Without the sun, where does the earth find light?

And yet the sun still came up on Dec. 17, 2004.

A day earlier, the center of my universe left it.

I watched her life leave my mother’s body and along with it, the disease that tormented her.

My mom was born Elaine Marie Tenniswood. She was raised in Peck, Michigan on a farm where she learned to ride horses, play with pigs and bask in the warmth of her parents and five siblings.

Her mom called her Elainey. She was her only brother’s playmate.

A middle child, her easy smile was fueled by a radiating light that made such an impact, the words accompanying her high school graduation picture read, “She is like a magnet for which all good is attracted.”

My mom became an elementary school teacher, and earned her master’s degree in the process. She devoted her life to her craft, spending hours each evening grading papers and planning for the days ahead, all the while maintaining an immaculate home and serving dinner for a family of four at 5:30 p.m. sharp each weeknight.

A childhood friend recently said those dinners provided a place of warmth for her and she felt like she was experiencing, “something out of a movie.”

My mom was my loudest cheerleader, sitting sometimes alone in the stands at my soccer games, shouting the backdrop melody with the words “Go Grandville!” as our newly-formed team bumbled through learning the basics of the sport.

She was my strongest advocate, frequently trekking me to the library to fill my basket with books and tacking assignments filled with positive remarks from my teacher on the bulletin board.

“You can become anything you want,” she told me.

I believed her.

In the summers, she hung wet sheets on the clothing line in our backyard and showed me how to grow vegetables. With a trowel, she dug the hole. I peppered it with seeds and a little water. We repeated as the sun warmed our skin and the soil.

She was my strongest role model, modeling her own and fostering in me strong friendships that have cushioned and bolstered my child and adult life.

As I got older, she’d accompany me on long walks, always bringing a tissue to catch a perennial runny nose, also sometimes releasing big sighs.

My mom is no longer here.

And yet, she is everywhere.

In my home, a picture of her as a young woman thrusting her head back laughing with her face to the sun warms my living room. In the kitchen, flowers that remind me of daisies decorate the kitchen table as a homage to the wild daisies I would pluck from the lawn for her when I was a little girl.

She’s in the flowers I plant in the spring, and my attempts at vegetable gardening,

She is in the piles of sometimes partially read books strewn on and under my bed and in those that spill from the bookshelves.

She’s embedded in my love of learning and adoration of the classroom experience.

She’s with me when I go for a long walk with a friend, tissue in hand.

When I release a sigh, I can hear her in my breath.

Sometimes I see parts of her looking back in pictures of me, so grateful when people recognize the resemblance.

So, how does the earth find light without the sun?

It looks inside.

Laura Michels is a Cadillac-based freelance writer. Contact her at micchk99@gmail.com.

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