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This is my first Mother's Day without my mom. Instead of being sad, I will celebrate her life.

Bethany Kandel   

This is my first Mother's Day without my mom. Instead of being sad, I will celebrate her life.
  • My mom died at age 91 on February 2024.
  • Instead of being sad that she's not here this Mother's Day I will celebrate her life.

This Mother's Day is the first time in my 66 years of life that I have no mom. She sadly passed away at the age of 91 in February.

I used to feel bad on Mother's Day for friends who had lost theirs. Now I join them. But instead of being sad, I will channel my mother and happily remember her life, art and legacy.

I'm not one for visiting gravesites. I believe in memorializing people by keeping them alive in your heart, memories, actions and thoughts.

I see her everywhere

My mother continues to be with me. I often have conversations with her in my head. I share stories that she'd find funny. Or I tell her about deals I got. We both loved bargains and freebies.

I see my mom everywhere, especially when I look in the mirror. Everyone says I resemble her with my high cheekbones and light-colored eyes.

I have been rummaging through her closets and drawers for items to save to keep her close. There are so many pins and necklaces she made from broken watches and other found objects, including ping-pong balls covered in subway maps that became pop-art beads. Or fun patterned clothing she wore because my dad liked her in bright colors. And purses galore, including a quirky one shaped like a chicken.

Need a missing button? She had hundreds to choose from. She upgraded most of her clothing with her beauties, replacing the cheaper ones they came with. She would offer to gift a set to anyone she met.

She was so original

She was a funky mom, which, as a teenager, often inspired eyeball rolls.

As a self-taught outsider artist, my mother's life was one giant treasure hunt. The walls of her apartment overflow with beautiful objects and her hand-made museum-quality creations. It's like a real-life "I Spy" book.

Inspired by 20th-century artist Joseph Cornell, she collected old ads, broken dolls, game pieces and rusty implements to create shadowboxes. Hers came with clever names, like "Rust in Peace" and "Mona Pizza." One with a collection of tiny doll shoes was called "No No Manolo".

Her credo was "Art speaks with no words." She found beauty in the ordinary and liked to say that you don't look for such objects, "they find you."

Her originality encouraged my sons, who fashioned a "Mr. Love Bug" collage from the innards of a broken radio when they were young. As adults, they collected bottle caps and other interesting detritus on their travels as gifts for a grandma they knew would appreciate it far more than any store-bought souvenir.

My mother was one of a kind. She could talk to billionaire Warren Buffet (and she did) or a taxi driver, with similar gusto.

She was my living thesaurus. If I needed a word for an article I was writing, I'd call and she plucked just the perfect one out of thin air.

She was always thinking of others. If the dessert was a delicious chocolatey treat at a fancy business dinner, she would ask the waiter for a piece to bring home for me. During the pandemic, she got out her phone book and called 100 people in it to see how they were doing.

I haven't found any secret notes to me, but I know how much I was loved. It was there in the hugs she gave me, the sweet caresses of my face even in her last days, telling me I was beautiful.

I joked that she put Pollyanna to shame. She always looked at life from a glass-half-full perspective, perpetually upbeat until recent politics depressed her and we suggested she stop watching so much TV news. In high school, when I left for a date, her parting piece of advice was always: "Sparkle." Something she did daily.

I will miss those little signs of love, her constant creativity and contagious sense of humor. Her greatest joy would be to see me happy and celebrating Mother's Day with my own sons. So, in her honor, I will wear bright colors, be positive and upbeat and always shine.


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