From the time I knew how to hold a pen, my mom advocated for the importance of a well-written thank you note. Sitting down to compose one was the immediate by-product of any birthday gift, unexpected kindness or celebratory meal. These thank yous were the terrain where she taught me to practice my penmanship, hone my diction and learn to express my thanks over and over again.

In short—to grow up with my mom was to understand what it means to be thoughtful and how to be grateful.

Now as a mom myself, it is with a rather keen regret that I look back on the moments when I neglected to fully and adequately express my gratitude to the very person who was most deserving of it: her.

I recall, as a child, incredulous over one of her decisions, my mom responding, “You just won’t understand until you’re a parent; until you’re a part of the club.”

Infuriating though it may be, she was right. Once again.

My own son is still an infant. And yet, even with my comparatively narrow perspective on motherhood, I can see the courage of her incredible generosity in ways that were not apparent to me before.

I can see her remarkable freedom from self-interest.

I can see the passion and purpose behind her actions.

I can literally feel the gigantic, heart-stopping love.

I get it now.

And, I am so grateful for the opportunity to admire her anew.

For every magnificent gesture and every small moment of tenderness across my lifetime, she is my hero and while this is long overdue, I would like to say thank you for the myriad examples of her great bravery.

She has been a true gift to me. And as every thank-you-note-writer must do, I need to remark on the qualities of this particular and very tremendous gift.

She is a hero for her deep compassion and her ability to be a light for others through the minor scrapes and major falls.

She is a hero for her vision and her big dreams for our family and seeing more for us than we could sometimes see for ourselves.

She is a hero for her accountability and for eagerly waiting in the wings with open arms at every single sporting event, assembly, dance recital and school musical.

She is a hero for her uncanny ability to make any place, even tiny New York City apartments, feel just like home.

She is a hero for her wholehearted encouragement of each new adventure we sought out, frequently at the cost of her own.

She is a hero for the example of her life-long friendships and her countless acts of kindness towards others.

She is a hero for helping us see new beginnings in every ending from breakups to breakthroughs.

She is a hero for her spirituality and deep belief in high ideals paired with hard work.

She is a hero for always finding the words to say thanks, to say I’m sorry, to say I believe in you, to say I love you.

She is a hero for her stamina through the late nights, long days, study sessions, hospital stays, drop-offs, packed lunches, laundry, home-cooked meals and endless to-dos.

She is a hero for her tenderness and a warm embrace that affirmed our ability to get back up and try again.

She is a hero for her presence and her ability to fully celebrate every win, holiday, report card and milestone.

She is a hero for her wisdom and her ongoing efforts to ensure that we were known, seen, and understood.

She is a hero for facing the day-to-day uncertainties and anxieties of raising two children with optimism and thoughtfulness.

She is a hero for a sense of discipline that was always threaded through with love.

She is a hero for her moral leadership in inhabiting all these roles of daughter, wife, sister, mother, friend and for living a life that her children, and now grandchildren, can admire.

She is a hero for her unflagging, uplifting, unquestioning ability to love her children into bloom.

Her work, and her bravery, is the real stuff of life. I only hope I can come half as close to getting it right with my son.

I need my mom—this unsung hero—now more than ever. As I navigate these new waters of motherhood, I need to hold her up in my daily life as an example—to inspire me, lead me, teach me. So that she can be the one I go to when I’m called to be a hero myself, in my own home, in my own family and in my everyday life.

Thank you, Mom.