My mother has been on my mind all day. Today would have been her 98th birthday. I doubt if there is anyone else left to remember this but it's an important day to me. You see, this was the woman who not only gave me life but taught me how to live it. By example, she taught me to be a mother and a grandmother. She tried her best to teach me to be a wife and any failure in that area is mine and mine alone. As she reminded me once when I told her how she should answer one of my dad's requests, she was the one who had stayed married for 66 years and so she might know a thing or two about the subject. She was my cheerleader, the one who would forgive me just about anything, the person who let me know. even at times when I unwittingly hurt her, that I was not only loved but worthy of love. As the years went by, she became my closest and dearest friend so when she died that Christmas Eve, some years ago, I lost the intimate presence of both of these people - the mother and the friend. She was a woman of uncommon grace and gratitude; grace in her living and gratitude for the life she had been given. She lived her life without guile or pretense. Her generosity became legend and her spirit inspiration. She was the model for the woman I have tried to be, the adventurer I want to be, and the elder sage I hope to be. The hole that was left in my life when she passed from my earthly realm is vast and unfillable. But still she lives in my heart and is the angel who whispers in my ear, still guiding and encouraging me to move forward with firm steps through the sands of life.