“Oh! I’m going to be a Diamond!”

I can still hear you doing your fancy voice when I told you the memorial I had planned for you. As difficult as that conversation was, I was grateful for it. That you knew you were going to be a Diamond.

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate such a phenomenal person. Friend. Teacher. Mother. Grandmother. Our beloved “Oma Teen.”

You were a vibrant light. Always positive. Always fun to be around. You really, truly made a difference, in not only my life but the lives of everyone who was lucky enough to know you. Speaking of luck, you were the luckiest woman on the planet. From cash prizes to a trip to Japan… Remember when you entered a raffle three times and you won all three times? Honestly Mom, who does that?! 

I think that was the universe’s way of smiling at you, of saying, “Christine, you’re doing things right.” 

You lived one-hundred percent for your children and grandchildren. And when I say “children,” I don’t just mean Bob and me; I mean all of the students whose lives you enriched through twenty-five years of teaching. Even today, people come up to me and ask: “Are you Mrs. Okun's daughter?” I’m always proud to say yes, yes I am. 

Even after you retired, you never stopped teaching. You’ve taught me and my kids so much. A few of my favorite lessons being:

Be your authentic goofball self. You danced to the beat of your own drum, that’s for sure. Always making up songs and playing games. We’re birds of a feather in that aspect. But you know what was the best part? You never shut it off. That was just you. 

Scrimp and save so you can spend your money on doing things with people you care about. You used to tell my kids, “I can give you twenty dollars now, or if you agree to put it in your savings account, I’ll match it and give you forty dollars.” 

A positive attitude is a powerful thing. Every month, you called my kids and asked them to share ten successes. It was such a great way to encourage them to acknowledge their accomplishments and to feel good about themselves. 

Be present. You could make anyone feel special and like the most wonderful human being. You gave eye contact. You listened. And when you asked how someone was doing, you really genuinely cared. I know it sounds cheesy, but you made everyone’s life better simply by being in it.  

It’s okay to pee in public. Kidding, ha! But every time you laughed… like that time in the outlet mall… okay, I won’t go there. 

You laughed a lot and you had such a gift for making others laugh, too. I remember when you moved to the independent living facility in Fallbrook, I visited you every day and we had the best time. Whenever Eddie came off the elevator, he'd hear us laughing in your room. Even the staff adored you so much, they would make excuses just to come see you! How could they not, though? 

It was your joy that drew people to you. 

Carley inherited that—your magnetism. (Hopefully your luck, too!) She’s going to be an elementary school teacher, just like Oma Teen. Seeing so much of you in her is what’s helped me get through losing you. Although, I haven’t really lost you, have I? You’re right here on my finger. 

Your Diamond arrived on November 14. It feels incredible to have you with me again. Every time I look at my hand (which is often) and see your gorgeous blue Diamond, sparkling on my finger just like you sparkled in life, and I swear I can feel the warmth of your embrace or hear you singing your silly “mother-in-law” song on my husband’s voicemail. It makes me smile. 

I show you off to everybody, too. I say, “Look at my mom!” People always reply, “There must be a story there.” And oh, there are, because the thing is, there isn’t just one story. It’s more of a lifetime of happiness and joy and comfort. You were a mom to everybody.

Every time I speak about you, I feel as if I’m honoring you. This is how your memory lives on. You are, and will forever be, so much more than a name on a family tree.

I hope that someday, in the distant future, I qualify for my own Diamond. I should; after all, I had a phenomenal teacher. 

Love you forever, Mom.