Remembering the women who shape our lives

hanging basket

In October of 2003, Bethany Hamilton was surfing early in the morning near Tunnels Beach on the island of Kauai. In a blink, the 13-year-old’s life changed forever when she was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark. She lost her arm at the shoulder and an alarming amount of blood.

The world quickly heard her story and she became an inspiration when she started surfing again just three weeks after the attack.

Now 33 years old, Bethany is expecting her fourth child. When asked in a recent interview about the best piece of advice she ever received, she responded with a quote by Mother Theresa, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”

There is some debate about whether or not Mother Theresa said those exact words. Some people believe it is a paraphrase of her 1984 Noble Prize acceptance speech. Regardless, it is poignant advice especially as Mother’s Day draws nearer.

Like it is for many other people, Mother’s Day is bittersweet for me after my mom passed away five years ago. It is a time of reflection and remembrance for the women who shaped my childhood and instilled lifelong values.


My mom loved to grow things, especially annuals and perennials in her flower beds and planters. Her back porch had cascading hanging baskets down the length and climbing clematis on the adjacent side. Clay pots were nestled on every step and in every corner, bursting with color from impatiens, begonias and marigolds.

Her other hobby was sewing quilts. While my classmates struggled to keep their paper bag book covers from tearing, I had personalized, quilted book covers snuggly keeping my books clean and secure. Her level of craftiness has evidently skipped a generation.

Growing roots

My maternal grandmother was born tiny and mighty, physical traits she carried into adulthood. She could never sit still. Even with arthritis in her hands, she continued to crochet because she couldn’t idly sit and watch TV with my grandpa.

Instead of wings to explore, she grew roots deep into the wet soil of her family’s farm. As a child when I heard Bible stories about the Garden of Eden, I pictured her garden because it had a hedge around the perimeter with the most beautiful and robust plants inside.


My paternal grandmother was quite the opposite. She loved to travel and did not attempt to keep plants or flowers alive. She did enjoy spring wildflowers, pointing out ephemerals that did not need tending or hoaxing to grow and thrive.

When the pastor at my grandpa’s funeral noted during the eulogy that my grandparents had traveled to all 50 states, he paused for affirmation and asked, “Did you go to Alaska too?”

With a stern look mixed with a little disbelief, my grandmother answered with her classic deadpan humor, “Well that’s one of the 50 states, isn’t it?”

She loved researching family history and took detailed notes about her relatives. Her family came to Ohio after farming in the Shenandoah Valley area.

I struggled to understand her stoic and distant nature at times, but through the lens of my adult eyes, I can see the ways she loved and cared for her family.

Baking cookies was never one of her methods of showing love. We ate boxes of raisins there. We ate enough boxes of Sun-Maid raisins that she had two complete collections of California raisin figurines on her sunporch throughout the 80s.

Legacy lives on

These three women, along with many other mother figures in my life, helped to guide me as a mother to my four kids. Genetics are interesting in how I can see bits and pieces of their personalities in me and my children. Even though they are not present, their legacy lives on in their family.

Bethany Hamilton continues to surf on a professional circuit, balancing motherhood and career goals. Motherhood looks different for her, but she is determined to raise her children close to nature.

The life of Mother Teresa is an example in so many ways. She showed the world what it was like to serve in a nurturing role, without having biological children.

She lived out her famous words, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”


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Julie Geiss lives with her husband and four children in Unity Township, Ohio. Faith and family are first in her life, but she also loves hiking, biking and camping. You can contact Julie at



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