moment counts!

    • says

      Thank you for reading and commenting, Danielle! My mother wasn’t perfect, but her love for us was, and that is all that mattered to us! It sounds like you are doing a fantastic job with your girls, and I know they will feel the same way about you as they look back on their lives. Every child needs a mother’s unconditional love!

  22. Audrey Scarante says

    Thank you for sharing your story. It brought me to tears. My mom passed away from breast cancer in 2000, when I was 20. My first daughter was born in 2007 and at the same time I missed her beside me, I also witnessed miracles and the love of Heavenly Father for my family. I always think that she is not here but she is, because she taught me everything that I am today, so she is more than present in everyday of my life. Anyways, thanks!

    • says

      Audrey–I am so sorry for the loss of your mother. It is such a devastating loss, but you are so right that our mothers are deeply, deeply a part of us, in ways that even we don’t know. They are ALWAYS with us. Thank you for sharing your experience and your hope and faith!

  23. says

    Moms always look their best. You are very blessed to have a mom with such courage..Not had..have. She is still very much alive so long as even one person is thinking about her.

    • says

      “Moms always look their best.” I love that! And it’s so true. I do feel that my mom is still very much alive through the memories of her daughters, and I love sharing her with others, so her courage will continue to bless and inspire others. Thank you so much for the comment!!

  24. Flory says

    Thank you Rachel for sharing this story with us. I am going through some trials that I have questioned why I have to go through. Your story has shown me how going through these trials and handling them positively will become our strengths in the long run and strengths for our own children as they go through their own trials.

    • says

      Flory–Yes, it is amazing how our trials become our strengths, not just for ourselves but also for other people, like our children. I have been so grateful for my mother’s example through my life. Did you read April’s recent post about getting through the tunnels of life? It was a beautiful reminder of the ways to endure our trials and to use them to bless others. I’m so sorry that you are going through some difficulties right now. Hang in there!!! Thank you so much for reading and commenting on my essay–it really means a lot.

  25. Teresa says

    Beautiful. I lost it when I got to this line: “All I ever wanted was love in our home—and I got it. I got everything I ever wanted.” Thank you so very much for sharing.

    • says

      Thank you so much, Teresa! I love that my mom said that to me on her last day of life. All of the little stresses of motherhood don’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things. It’s so hard to remember that on a day-to-day basis, but I try! Thanks so much for commenting!

  26. Darcy says

    Great read and appropriate for November 1st! Today is the day we celebrate our loved ones :) I’m always telling my children…Life is what YOU make it! And your mom made it so beautiful! Thanks for sharing

  27. Heather says

    Thank you so much for sharing this story. I have been going through some very difficult times in my life and have often wondered where I will get the strength to go on. This article reminded me that all I need is “love in my home”. I cried my eyes out reading this. I am going to keep this and read it often.

    Thank you.

    • says

      Heather–Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I am so sorry to hear that you have been going through some difficult times but so glad to know that this article helped a little. Did you read April’s recent post about getting through the tunnels of life? It is a really inspiring essay about trials. I hope things get better for you soon!

  28. Lori Conger says

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write this beautiful post and share this story. I don’t know your mother, of course, but she is the type of woman I have always wanted to become. I absolutely love her courage, her faith, her resilience. My heart is touched so deeply by her story. Thank you again.

  29. Sandra says

    Love it….I have 5 sisters and we have a very strong bond with each other and our Mom. We love to do girls nights and trips together. We should do more….life is too short. My Mom Is almost 80 and has had two open heart surgeries that have gone well. We have been blessed with extra time with her. Thanks for sharing your heart warming story….it reminds us all to appreciate every moment.

  30. says

    Absolutely beautiful! I needed this today, as I struggle with some health issues myself (nothing life threatening), I must do better at being positive and making life beautiful and happy for my kids!

    • says

      Cheryl, I am so sorry to hear that you struggle with health problems. Being a mother is so exhausting even when you are perfectly healthy–I can’t imagine how tired you must feel every day. Hang in there and do your best every day…that’s what my mom did. She wasn’t perfect, and I know there were days when she lost her temper with us or let us spent too much time watching TV, but overall, she was an incredible mother because she loved us so much and never stopped trying. You are doing a great job! Keep it up!

  31. says

    I wish I had been warned about the ‘cry factor’ of this sweet story. Trying not to do the ugly cry here at my work desk! Thanks for sharing. This is very tender and sweet – what a legacy for her grandchildren even though she isn’t here physically to love on them. I’m sure they sat on her lap in heaven before they came to you.

  32. says

    The thing I loved best about this was how her mother “only wanted love in her home–and she got it.” That is such a sweet reminder to me to stop worrying so much about family schedules and turning out perfect children who are good at everything, socially well-adjusted, smart and tidy. I need to relax and ENJOY my children, not just obsess over their every shortcoming.

    Wonderful, beautiful post. Your blog always uplifts me. Thanks so much to the writer and April. :)

    • says

      “…stop worrying so much about family schedules and turning out perfect children who are good at everything, socially well-adjusted, smart and tidy. I need to relax and ENJOY my children, not just obsess over their every shortcoming.” So true! Thank you!

  33. Allyson says

    What a blessing to have this story out there for all the mothers of the world. Wow! What an example and inspiration! Thank you so much for sharing.

  34. Liz says

    And to think I was sitting here pouting about such trivial things before I read your story. Thank you for putting things into perspective for me. Your mom was a beautiful person!

    • says

      Liz–Don’t worry…I pout about trivial things all the time! You would think I would know better after having a mother like I did! (But I’m guessing that she too pouted about silly things now and then.) We are all just doing our best on a day to day basis, and sometimes daily life is just TOUGH (with all of its little stresses and annoyances), but I love having occasional reminders of what REALLY matters in life, and looking at these photos of my mom reminds me. Thank you so much for reading and commenting! Keep up the great work, mama!

  35. Elizabeth Sacco says

    Rachel- My mother spent the last nine years of her life paralized in a wheelchair as a result of a stroke. I saw how agonizing it was for her to not be able to see well, swallow food or stand. Yet during every visit it was I who received comfort from her.She was my rock with her wisdom and advice about motherhood that never waivered, it was always about love. My mother’s last words to me were, “Love, Elizabeth, just love.” Your article renewed in me that bond with my mom that I have so missed. Thank you.

    • says

      Elizabeth–Your mother sounds INCREDIBLE. What an example. You should write about her for the website because I would love to know more about her wisdom and positivity. Thank you so much for sharing this with me! “Love, just love”–what amazing advice.

  36. Kimberly says

    This made me cry. Thank you for the gentle reminder of how precious life is and what a great impact we can and will have on our children.

  37. says

    I echo Jennifer from above–Love in the Home–nothing could be better. Your story made me think about priorities. Sometimes illnesses remind us of what is truly important. You are blessed with a wonderufl mother and happy memories. Congratulations on your son as well. He is adorable:)

    I also must invite you to contribute your story to a project I have been working on. P.O.M. sent shared it in one of their newsletters to authors as well, so you may have heard about it. I am creating a book called Lessons From My Parents. The submissions are just now closing so if you would like to take part I need to know right away. I have received lessons from around the world and would love to add your story to the project. Here is my website http://www.familius.com/ If you look in recent books you can see what the book will look like. Please email me and let me know if you are interested michele@familius.com Thanks!

  38. Emily says

    Wow! I cried almost from the first picture! What an amazing legacy she left. What a beautiful mother she is. Thank you for sharing, thank for being an example to us all.

  39. Mia says

    This was so touching, and I’m so happy you had an amazing mom and have such a wonderful family bond with your sisters. I just looked at the pictures and thought I hope I do such a great job with my kids…and in the face of such adversity..wow. It really puts days when everything gets on top of you into perspective. Thank you – wishing you much joy and your little boy is just gorgeous :)

  40. Becca says

    Thanks for sharing your story. I recently became ill & have not been able to take care of my very young children,who happen to also be adopted, as I would like. I cried as my husband left to take them trick o treating yesterday when I could not share in their little joys. This post reminded me to be the best I can for my children & husband as we face this difficult journey. Thanks again for sharing your mother’s example.

    • says

      Becca, I am so sorry to hear that you have been ill and struggling. How heartbreaking not to be able to go trick-or-treating with your children. I’m so sorry. My mom showed me that all we can do is our best on any given day–sometimes that meant that she didn’t get out of bed, but she called us in to her room and read us stories–other days she had more energy and could do a little more. She wasn’t perfect, but she did shower us with love, and that was enough to get us through even the worst of times. I know you are doing a great job. Hang in there. You will be in my prayers tonight.

  41. Mallory says

    I get so bogged down with completing the “responsibilities” of motherhood. Reading your article reminds me to take time for some plain old enjoyment. Day to day life with children is a privilege denied to many.

  42. Brook says

    Thank you — this is such a beautiful tribute to your mom. I too lost my mother to cancer while I was in my 20’s and although I ache for her presence and wisdom, her life and the life of your mother bring me great encouragement and joy because these women truly represent triumph, strength and a commitment to the things that have ever really mattered in life. I love mothers who know their families are worth fighting for and have the conviction to do so under the most difficult circumstances and without the applause and praise of the world.
    Thanks — this post made my day :)

    • says

      I am so sorry that you lost your mother, but so glad to know that you also had a role model who showed great strength in the face of adversity. A mother’s impact cannot be underestimated. I am so glad you liked the post, and thank you so much for commenting.

  43. Steffany says

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. Your mother sounds like a brave and wonderful woman. I am happy that you have a child and can share the beautiful memories of Grandma with him and everyone else in your writing. As another person commented, this story reminds me to stop and love all the little moments with my kids, since every day responsibilities do make us forget to enjoy the little things.

  44. Katie says

    I am one of three girls, as well, and cried years of joy, sorrow, and love reading your article. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am certain that your mom is so proud of you; sharing your story has helped me re-center my priorities….I will be a better mom to my three little boys because of your moms story of strength, selflessness, and love. Enjoy every moment with your beautiful child. He will cherish that blanket.

    • says

      Thank you so much, Katie. Having two sisters is amazing, isn’t it? We support each other through thick and thin. I love that blanket, and my little boy (who is 15 months old now) loves it too–he drags it around everywhere. It makes me so happy to see him with his grandma’s quilt!

  45. Sarah says

    Thank you for sharing your touching story Rachel! I’m a mom of three boys and my husband is at school late tonight. But after reading this, rather than turning on the TV and tuning them out for a “break” I couldn’t help but spend more time with them. We played Guess Who, drank hot chocolate and read book after book. Thank you for the reminder of how precious and fleeting this experience of life is. Love to you and your family.

    • says

      Wow–what an incredible comment. It brought tears to my eyes. My mom would be so happy to know that she inspired an impromptu family night that sounds so very fun. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

  46. says

    AHHH that was the most beautiful story! I have tears that are welled up in my eyes and I can hardly read the screen. Thanks so much for sharing the beautiful story about your mother, she makes me want to be a better and to do the same for my kids. ahhh Thanks so much for letting us share this with you. xoxo.

  47. Elizabeth Little says

    Rachel,

    You and your mother have managed to reach through time and space to a little mommy that you have never met and probably never will and help to shape her into a better mommy. That is amazing!! I cried. My heart is full and bigger. I want to be better. I want to snuggle my girls tomorrow. They are 8, 6, 3, and 6 months. I want to laugh with them more and celebrate small moments more. And next time someone tries to take a picture of me, I will let them.

    Thank you!! The power in your writing is more powerful than the magic of Harry Potters wand!

    • says

      Elizabeth–It sounds like you have your hands full! Way to go, mama! I am so glad to know that my mother’s story has blessed your life. I am so honored to know that my essay has made a difference to you.

  48. Georgina Close says

    Rachael your Mum is so beautiful. She made me feel inspired. Ihave to go now and finish balling my eyes out and
    set new commitments to keep doing all the sometimes ‘hard’ things like journal writing and being patient.
    Lots of love to you
    Georgina

  49. Alysann Collotzi says

    I can’t stop crying. Thank you very much Rachel for sharing the example of your mom. She’s incredible! I’m sure she is very happy about this wonderful tribute you’ve done of her!

  50. Koni Smith says

    I love how your mom made the quilts for her grandchildren and how she embroidered “With Love Grandma Sally”. What joy you must have felt as you wrapped it around your little one that took so long to come to you! Thank you so much for sharing!

  51. e d willhite says

    Rachel, thank you for sharing a beautiful & valuable story. I’m sure your mom would be honored for her story to be used to encourage & motivate moms all over the world; like myself. I lost my granny 2 years ago to cancer, and before her passing was challenged by her joy & pure love for her family! Much like your mom, even when she felt rotten from treatments, she remained happy & genunuinely excited for us to be there! Her desire of family is deeply rooted in me & like the awesome example of your mom, i’m challenged to be a better mom and convey the things that “really” matter! Love in Christ who first loved us, Elaina

  52. Mary Christensen says

    Thank you so much for sharing these intimate photos and experiences. It really puts motherhood into perspective. Thank you!

  53. says

    REAL MOTHER LOVE = BEAUTIFUL!!! THANKS FOR SHARING! INSPIRED ME TO KEEP ENJOYING THE JOURNEY WITH MY DAUGHTER! I HAVE ALSO ADOPTED!!! AND I WOULD HAVE IT NO OTHER WAY!!! GOD’S WAYS ARE WAY BEYOND OURS!!!
    HUGS!!!

  54. Kelli says

    Thank you for putting your family’s story into the written word, Rachel! I am the mother of 3 small children; a 9 year old boy and 7 year old boy/girl twins. I was diagnosed with MS before they were born, but my disability has become really bad the last year or so. I sometimes feel selfish for putting my desires to be a mother above the childhood they would have. I work very hard to make the best memories with them and spend lots of time cuddling and talking about life, religion, how to be a good person, girls/boys, schools, etc! I probably lose my temper more than I should because everything I do is hard. I can only hope that the good outweights the bad. My greatest joy would be for them to remember me as you remember your mother. Thank you for reminding me to take advantage of everyday!

    • says

      Kelli–You are an incredible mother who is teaching your children so much. I know they will be immeasurably blessed by your example and, most of all, by your love. My mom wasn’t perfect (she lost her temper with us sometimes too and I’m sure made other mothering “mistakes”), but we always knew we were cherished, and that is all that mattered. Every child needs the unconditional love of a mother. Thank you for your wonderful example!

  55. Denhi says

    Thank you so much for this honest heartfelt post. The challenges our mothers have faced are truly a testament for the power that the love of a mother can have. It gives me hope but my own capabilities as a mother and the love that I have for my son. Thank you for reminding me of this.

  56. says

    I am a mother.
    I am a grandmother.
    I am a photographer.
    Reading this story of love and getting to see
    Actual pictures of the people it’s told about brought
    A sense of realness; tender moments brought
    To life from the pictures.
    I have amazing pictures of moments I took
    From my camera of my own family, but, I’m in very
    Few of them.
    I am making a change.
    Whether I love the picture of myself or not, will
    Not be my main focus.
    Making sure my heritage can see me along with
    The stories told is my new focus.
    The other quality I’m working on?
    How to have more fun.
    :)
    Thank you for sharing.
    Vikki

  57. DR says

    Rachel. Thank you for such a beautiful story. What a hero your mom is. This post has helped me to put the things I worry about into perspective. Thank you!

  58. Tara B says

    Hi, Rachel. What a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing your mom with us. Her story is one of a strong, determined, and loving mother, and the pictures speak volumes of the beautiful, funny, and honest woman that she was. Thanks again.

  59. Tara says

    thank u Rachel for sharing your story. It makes me take a step back and think before getting frustrated and to count my blessings. I want my children to remember the good parts of me….and i will definitely make sure to be in more photos, make more memories and always be patient and understanding. God bless u and your family..your mother is watching.over you proudly

  60. Lane Anderson says

    Rachel,
    What an inspiring tribute to your remarkable mother. All of us who knew her admire, respect and love her for all her goodness.

  61. Courtney says

    Rachel,

    I often wondered where you and your sisters got your lively spirit and flare for creativity. What a wonderful way to share how beautiful your mother was and how we can lead by her example! Reading this makes me reflect to this summer after loosing my own mother to lung cancer and chronic illness…. Really puts that fighter mentality in you and makes you count your ever many blessings! I love you dearly and will always keep you and Laura in my heart as my camp sweet hearts!

    Love always,

    Courtney Elliott

    • says

      I am so sorry to hear about your loss, Courtney. Losing your mother is so difficult. You are right, it does put the fighter mentality in you. Love you too, and thank you so much for reading and commenting!

  62. Amy Larson says

    Rachel–this is Amy Whitaker Larson—I went to high school with you guys–this is beautiful! I loved.hated reading it. You and your sisters are so pretty, both inside and out. I remember you being so much fun all the time. Thank you for posting this.

  63. says

    Wow! what was I thinking while reading it? I don’t know – as my brain (and face!) is filled with tears at the moment!

    What a tender and amazing story and tribute about your mom! How blessed you were to have a mom like that! And how blessed she was to have kids like you!

    Thank you for sharing what I know was difficult to go through as a little kid. What a testimony you have – and I know it will minister to so many people!

    It truly encourages me that I’m doing the right thing – being a SAHM (to 5 fantastic future leaders!) and loving on my kids as much as I can (even though I don’t do it perfectly all the time . . . especially once a month when I can get quite cranky! :) )

    Thanks again and God bless!

  64. says

    Thank you so much to everyone who commented. I read each and every comment (multiple times), and it means so much to me to know that my mother’s story has touched so many lives. She was amazing, and I love sharing her goodness with others. Thank you again for reading and commenting!

  65. Debbie Krysciak says

    I love, love, love that story. Thank you so much for sharing. As a mother of four children, 10 and under I can not imagine how your mother must have felt, my own heart was breaking. I love all the pictures and it reminds me to cherish every moment with my kids… and get in more of those photos as well. Thank you for sharing.

  66. Pia says

    Wow – through my blurry vision and streaming tears I want to say “Thank You”for sharing this beautiful story and your mothers legacy with me. While I am lucky to still have both my parents I have watched as close friends lost parents and fought to find the beauty in their life story, rather than the bitterness of the situation. My husband and I lost our first son Sam to a cord accident during pregnancy in 2009, our second child – a little bundle of JOY, Abby – was born 5 weeks early in 2010 and then we lost again at 9 weeks this March and again very early in June. It has been hard to hold onto hope during this time – to believe that life would not slap us in the face again. During these challenges I have, like you mother (but not to such a wonderful extent), tried to find the beauty in what I have…and even in the memories of what should have been. My daughter is a beacon of life and I want so much for her to have a sibling and hopefully that chance is close and will end happily this time round. We need stories like yours and wisdom (and wonderful humor in adversity) like your mothers to regain perspective in this world. To look around and not waste time with negativity but instead to harness that energy and convert it into LIFE….A Beautiful Life and the appreciation that Motherhood is Beautiful.

    Thank you Rachel and many hugs to you from Australia – and also to that gorgeous baby of yours.

  67. says

    Pia–I am so sorry for all of the loss you have experienced. Thank you for sharing your story and the ways that you have held onto strength through it all. You are a wonderful mother. I am so touched to know that my mother’s story was meaningful to you. She was a remarkable woman, as so many mothers are. I hope your Abby will have a younger brother or sister soon–you will be in my prayers tonight. xo`

  68. Jarick says

    Rachel, I am moved by your mother’s story and how you are carrying on her optimism and resilience. Thank you for sharing and letting so many of us find greater courage and perspective in our own challenges. Your story would benefit readers of Seeing the Everyday magazine (seeingtheeveryday.com), and we would be honored to print your story if you are interested. You can reach me at stories@seeingtheeveryday.com. Thank you again for sharing such an important example.

  69. kiirstenjeppson says

    I am BAWLING! What a perfect example and display of motherly love! I want to be pure like that. Thank you so much for sharing your personal story.

  70. Alpa says

    Thank you so much for sharing your memories of your mother. What a great reminder to me that all I really want to do is to love my children and be loved by them. I love crawling into bed and cuddling my kids but don’t do it often enough. I don’t know what the future holds for any of us, but I can make the present be full of that love I have inside of me.
    Again, thanks.

  71. DebraRebecca C. Alexandra' says

    Dear Rachel,
    Thank you for the blessing for sharing your mothers life with us.
    It is very Encouraging, because my son was Abducted 881 days ago,
    my one and only son, that the Lord blessed me with.
    Everyday I press on with my faith, and the promises that the Lord has
    whispered in my ear, and I will keep fighting, because being a Mother
    is the greatest gift that we have, and I go on, past the days that become unbearable to breathe, and wait for the day, Praying Today,
    that I hear that beautiful sound of my son once again calling me Mama, and him in my arms. Please pray for that day, My sons name is MichaelLuke
    God Bless You, and Your family!
    Sister in Christ

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