As I sat by my mother's bedside
this past week as she prepared to go to her heavenly Father, I reflected on how
deep a love can be between a mother and son. She was there when I took my first
breath, and it was only fair that I be there for her last. Although so terribly
sad, it was also joyful and humbling to reminisce on her life, family, friends
and happy memories. Dorothy Rifenbary was a woman of principle and conviction,
and had a sense of humor that was with her to the end. As I shared with her
that she would be forever healthy where she was going, she responded,
"Which way am I going up or down?" Of course laughter was shared as I
held her hand, and assured her that it was most likely up. She had a passion
for life that included her love of family, service to her community, and
enjoying as many rounds of golf as possible. Of course, her day wasn't complete
without a little nip of her Smirnoff martini.
Mom was 44 years young when her
husband, my father, passed away from cardiac arrest. From that moment, she was
determined to not permit the loss of a husband and father to be used as an
excuse not to persevere. She dedicated her life to exemplify strength of
personal character, and a devotion to her children. Mom was committed to
instilling manners in her children, and had an expectation of respectfulness
from all she encountered. Her enthusiastic spirit and infectious zest for life
will be remembered, and treasured beyond her mortal life.
As the priest
administered "last rites" with family at her side, she participated
with a faithfulness of optimism and peace that was spiritually comforting to
herself, and all who were present. The strength of a family's love conquers all
opposition to the goodness of humanity. If you consider intestinal fortitude to
be a core value, than my mother was the queen of that personal characteristic.
What values do you admire of those you love? Have you ever shared with
them your appreciation for those values they exemplify? Every day is a day to
be giving, to be thoughtful of others, and to be thankful for the blessings you
have. She lived a full life with joy and sadness, success and defeat, confidence and self-doubt, but she never gave up on her quest to make a
positive difference in others and her community.
As I reflect on my childhood,
I remember my mother supporting me in every endeavor, yet with a strictness of
ensuring I was respectful of others, and lived up to what she felt to be the
standard of our family. Although I did not always comply with her expectations
by my actions, her expectations and what she felt I could achieve, were always
part of my mindset. As Mark Twain stated, "My mother had a great deal of
trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it." It was that consistency of
expectation and belief, that was a catalyst for me in striving to be the
best husband, father, professional, and person I could be.
Our final days
together were a time of reflection, apologies, forgiveness, smiles, tears,
laughter, understanding, respect and most importantly mutual love. During the
course of our relationship there were times the past would surface and result
in emotional impatience, but the love between mother and son was always
present. Our love was strong and genuine enough to endure all that we had
experienced together. To say that her children and grandchildren respect her
would be an understatement, and her love will forever be part of each of us.
As a son, I could not have asked for a better role model in regard to
experiencing the strength and endurance of a woman's determination. True grit
was truly Dorothy. My memories of your beautiful maternal spirit I will always
treasure. Thank you for giving me life, and the opportunity to experience what
it means to genuinely live. Please say hello to Dad for me. I know the both
of you are already enjoying a round of golf, and are making up for the many
years of love that was lost so long ago.
I will forever love you.