(Mom in the early 80s. Not too clear a picture, can't find the original scan.)
Today would have been my mom's 76th birthday (she died in 2000). For several years, we weren't too close at all, but being the baby of the family, and the only one at home from the time I was about 7 or 8, there was a time when we were almost inseparable.
Mom raised me singlehandedly, doing the best she could with what she had. I'm not going to say she always did the right thing, or that she had no fault in the fact that she was divorced several times. I don't believe in white-washing things and making people sound like saints just because they have passed away. But, my mother taught me a lot, and one of the most important things she taught me was about accepting people for who they are regardless of race, religion, etc. Despite a family with a lot of prejudice flowing through it, she did not look at a person's skin color and decide they were less of a person because they weren't white.
I wish my mother had lived to see our first black president. I also wish she had been able to marry the man she was so in love with and dated when I was in high school, but he was black and she was afraid my brothers would not accept him and she'd lose them. Her relationship with my siblings was strained as it was, she did not want to chance losing them completely.
Although we weren't close any more, Mom was the one person who was in my life from the very beginning as my dad and I went years at a time without even speaking to each other. When someone who has been with you like that, losing them is almost a surprise, even though you know the time will eventually come. And my life was shaped by this woman, even by the bad moments with her, as what matters most is not what happened in your past, but what you do with that throughout your life.
My mother was searching most of her life for something. I don't know what, and I don't think she ever found it, even though we moved 30+ times in her quest for whatever it was. Maybe it was just simple acceptance. We all long for acceptance at some point in our lives. After several years of fighting illness, she got tired of fighting and stopped treatment. Maybe she did find what she was looking for in the end.
(I know I've written about Mom before, but for some reason, I just felt like doing it again.)