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A Lion’s Heart

November 30, 2014

My mother died this week. A woman of great faith, she is, we know, with the Lord. But she leaves behind her a great emptiness. Joy and sorrow mingled.

Transported in a cattle car during World War II, my mother came to this country a refugee with nothing except a lion’s heart. Standing only 4’10”, she was a tender, vulnerable woman, but gave of that heart generously to family, friends, and strangers alike.

Every Christmas, while she and my father still had the small delicatessen which provided their livelihood, my mother would sign and hand out hundreds of cards to customers. Proud to be an American (but speaking only broken English), my mother offered service and kindness in equal measure – a smile thrown in for free. Everyone to her was simply “honey” or “sweetheart”.

My mother was warned not to try doing business in Harlem, plagued during that era by poverty, crime, racial tension, and widespread heroin addiction. But from the time she was a young girl in Hungary, she had dreamed of working behind a counter. And she loved it. Customers would wave to her as she got off the subway, and keep watch while she walked to the store to make sure she stayed safe. She was my more assertive father’s strength, and was never harmed.

My mother never grew rich, but always called herself a “rich girl”. That meant she was surrounded by those she loved.

Unable to attend school beyond third grade due to the war, my mother encouraged her children in all their endeavors. She believed we could do anything. When I expressed reservations about moving out of state to take a job promotion, she said reassuringly, “Don’t worry, honey. They speak English there.”

Everywhere she went, my mother touched lives. She dissuaded two different people that we know of from committing suicide. She made friends with every patient who ever shared a hospital room with her. Friends of mine came to see her as “their” mother, too.

My mother was enthusiastic about music, and could not resist dancing when given the chance.

Independent and determined (read: stubborn), my mother insisted on doing things her way (“mein vay” as she put it). That approach allowed her to conquer many tasks which frightened or intimidated her. A friend of mine called her a little tank.

That indomitable spirit was finally quelled by illness. Over the past few years, she was repeatedly hospitalized. One crisis followed another, with no rest or relief. The experience battered her. By the end, she was no longer able to dance, no longer able even to stand.

And still my mother’s faith did not falter. If anything, it grew stronger. As my mother saw things, she could not have survived the many trials, over the course of her life, if God had not been by her side.

The lion’s heart has stopped beating. But somewhere my mother is dancing.

In Memory of Mary Waldherr


  1. betternotbroken permalink

    I am sorry for your loss. Your tribute here to her is beautiful.

    • Thank you for your kindness. I sat up late last night watching Bing Crosby’s “Going My Way”, a movie she loved.

  2. A tribute befitting a beautiful woman, and a poignant ending. Love the lion’s heart, the little tank. I grew up in Queens where my parents had a deli. I can see your mother clearly in Harlem. Music is my other passion, and it is for Univ of PA that I left NY. This post resonated with me in more ways than one, as you could see:

    Sorry if you’ve seen it already. And feel free to delete the link if you’d rather not leave it. Don’t mean to PR my posts here.


    • Thank you, Diana. She was someone very special. Her example (and my grandmother’s) taught me that greatness has nothing to do with fame or public accolades. Your own post moved me, as well. We have a truly great heritage to pass on.

  3. Dear Anna,

    I am sorry that you have to deal with great emptiness after your mother’s death. It is no wonder that you miss her since she was such a lion-hearted woman as you described her so touchingly. A woman of great faith, indeed! Thank you for sharing this beautiful eulogy on here.

    Actually, I am sure your mother is still dancing in heaven which is not so far away as we often might think. I was reminded of my son’s premature death in 2009 (a miscarriage) and of how God comforted me afterwards by revealing that He indeed alone is able to open the doors of heaven to us – whenever. If you’re interested and have time to read my testimony on how I somehow “met” two people through Christ’s Spirit after they had died, you could follow the link below.

    May God comfort and keep you near to His heart, Anna. Always!

    Much love ❤

    If you hover with your cursor over my name, you should also find a link to one of my poems in which I tried to describe my near death experience in 1998.

    God bless you, dear Anna!!

    • Thank you for this comforting post and for your kind words, Susanne. I am sorry to hear that you lost your son, and so early. My mother had a long life — difficult though it was, many times. She was unafraid to step through the door to eternity. I know we will both see our loved ones again. For now, they are resting in God’s arms.

      • Amen! They are resting in God’s arms. He dried their tears and he will dry ours as well. Yes, we will see them again!! Thanks so much for reading the link I posted above and for your great comments on here and over there, Anna. 🙂

  4. I’m sorry for your loss. You have shown us of the great memories and love you have for her. You know, you will be reunited one day. She is dancing today with our Savior. Be well!!! 🙂

    • Thank you, Levi. That is my consolation. She wanted to see my Dad and her own mother again. I know that she is now with them in the Lord’s presence, and that all sadness is gone.

  5. I am sorry for your loss, but gladdened by the joy of your memories. Aren’t they wonderful?

  6. Yes, thank you. Everywhere I turn there are things that remind me of her.

  7. So sorry for your loss, but rejoicing to know your loving mother now dances in the Lord’s presence… free from all sorrow and pain 🙂 ♥ ❤

  8. Dear Anna, I am so sorry to hear of your loss. You wrote a wonderful tribute to a marvelous woman who had been through much, yet loved all whom she encountered in her life. How many mothers could so easily encourage their daughter to leave for another state and launch her on her own life without a selfish thought? Yes, what a heart! P.S. Thanks for visiting our blog and leaving your wonderful comments there.
    God bless you, dear sister,

  9. I’m so sorry for your loss. I can imagine how happy you will be to see your mother again, and death will be a thing of the past never to be dealt with again :). (Rev. 21:3 & 4)

    • Thank you for your kindness, Maxine. Our faith is such a consolation. “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Cor. 15: 55).

  10. sportay permalink

    That was a great portrayal of your mum. God knows your sadness and now you take time and grieve. Don’t delay because you will be healed and enlightened.

    • Thank you for your kindness, Keith, and your follow. I wish you all the best with, the non-profit you are attempting to establish for girls seeking to escape prostitution. Some eighteen states now provide services to children enmeshed in the sex trade. The problem is complex, and the need great.

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