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Bill Clinton remembers himself as a small child, standing on a railroad platform, watching his mother sob and wave goodbye as her train pulled out for New Orleans.

"As the train pulled away, she sank to her knees," President Clinton said in a Mother's Day newspaper column he wrote to give its usual author, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, a day off.Clinton's mother, who died of cancer in the first year of her son's presidency, was on her way to school to become a nurse-anesthetist, leaving her son in her mother's care.

"Widowed three months before I was born, she was determined to get the skills needed to provide for both of us," Clinton said. "The image of her at the train station has stayed with me throughout my life, a powerful memory of her constant love."

The president said that when Virginia Kelley died in her sleep on Jan. 6, 1994, there was no time for final goodbyes.

But he said he feels lucky that "there were no accounts to settle, no words or emotions left unsaid."

And yet, he said, "there are still some Saturday evenings when I have the urge to pick up the phone to call her and suddenly realize that I can't do that any more."

Hard work, sacrifice and putting your family first were all things Virginia Kelley taught her children, along with "always being positive for them, even on the bad days," Clinton said.

"For her, those bad days included my stepfather's alcoholism, the deaths of three husbands, my brother's struggle with substance abuse and her own fight with cancer.""

Her son said she always lived life to the fullest.

"As an adult, I marveled as she threw herself into politics to help me through victory and defeat," he said.

"This Mother's Day will be my third without my own mother," the president said. "I still miss her. I miss our long talks at the kitchen table. I miss her laugh and her hugs. I miss the fire in her eyes and her never-say-die attitude."

"But this Sunday, as I watch my daughter and my wife talking and laughing at the dinner table, I know I'll hear echoes of my own conversations with my mother . . . Our mothers' spirits stay with us always."