“Faith, hope and love but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

I have always loved this quote as I believe it sums up my life.  I have a deep faith in God which is forms the bedrock of my life.  I am an eternal optimist as well.  For example, I always believe my sports teams will win, which can be difficult since my favorite team has not been in the playoffs in 17 years. I have also been known to buy lottery tickets because, hey you never know!  But I believe that the greatest gift I have been given is the love of my family and friends. 

I am lucky to belong to a large family. I am the second youngest of five children.  While I have no children of my own, I am the proud aunt of 5 nieces and 1 nephew.  I am also lucky enough to have more than 20 cousins and a thousand or so second cousins. It assures me of someone to share laughs with when times are good and a shoulder to lean on when times get tough.  Today, however, I want to tell you about a very special woman without whom I would not be the person I am today.

My mother was very strong woman which, given her difficult life, was another wonderful gift.  She was the youngest daughter of drug addict who deserted her family when she was quite young. As my grandfather worked long hours for the railroad, my mother and her siblings were often left on their own. During WWII, she was kidnapped from her home on the West Side of Buffalo by her mother and forced to sell flowers to soldiers in Baltimore. She was eventually returned to Buffalo, but that experience affected her entire life.

Her family did not have a lot of money but somehow, they survived. She often told me the story of how she was hanging out on a street corner when a local priest took an interest in her and helped her gain entrance to a private high school just north of the city. She had to work for the school in exchange for her tuition, but for the first time in her life she was surrounded by people who not only valued an education but, more importantly, their faith was an integral part of their lives.  My mother’s life was changed forever because of this experience.

My mother faced many challenges in her life. She almost died while giving birth to her third child but God said she had more lives to touch. While she was advised to not have any more children, she gave birth to two more daughters, including me.  She experienced numerous medical issues over her life but she always pushed through because she knew she wanted to be with her family. She worked full time and sacrificed everything so that all five of us could go to private Catholic schools from kindergarten through high school.

My mother loved us so much she made sure that we focused on our education.  It was never a question of “if” we would attend college it was always “when” we would attend college. As a young child, I had a difficult time learning how to read so every night my mother would sit with me working with flash cards to improve my reading skills.  Imagine, working all day and coming home to take care of 5 children and multiple pets and yet still making time every night to sit with me to help with my reading!

I will never forget the day I received the letter offering me a full scholarship to attend law school.  My mother’s health condition had been deteriorating rapidly but God blessed us once again as she was feeling better that day.  When I entered her hospital room to give her the news she cried. Not tears of sadness but of joy.  She told me that she knew that I could achieve any goal I set my mind to and she knew I would make a fabulous attorney. Unfortunately, my Mother passed away days before I was to start law school. I knew she was with me though as spent the next three years preparing for my future. I remember studying to take the bar exam and I could hear my mother reminding me that if I studied and did my homework every night I would pass the exam.  I pictured her in heaven with a beaming smile looking down on me the day I found out that I had indeed passed the exam, thus achieving my dream of becoming an attorney. 

I learned so many valuable lessons from my mother. She taught me to believe in myself, even if no one else did. She stressed the value of learning and urged me to never stop expanding my mind through books, travel and the arts. The greatest lesson I learned, however, was to cherish those I love.  Family was the most important gift we had been given and even if my siblings were driving me crazy, I was to love them anyway.  She had a great saying that sticks to me to this day: “I may not always like you but I will always love you.”  This way every time someone I loved angered me, I knew it was ok to be frustrated as long as I remembered that my love for them was more important than anything else.

Faith, hope and love … as I continue this blog I hope to share stories of my experiences with each element of this quote.  I hope that you will share your stories with me as well as it is only through sharing our experiences that we can learn to appreciate all the gifts that God has given us.

Until next time …