You know it's inevitable, but another part of you believes you'll never see that mournful day.

My mom passed away in Florida, where she lived, on New Year's Day. She was 92.

The day before I called to wish her happy New Year, asking if she intended to celebrate that evening. My sister was visiting my mom for a couple of days, and I thought they would dine out.

"No," she said. "I'm really not up to getting dressed."

It was the first time I remember Mom staying home on New Year's Eve.

My mother, Tillie Goldberg, was born on July 28, 1920. During the Depression her family suffered greatly. Without money, they had no food. Mom told me on one occasion they had one potato that they kept boiling for several days. As a result of this poverty, my mother had problems with her stomach all her life.

When she met my dad at 17, he gave her a beautiful brooch. My uncle was working for the WPA - the Works Progress Administration, which kept many men employed during the Depression - but when his check was late in arriving a few weeks later, my mom sold the pin for $2 so they could eat.

For years my dad would ask, "Why don't you wear the pin I bought you?" Filled with old-fashioned pride, for a long time she did not tell him she'd sold the pin.

He was amazed. "Why didn't you tell me? I would have helped you."

That is the kind of dignity my mother possessed.

Devoted to her children every day of her life, nothing about me escaped her interest. Often I found her scrutiny annoying and intrusive, and we would have horrible arguments. Our relationship encountered many turbulent periods - sometimes we didn't talk for two or three years.

But when we weren't at odds, I spoke to her almost every day. She never said she was too busy to talk.

Her sense of what was "right" was not always shared by me or others, but she never doubted her views. Her favorite song was "I Did it My Way."

She was a defender in many ways. If I had an argument with a school chum, she'd stop talking to that child's mother. As a warrior, she was compelled to fight my battles for me, despite my utter embarrassment.

When I started writing novels, she was my biggest supporter. No matter where I had a book signing, she'd offer to attend. She and my dad met me in Beloit, Wis., Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Pasadena, Calif., and other cities. She would send emails to her friends citing all of my accomplishments. And yet there was a side of her that was so controlling I sometimes couldn't stand to confront her.

Over the years I've heard tales from other women about their conflicted relationships with their mothers. And now that I have two daughters of my own, I can understand how painful it is to love someone to their core, to want nothing to ever hurt them, to shelter them forever, even if it means stifling their growth.

Will I miss her? More than I can imagine.

I believe she is with my father, dancing the night away as they loved to do. And if the cosmic universe really cares about us, then she has once again set sight on the mother she loved with all of her heart.

If I could say something to her now it would be, "Be happy, Mom. We won't ever forget you and the gifts you gave us. You were a wonderful, devoted mother. And when I told one of my oldest friends you passed away, he said, 'You were a devoted daughter.' "

Could anything be sweeter?

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