"I doubt you remember me, but for several years I wore your old clothes," Heather's Facebook message read. Of course I remembered her! She'd studied at my mother's ballet school, which Mom ran until, at 49, she suffered a massive stroke. I was 19 then, and 23 when she died.

Heather continued, "Your mother gave me bags of your outgrown clothes. She was a very generous woman. I particularly remember her kindness as my own mother grew sicker and died." I knew my mom had taken an interest in her dancers' lives, but that she'd stepped in and helped Heather's family was a revelation. Heather's note didn't just bring my mother back; it brought her into sharper focus.

Her dancers continue to reach out through social media. One wrote: "Your mom took me to get my first pair of pointe shoes. She made the moment so special. You felt to your bones you had achieved a wonderful goal." This reminded me of how Mom, strict as both a teacher and parent, could also praise with dazzling specificity.

When a student observed Mom's shaky return after her stroke, I understood, for the first time, her resolve and passion for teaching—even after illness made it impossibly difficult. Thirty-three years after I lost my mother, her students keep returning her so generously to my life.


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