Remembering Two Great Mothers on Mother's Day

This year, two great mothers died.  One is famous, and one is not.  Yet they both had a lot in common.

On April 17, Barbara Bush died at the age of ninety-two.  My mom, Cynthia Audrey Czerniak, although not well known except to her family, died on February 23, at the age of eighty-eight.  This Sunday is Mother's Day and anyone with a loving mom will understand the dedication below.

The finality of her passing is setting in, and I think how I wish my mom could come back and stay a while.  I want to hear her voice.  And see her smile.  I want to hug her tight.  And say how much I love her.  The quote from best-selling author Kristin Hannah expresses how any loving child feels: "love for a mother is a durable thing, as vast as this landscape, as immutable as the sea.  Stronger than time itself." 

In his eulogy to his mom, Jeb Bush told of how she "filled our life with laughter and joy.  In the case of our family, she was our teacher and role model on how to live a life with purpose and meaning.  Our mom was our first and important teacher, making sure we sat up, looked people in the eye, said please and thank you, did our homework, and quit whining and complaining.  What a blessing to have a teacher like that 24-7."

I have to agree wholeheartedly, since through my mom's strength, persistence, encouragement, and determination, I was able to persevere and overcome a physical handicap.  It was incredible to me that she could look at my face or hear my voice on the phone and know something was bothering me.  Even in her state of dementia and with all her physical problems, there would be times when I gave a long sigh, and she would ask what was wrong and how can she help.  Yes, there were times she did not remember my name, but there were also times when I would say, "Who am I?," and she gave me that look of hers, like "What are you talking about?  Of course I know who you are, and then she would humor me by saying, "My daughter, Elise."

Jeb Bush describes his mom's style as "a benevolent dictatorship where there were no safe spaces or micro-aggressions allowed."  My dad used to refer to mom as "the general."  Both women were tough and had expectations of their children and grandchildren.  These mothers, who came from the "Greatest Generation," had an old-fashioned view of the world and insisted that we follow the rules of civility and manners, something that is more needed today than ever.

Bestselling author Iris Johansen describes her character as a mother who would become a "female terminator."  Both Barbara Bush and my mom fit the mold.  They would circle the wagons when one of the clan was threatened, while realizing that as a family we can get through anything.  Their special job was to keep the darkness out and insulate, trying to surround their loved ones by joy and sunlight.

Both women believed fiercely in family.  They knew that having arguments and disagreements was a part of life but insisted that "we get over it," emphasizing that without family, you have nobody.  In honoring her memory, I think of how my mom would want the family to remain close.  She taught all of us to realize that there are times we get angry at each other, are disappointed with one another, might disagree, but in the end, we should honor and love each other.  Mom said over the years, "It takes a strong person to say sorry, and a stronger person to forgive.  To have love, you must move on."

Cynthia was not only a marvelous mother, but a fantastic grandmother as well.  Giving unconditional love is what grandmas do best.  My children recall that their grandmother was full of love and warmth, with unconditional devotion and commitment to her family.  "What is remembered most is the huge smile and hug grandma would give immediately upon walking in.  And of course, she insisted on the goodbye kiss from us.  Looking back, there isn't a better feeling than first seeing Grandma's smile so full of warmth.  She was our family's heart."

Anyone who has watched the Blue Bloods TV show knows that the most important scene was the family sitting around the dinner table.  At my house, it was the family holiday dinners.  We all waited for my dad to toast her: "The hostess with the mostest!"  This was deservedly so, since it was her phenomenal cooking that made these family outings so special every single year.  She could whip up anything delicious at a moment's notice.  But it wasn't just the actual taste of the food that made it so great.  It was the fact of how much she cared and how much pride she took in making it for her loved ones so that they would have fond memories.  Everything she had a hand in always tasted better, probably because it was made with love.

My mom will remain a presence in her family's life.  This is the first Mother's Day without her, and although she will not be with us in body, her spirit will always guide us.  As an unknown poet said about mothers, "now the time has come for you to rest.  So go in peace, you've earned your sleep.  Your love in our hearts we'll eternally keep."  Everyone who still has a mother alive today should make sure to let her know how much she is loved.

The author writes for American Thinker.  She has done book reviews and author interviews and has written a number of national security, political, and foreign policy articles.