March 29. Today would have been my mom’s 90th birthday. She planned to live to be 90, and she almost made it. When she died in May, it was peaceful and I was right there at her side. But she didn’t want to die. Not ever. She always said she couldn’t die until she saw how everything turned out. I guess she thought that when “everything” had turned out, she would be last one to leave the planet. I see her reaching back into the dark, pulling the door gently closed behind her.

I wanted to honor my mother today with my gift. I wasn’t sure how to do it, and thought about her on and off all day. She was a fierce survivor, an expressive artist, a meticulous seamstress, and an efficient homemaker. She was intelligent, curious, and fearless. She was beautiful – and vain.

Young Gina

We are going to Ireland next week to visit our son, Aaron, who is studying in Dublin. I had some things to take care of downtown at AAA. Oh, how my mom loved to travel! She remained adventurous into her later years, camping with nomads in Morocco when she was past 80. I, on the other hand, find myself becoming more and more of a homebody.

Anyway, all the way there I had my eye out for the right person. One promising connection came to a premature end when the bus arrived to whisk away my intended recipient. The actual AAA travel store was pretty much empty except for the few people working there. I browsed through an unsettlingly prodigious display of money belts, money pouches and other money-concealing items.

I had my eyes peeled on the way home, as well. At one point, I pulled over to the side of the road to get my bearings. I realized I had stopped right outside a strip club and had a little chuckle at myself. I finally pulled over on 28th near Burnside with the idea of dashing into Whole Foods. Since I haven’t been able to taste anything, my motivation in the kitchen has plummeted. I thought maybe I’d get inspired.

Once inside, I noticed a woman in a rain bonnet and extremely sensible shoes. She was standing in front of the vitamin display and talking with one of the employees. In her hand was a bottle of flax seed tablets. They had an extended conversation; the employee was recommending all kinds of things. I heard the woman say, “Well, I can’t afford it today. Thank you.” They parted ways and she headed down the aisle.

I approached the woman and said hello. I said that I wanted to talk with her for a minute. “About what?” she asked warily, casting her eyes sideways. “Come here a sec,” I beckoned. The next aisle was empty and she took a step toward me, still skeptical. REAL skeptical.

I told the woman that I was honoring my mother, and that today would have been her 90th birthday. She stared. “She gave me a gift and I’m passing it along. I want to give you something,” I said. Her eyebrows shot up. “Something like what?”


“This is for you.” I put the money in her hand and the woman said, “Good grief! That’s amazing!” Then she told me her name was Anna and she started to talk. Her mama’s birthday was this month, too. She was 84 when she died suddenly of a heart attack a few years ago. Anna had a lot of questions about what I was doing and why, and she was lovely to talk to. She was transfixed as I told her about my mom escaping from Germany during the war.

Her own ancestors were slaves. When her great-grandparents were freed, they were given 160 acres in the Oklahoma Territories. “They did real well. It just didn’t filter down to the grandchildren!”

Anna had gotten a ride to the store since she doesn’t have a car. She didn’t want to keep the man waiting, and had one eye out for him while we talked. “This is amazing! Thank you so much!” she said. “I’m going to go home and ponder what I need.” She said I could take her picture but she wasn’t thrilled about it. “Just as long as I don’t have to look at it!” she said with a laugh. Her ride showed up and we said a fond goodbye. She gave me one last long look. “In honor of your mother!” was the last thing she said.

It occurred to me that I didn’t need to do anything out of the ordinary to honor my mother. It’s all for her. She would love that.







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8 Responses to Love, Jill

  1. Steph says:

    Happy Birthday to Gina.

    I be willing to bet she’s proud of you, Jill.

  2. Joe Ichter says:

    Jill, this is nothing short of the most beautiful memory I have seen. Happy Birthday to Gina and so glad she brought the world a person like you!!

  3. Dolly England says:


  4. Susan Bolton says:

    ANOTHER beautiful tribute to your mother, who started this amazing journey for you… She has to be proud!
    Were your ears ringing last night? Had a lovely Thai dinner with Astrid and Kathy – we were all commenting on you, what you’ve done – with such admiration, of course! Have a wonderful holiday in Ireland, can’t wait to hear about it… have a pint for me!!!

  5. andrea gehrke says:

    Enjoy Ireland! And how sweet to make yet another great connection and on your mother’s birthday. I know this must be a hard time right now, remembering both your mother and your dear friend Audrey.

  6. Ginny says:

    Happy Birthday to your wonderful mother! You are hounoring her like she would like I’m sure. “You are Loved” my priest says that and I believe it. Have a wonder ful vacation in Ireland.

  7. DJan says:

    Happy birthday, Gina! And I just returned from my own trip to read in the comments that you are going to Ireland? How lovely!

  8. Kris says:

    These are inspiring, amazing stories of human connection. Thank you for sharing them, and thank you for sharing what is abundant.

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