I remember the last words of wisdom my mother ever shared with me. "If you don't have your health, you have nothing."
Today would have been my mom's 80th birthday. She died at a young age. Sadly, the times I think of her are becoming fewer. I do remember her voice, her mannerisms and gestures and I have memories which are becoming increasingly difficult to retrieve in any sort of detail. As with everything else, there are "triggers" that cause me to recall comments and events. Sometimes, they make me chuckle, other times, I realize how they have shaped my life.
One obvious example happens each year as Good Friday approaches. I can usually hear mom's voice in her 'Woinemer' dialect. "Karfreitag is de heiligschte Dag im Johr". Good Friday is the holiest day of the year.
Even before my parents became devoted church goers, they refused to do anything which seemed like "work" on Good Friday. They had been taught, and now, so have I. Good Friday was always elevated several notches above Sunday's "day of rest " status. If you had no clean clothes to wear, too bad. No laundry was to be done on this day...tough lesson especially during my teenage years.
I got to thinking about and appreciating some other things that mom taught me: thoughtfulness, kindness, consideration and common sense. To this day, I do not slam a door, but I turn the knob and close it gently behind me. I know that it is rude to shout, point or use an excessively loud voice particularly in public places. Persons older than myself are to be respectfully addressed by their title and surname. When cooking, turn the pot handles toward the back of the burners for safety. Do not eat raw dough because it will give you worms, and of course, always wear clean underwear when going out even if it has the wrong day of the week written on it.
My mom taught me about the environment, before it was in vogue. Be sure to thoroughly boil the lake water before drinking. When being followed by a bear, keep walking and don't bother trying to climb a tree. Always put trash in your pocket until you find a proper place for disposal. The chewed gum that became lodged in my jacket one day turned into a whole other learning opportunity.
When I was a child, mom read to me. I gained knowledge of German stories, poems and songs and I am pleased that I still remember most of those. She cured me of many ills using a simple remedy... camomille and peppermint tea.
I know that mom had countless friends. She cared about people and went out of her way to get to know them. There wasn't a person she had ever met that she didn't like or remember. I think it worked both ways.
Mom died when her only two grandkids were very young. My fondest memory of all is when she used to bounce them lovingly on her lap, start chanting a rhyme, then tip them backwards causing them to giggle with glee.
"Hoppe, hoppe Reiter
wenn er fällt, dann schreit er
fällt er in den Sumpf
macht der Reiter plumps."
Today, I learned something new about my mom thanks to 'Google'. I learned that she used to recite Goethe.