We celebrated my mother's 80th birthday Saturday. Not as we planned. I'm starting to understand that about life.

Barbara Dell was born May 30, 1929 in Cleveland, Ohio. It was a tough time in history and her childhood was equally hard. Alcoholism brings little stability to a child's life. In her teens, her refuge became Dana Hall boarding school for girls in Wellesley, Massachusetts. She went on to Hartford Junior College. While in Hartford she met a future insurance executive named George Kessel. They met on a blind date. He was tall. She was tall. He had earned a purple heart in World War II several years earlier. They fell in love.

After graduating from Goucher College she relocated to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to be near the tall guy who had captured her heart. She worked in administration at a local radio station.

They married in November of 1953. She faced her own opportunity for heroism in the fall of 1975 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. As my brother said in his tribute on Saturday:

"She beat cancer before cancer had much to worry about. She was a woman of extraordinary courage. She had willpower that would challenge Lance Armstrong."

It's true, though I didn't always recognize it. I went through a season where I struggled with her limitations. The same limitations my children must reconcile in me.

We made it through and our relationship grew. During our mold journey she did nothing but give me strength. Not an easy task when your daughter is calling from emergency rooms, hospitals, hotels, and rooms filled with air mattresses. It would have been easy for her to begin sentences with:

"Why don't you..."

"Have you tried..."

"Are you sure about..."

"Surely there's some alternative..."

"I don't understand why you don't..."

She never did that. Not once. The only words I ever heard were, "I admire your attitude. You're doing great. I think about you all the time."

I'm going to remember that next time I have a "suggestion" for one of my children.

Thanks for the legacy, Mom. I miss you so much.