Even her nickname was perfect. Cynthia may have been printed on her birth certificate, but everyone who knew her called her Sunny, and if you met her you’d understand why.
My sister and I, of course, knew her by neither of those names. To us she was mom.
It seems almost futile telling you about her having just 750 words at my disposal. I could list that many adjectives describing what made her amazing. Give me a week and I’ll produce 750 people begging to relate a story about her; and each will start the exact same way: “You know what I loved most about your mom?”
Yes, love is the best word to describe Sunny Smith. With most people we encounter there is a transitory time between liking and loving them. Sometimes that time is short, sometimes it’s long, sometimes it never happens at all.
My mom needed no such period. The normal progression went something like this: You met her, you loved her, you never forgot her. When you hear stories about her, you’ll understand why.
Stories like the one about a certain kid in my sister’s high school class who was homeless for awhile, meaning he went without lunch. Correction: He briefly went without until my mom found out and started sending my sister to school with a lunch for him as well. Not just one day or a few days. Every day.
Many times she singlehandedly kept the U.S. Postal Service afloat. If someone she knew was battling a long-term illness, my mother would buy a dozen funny cards and mail them every other day. She wanted to give them something positive to look forward to, give them a laugh, give them, well, just a little bit of sun in their life.
Her love for others knew no bounds. I think back to the night a friend of mine lay in a hospital bed, clinging to life after a horrifying car accident. The hospital was full of friends and family, with the exception of his parents who were halfway around the world visiting relatives.
My mother sat by that young man’s side, holding his hand as he passed away. When I asked her how she was able to do such a thing she told me simply, “No mother should have to live knowing their child died alone.”
My mom thought the purpose of the 25-foot kitchen phone cord was so she could listen to everyone's problems while simultaneously cooking them dinner. But she didn’t just listen, she took action.
If she learned someone was suffering from a certain ailment, in a week she’d be the world’s foremost authority on it. Other moms read romance novels for fun. Mine read “Understanding OCD & Those Living With It.” It’s rumored Al Gore invented the Internet, but deep down I think my mom did just so she could Google solutions to other people’s problems.
My dad taught me many things: how to split firewood, swing a hammer, mend fences and generally how to be a man. My mother also taught me how to be a man. She showed me the importance of respecting everyone, including myself. She taught me to look for the good in others, even if at times the search is never-ending.
I learned kindness is not weakness, for she was both the kindest and strongest person I’ve ever known. I understood from watching her that “I’m sorry” are two of the most powerful words ever spoken. I guess she taught me how to mend fences, too. Above all, she showed me love is the greatest quality you can possess, but it's even more valuable when given to others.
She’s been gone six years now, stolen from us by cancer. I still have pictures of her, the emails she sent and the Pooh bear she gave me before I could even walk. More important, though, I have indelible memories and an enduring example of how to live my life.
I also have faith that someday I will see her again. I don’t know the year, month or day of the week. However, I can promise you, without a shadow of a doubt, exactly what the weather will be like on that joyous day.
Zac Smith is a water quality technician for Lakewood Water District. He is one of six reader columnists who write for this page. He would love to hear about what makes someone in your life so special at firstname.lastname@example.org