The Farewell Story
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The Farewell Story

My mom has quietly devoted her life to others. When she retired from teaching this summer, she was finally the center of attention.

Teaching isn't easy. It requires everything you have and my mom, Mary Anne Reed Brown, happily gave it her all for 30 years. She was so committed to her students that I sometimes felt jealous of them when I was growing up. Teaching was always on her mind. My mom is incredibly creative, so the smallest thing could trigger an idea for a lesson plan, project, or prize for the children. When we'd go shopping, I'd have to pry her away from the school supplies aisle. She could spend forever there.

That's how my mother is: caring, enthusiastic, selfless. It's why students, parents, and teachers love her. She'd started out working as a crossing guard, but when the principal saw how great she was with the kids, he told her she should be in the classroom. So in her early 40s, Mom went back to school to get a master's degree in education. She did it for herself -- and our family. Teaching wouldn't take time away from her kids.

The school staff threw the perfect retirement party for my mother, one that was truly created from the heart. It was held in the school library, but the decorations were so gorgeous you'd think you were at a wedding. I was thrilled to see my mom in the spotlight since she tries to avoid it. The students couldn't stop hugging her! My quick-thinking dad took the shot above.

Mom is camera-shy so there aren't a lot of photos of her. In most of the ones we do have, she's celebrating someone else's achievements, usually mine or my sister's. At last we have a picture that honors the real star of the family.

Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, October 2012.