Every set of eyes were looking at her. Even my own. Her blue sari sparkled and the hints of copper beads glistened in the light. The stage swallowed her, but my mother was not discouraged. She surprised me. Without hesitation, she delivered an emotional speech to over two hundred fifty guests at my sister’s wedding reception.

This was an unusual feat for my mom. For the first time in her life, she chose to speak publicly to a very large group of people. She talked about how she was so happy for my sister and her new husband, but also felt slivers of sadness in her heart.  In her quiet voice, she announced how much she missed her own husband of forty-eight years and how she wished he was here to witness their daughter’s wedding. I looked at my mom and in that second. I expected tears to stream down her face. But instead her eyes were steady and her voice failed to waiver. An enormous amount of pride and gratitude swelled inside of me. That was my mom. Courageous with quiet deliberation, she offered her heart to my sister and found her voice.

At the end, she received a standing ovation. There were several people in the crowd, crying for her, but also jubilant that she spoke not only for herself, but for my father as well. I believe that in that instant, my father’s presence was inside of her, encouraging her  to speak. In this space, I’ve talked so much about my relationship with my father, but my mother has always offered her quiet guidance and encouragement. These last few years, there are many times when she’s experienced a loneliness only a widow knows, but she still manages to move forward.

I sometimes forget her strength. On that evening, I was reminded again.