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The Woman Who Turned Adversity into a Legacy of Love

Raised amid conflict and loss, one woman transforms her experiences into a legacy of love that would touch many lives.

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Mothers give birth not just to a child, but to a family. You have been a shining example of this, Bjørg. As you approach 90 with white hair, your hands trembling more than they used to when grasping your coffee cup, the fear of losing you intensifies with each visit and conversation.

I look back to your forties, the bracelet you cherished around your wrist, and the aroma of blue java beans from your coffee, which I now brew each morning. 

The woman you were in your late 30s and early 40s – dark brown auburn hair and azure eyes – is not gone, even if you might feel she is lost. Who you were is forever etched in my heart and mind.

Like all anonymous and unrecognized mothers, you lived to be the light, not seeking the spotlight for yourself. Your legacy is secured in the most precious book there is: the pages of existence itself, in the lives of everyone around you.

I cherish your explosive laugh and delightful giggle when a situation strikes you from a fresh angle. You always ensured we knew, often with a perfectly timed, spicy comment. You could easily star in ‘Golden Girls,’ but you write all your jokes yourself at the moment.

You remain the beacon and the light in my life. From our earliest cuddles, which you recounted to me as I grew up, I loved to hold your soft earlobe. Your summer tan, the thin necklace that highlighted your clavicles beautifully—a spot where your scent lingered, and where, as a child, I felt most secure. Moms like you create two worlds: the adult world of responsibilities and our private world filled with closeness and dreams.

At bedtime, you would sit by my bedside, and we would hold hands. You would sing melancholic Nordic lullabies that still bring tears to my eyes, transporting me back to the darkness of the bedroom, singing with your clear voice.  Maybe the sadness in your voice stemmed from the gentle good night rituals and kindness you missed as a child?  Instead, you gave me thousands of memories. In our world, I discovered the depth and extra dimension you brought, which has followed me as a permanent companion. That sensitivity comes from you.

The years you fought your illness were terrible. I recall how you appeared pale and gray into your 40s, spending months and years in your bed, wincing when the pain surged like a tide. I held my breath, afraid I would lose you. The world we shared remained between us, though your illness introduced a distance that never existed before. And you fought back to life.

Though life has separated us geographically, our connection remains. You send me wonderful ‘letters’ (others call them text messages), writing poetically and succinctly about your current life after almost 70 years together with Dad. Recently, you wrote: ‘There is no escaping this sadness; just adapting to it. This long-lasting phase, as we are healthy yet old, restricts experiences.’

Before age 10, you had survived war, domestic violence, addiction, divorce, and abandonment by your mother. In 1945, the war ended, but the violence and addiction at home continued for years. I grew up in security, kindness, love, and caring—in the family you created. Mothers like you are capable of life-transforming love. As a single father of two, your example still inspires me to keep going when things are hard.

Your determination, joy, and warmth are always intertwined with the depth and complexity of your emotions. Your concerns and restlessness translated into tireless care for everyone around you, never missing a detail. To me, it showed your love. The works of maternal love that tirelessly change the world live in my heart, never to be forgotten.

You neglected no part of your home. Sheets and bed linen ironed (your favorite moment of the day was going to bed on freshly pressed bedlinen). Clothes folded. Mirrors, windows cleaned, floors gleaming. The dishwasher’s humming in the evening still soothes me, evoking my childhood. Your home expressed your ethics and deepest values. Taking care. Building the nest. Family.

While you are an astute observer of human nature, you seem unaware of your own strength and talents. You were genuine, working tirelessly. You owned and operated your business, a refuge for women to train, dance, and exercise. You pioneered new ground as women claimed their liberation. With your creativity, you fashioned spaces of dance, expression, and safety. Your pioneering spirit and dedication to empowering women continue to inspire.

Later, I came to you and shared my life. You would listen, almost living it with me, and offer words of wisdom: brief, smart insights I wish I had heeded more. You taught me not to build a facade, not to show a mask, but to be open and have a trusting, soft heart. How did you manage that, given your traumatic past?

When a mother dies, the world does not have less love because her acts of love have already multiplied through existence. The world still needs your loving work and the loving work of all mothers. Your love shapes life. I treasure every day with you. I will carry on the legacy of love, even after you are gone.

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Alexander oversees content at Gottman Inc., utilizing his decades-long publishing experience. As a published author and father of two, he is not only an advocate but also a testament to the transformative effects of the Gottman Method.

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