A Mother’s Day Story About Perseverance and Gratitude – Sr. Dorothy Rolf
Throughout the next week, we will be sharing stories the Sisters remember of their mothers. We honor the women who raised us into the women we have become. Below is a story of perseverance and gratitude from Sr. Dorothy Rolf, ND, about her mother Elizabeth.
My mother’s name was Elizabeth, and she was from West Point, Nebraska. My mother went through so many incredible hardships, but I never heard her complain. She lived a life of gratitude, joy, and old-fashioned German fastidiousness. She was raised by her grandparents after her parents passed away when she was little.
She was a fantastic mother. She was an excellent cook and invited relatives over all the time for meals, enjoying entertaining everyone with her piano music. Most of our neighbors were relatives of some sort. She was especially good at frying chicken.
The house fire
When I was about three or so, before my youngest sister was born, my parents went away during the Feast of Christ the King. We children were staying with relatives. That night our house burned to the ground – we were never sure exactly how it happened; dad guessed it may have been a chimney fire. I distinctly remember seeing the brick frame of the house and the piles of ashes, and the only possession left was a lunchbox that belonged to my sister I found in the ash. Some people would be embittered by this experience, but not my mother. Every year on the Feast of Christ the King we would go to church, and she would pray in gratitude that all of us were away from the house and kept safe from the fire.
Our community really came together to support our family at that time. Someone allowed us to live in their summer kitchen, a farm building that people used in the summer for washing and cooking to keep their main house cool. For a few months, mother turned that into a home, even making food for all the people harvesting corn that year.
When it came time to move into our rebuilt house, people from all over the area brought us everything we needed – beds, tables and chairs, kitchen accessories. My mother was incredibly grateful, and she always used to remember who gave us each and every item. If we were in the kitchen, she would say, “Grab that large mixing bowl that so-and-so brought to us.”
I think that is why she was so gracious and giving throughout her life, because she had felt the graciousness of others when she really needed it.
What I gained from my mother
In high school I came to Notre Dame Academy, as did my sisters. She always managed to save some tasks and chores for us to do when we came back to the farm on breaks! Once I realized I wanted to become a Notre Dame Sister, mom was completely supportive. Well, only after calling her brother to see how his daughter had been faring in the Franciscan novitiate!
I have so much of both of my parents in my personality. When I think of my mother, I think of how adjustable I am to any new situation. I think of completing tasks without complaint, doing work precisely and correctly. I think of living with gratitude for the relationships I have with others.