I can’t believe it’s been ten years since my mother passed away. The passage of time felt like the blink of an eye.

I was only 26 when my mother died. She only had 26 years with me. My fingers are shaking while I type because this is the most painful part. It’s not that I didn’t have enough time with her. It’s that she didn’t have enough time with me. She didn’t see me get married. She never got to meet her grandkids. She was robbed of some of the most joyful parts of life.

Even though my mother was the center of my universe, I don’t spend every second of every day thinking about her. It comes in waves. Tidal waves.

The first time I was knocked down to my knees was when I read The Giving Tree to Koby. I opened the book and couldn’t make it past the first page without melting down. That was my mother’s favorite book. The tree gives everything to her boy. And that was my mother. She would have done anything for her children. She did do everything for her children.

My mother was corny, and I mean that in the best way possible. For example, when I got a little older, she read The Book of Virtues and Chicken Soup for the Soul to me. She cried during sad and happy movies. I’ll never forget when we saw Mr. Holland’s Opus. If you’ve seen this film, you’ll recall the final scene when Mr. Holland walks into the auditorium and is surprised to see it filled with all the people whose lives he touched. When that door opened, my mother cried as if she were Mr. Holland and everyone was there for her.

The other day I was lying in bed with Koby, and he told me to put on the dinosaur movie. He was referring to The Land Before Time. I saw this when I was his age, and I’m pretty sure it made me cry then. It made me cry today. It’s been 30 years since I’ve seen it, so I didn’t remember the plot. But it came rushing back to me in words I cannot describe. When Littlefoot’s mother died protecting him, I lost it. Koby looked at me and said, “Daddy, why are you crying?” I smiled and gave him a kiss.

I’m sad that my mother isn’t here, but I’m a better person for it. I would undo this in a second if I could, but losing her gave me a perspective on life that would have been impossible otherwise.

Ten years ago, I was a child in a man’s body. I had no prospects for a bright future. Death was staring me in the face, both metaphorically and literally. Now I’m a successful adult. I don’t mean that in the traditional sense of people equating success with money.

I’m successful because I don’t yearn for more. I have my wife and my boys and my freedom. I’m good. I have a unique appreciation of what I have because I already lost everything when my mother died. Now I have everything I need and everything I want.

Health is the only thing that matters. We all know this. But some people know it more than others. Losing my mother hurt like hell, but I’m grateful for what came of it. It taught me not to take anything in life for granted, especially life itself. Years aren’t promised, so I try to enjoy every day.

I don’t think about death often, if ever. But maybe in my subconscious, I think about it all the time. Losing my mom made me aggressively live my life. Probably too much when I was younger, but over time I learned to strike the right balance.

I wish my mother could see me now. I know how proud she would be. Kvelling, as she liked to say. But she isn’t, and I’m okay. More than okay. I know this sounds corny, now you know where I get it from, but the circle of life has taken on a visceral meaning for me. I’m a grown-up now. I have a family of my own to nurture, and that’s just what I’m going to do.

I will keep my mother’s memory alive by giving my boys everything she gave to me.