Jeanne Sward Thebado was a teacher. And, even though she gave up the classroom to raise her family, she never gave up her love of teaching. From the day we were born, until the day she died, she never stopped teaching.
At the earliest age possible, she taught all five of her children to read. She passed on her love of words to each one of us. She never hesitated to regale us with a bedtime story -- day didn't pass without a novel nearby.
She taught two of my sisters how to sew --he taught all three, but one hates it. She was only a stitch away from being a professional seamstress. She could make new drapes for the living room whenever the mood struck her, and she could whip up a Kermit the Frog costume in record time. One of her last projects was a three-generational quilt she made with my sister and my niece.
She taught me and my brother how to cook. Well, she actually taught all of us, but my sisters can't hold a candle to the boys in the kitchen. We can throw together a Minnesota hot dish like nobody's business.
She loved music. Her favorite piano piece was "Silent Night," the version with lots of sharps and flats. I still have her piano, and while I can bang out "Chopsticks" in fairly convincing fashion, I'll never have her talent.
She loved to garden, a talent that she instilled in only a few of her children. One sister grows show-quality roses. Another spends her free time digging in her garden to relieve stress. Mom especially loved lilacs, the tiny purple flower that will forever remind me of her.
She was an avid sports fan, and especially loved the Diamondbacks. She passed that love on to my dad, my sister and me at numerous games at Bank One Ballpark.
She showed my sisters by example how to be mothers and caregivers -- how to unconditionally love their children as she did hers.
"I am the mom I am because of the mom she was," my oldest sister said.
Mom has four grandchildren who are beneficiaries of that unconditional love. All four are growing into remarkable adults, largely because of her legacy.
She taught us how to pray. She taught us that faith in God gave life meaning and purpose. She taught us that whenever we were troubled, we could turn to God. Her faith was with her throughout her entire life --rom my parents first date to the Mother Cabrini Shrine in Colorado, to her final days on this earth. Her faith was unshakable, even after suffering a stroke 22 years ago. She would not be deterred.
And, she taught us how to be a family. When I asked my brother the most important lesson we learned from Mom, he immediately said "family." As if staring at the word in his head, he added, "'For Always Mom, I Love You.' That's what ‘family' stands for." Despite the disagreements we've had over the years, nothing was ever so insurmountable that could shake the foundation of our family.
On April 22 --ust two weeks shy of Mother's Day in a hospital in New England -- our father, all five children, their spouses, her grandchildren and her goddaughter, were at her side to give her comfort.
She was there when the five of us took our first breaths; we were there as she took her last.
It's a memory that will haunt me and console me for the rest of my life.
For always Mom, I love you.