We inherit the darndest traits from our parents. My father passed along to my brother crooked pinky fingers. To me, he handed down sweaty palms and rather short, stumpy legs. Thanks Dad. My mother gave me her face. Though I have no idea what the heck a spitting image is, I’ve heard repeatedly since I was a little girl that I am one of her.

She gave me her hair, too. If I’m being honest, it’s not my favorite of the traits she passed along. Strands of my hair are quite confused about whether they need to go forward, backward, or to the side, choosing instead to sometimes go straight out in tufts that defy the laws of gravity. In fact, I’ve spent nearly my entire life wishing for different hair. But then I almost lost her.

As my mom lay in her hospital bed following an emergency surgery, with bedhead causing her locks to defy the laws of physics too, I went to the sink in her room to freshen up. Looking in the mirror, I couldn’t help but chuckle. My mom was not only across the room sleeping off the surgery, she was right there, looking back at me. As I stared at my image in the glass, still reeling from the fear the last 12 hours had held, I saw less of my flaws and more of my mom’s beauty. I was even thankful that my mane was just as it was—a reflection of her.

As an ornery teenager, though, I did not enjoy being compared to my mother. As a matter of fact, I didn’t really appreciate anything, other than sleeping until noon. And a good eye roll. I certainly didn’t appreciate her face being on my body. Instead, when nearly everyone I met just had to point it out to me, I would execute that oh-so-endearing gesture and grumble, “Yeah, I get that a lot.”

I had a lot of growing up to do before I learned to appreciate the sacrifices my mother made and the love she put into taking care of our family— and that I had her face. But as I came to understand the depths of her devotion to us, seeing so much of her in me became a wonderful reminder that I am indeed my mother’s daughter … and that there’s no one else I would rather be. And though it took almost losing her to do it, I’ve even come to see my hair as an unexpected gift—the gift of being able to carry her with me everywhere and always.

Likewise, my children inherited some things from me that they wish they hadn’t. They’ve got my sweaty palms. They’ve got my feet that look like those of Fred Flintstone. And they have my hair. Recently someone dear to me, upon meeting them, commented that he saw my face in theirs too. Their response was an eye roll, so apparently they also inherited my proclivity for that. But maybe one day they’ll look in the mirror and take comfort in seeing my face there and in knowing that they are indeed their mother’s son. At the very least they’ll have the same gift my mom gave me—a wonderful reminder that I’m never further away than a glance in the mirror.