The best way to remember my mother, Mary Ann Ruggieri, on this 20th anniversary of her passing is to reflect on what she taught me. It wasn’t so much what she said. It was her example that made such an indelible impression on me.

Be kind. She was not only a kind and caring nurse at the local hospital, she was a nurse to all the kids in the neighborhood. We had the corner house and at ¾ acre, our yard was big enough to play baseball, football, and just to play. So when one of the kids would fall while rounding second base, which was an embedded rock in the yard, my mom was there to apply first aid.

Be respectful. “Your grandparents are coming over. I want you all to be on your best behavior,” she’d say. And if that didn’t work, “a look”, was all it took to put us back in line. We respected her and we respected our grandparents. More than anything, I didn’t want to disappoint my mother.

Be selfless. When my grandparents were aging, and all but a couple of us kids were still at home, my mom chose to move us into their house. We packed up and downsized. It wasn’t easy for me to leave our home, but I came to realize that it was a very selfless thing for her to do. A few years later, at the age of 23, when I was recovering from emergency surgery, I woke up to discover my mom had sat by my hospital bed all night long.

Be educated. At the age of 36, she had been left to raise five young children after my father lost his battle with cancer. My mother returned to work as a nurse and became specialized in critical care nursing. Because she had gotten an education, she was able to provide for her family. So continuing our education after high school wasn’t even questioned. All five of my brothers and sisters received post-secondary degrees.

Believe. My mom always told us that we could be anything we wanted to be. She taught us to believe in ourselves and to believe in God. Our faith was part of our family and the very thing that sustained us in her struggle with cancer at the age of 55.

I never heard my mother speak an unkind word about anyone. And I never heard her complain. In fact, it was what she didn’t say that taught me how to be. My mom was as beautiful as she was caring. She was a true lady in every sense of the word.

She was simply – the most kind, respectful, selfless, and faith-filled woman I ever knew. And all I ever wanted to be, was to be like her.

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