This week marks the 20th anniversary of my mom’s death. Since then, I’ve come to realize that she is immortal. I don’t mean immortal in a spiritual or supernatural way. I mean it in a real, tangible way.

She is immortal because of her legacy.

My mom was someone I looked up to because of her strength, determination, and her values. She refused to let hardships bring her down. In fact, she wore them as badges of honor. The more she suffered, the stronger she became. She was the first to step up when there was a problem. She was the first to volunteer when something needed to be done or a group needed a leader. She wasn’t perfect — and she knew it, and she encouraged me to learn from her mistakes. She wasn’t as fashionable or stylish as other mothers, and she didn’t aspire to be. She sought to be beautiful in spirit.

While she was alive, I didn’t always appreciate the things she tried to teach me. Since she died and since I became a parent myself, I have worked to follow her example. In doing so, she has become immortal.

I’ve seen her immortality in my brother and what he has accomplished in his life. I’ve seen it in the memories others have shared with me about her. I’ve seen it in our children. Some of her traits have been passed along to them.

I’ve seen it in myself. I have felt her presence in the decisions I’ve made, in the way I look at the world, in the memories I cherish, in the sports and teams I enjoy, and in the values I set for myself and encourage our children to follow. I hear her scold me when I was wrong, comfort me when I was sad, and congratulate me when I was successful.

Mom taught me that the real value in life is in what we can do for others. What we create, what lessons we teach, what memories we make, what example we set — these are the only things that last. She taught me to leave behind a good legacy. In doing so, we can become immortal.