A Tribute to My Mother

I’ve learned over the last week that nothing can prepare a child for the eventual loss of his or her parent. Last month, my mother took her final breaths and then her spirit shed its mortal coil and left us to join the angels in heaven. After a long-fought battle with cancer that started almost exactly twenty years ago, Julia Anne Clark finally succumbed last Thursday night in her and my dad’s house in Fontana.

Other than my wife, she was my biggest fan and cheerleader of my work and my writing.  She was one of the most optimistic and emotionally resilient people in my life.  She radiated positive energy to everyone around her.

My heart broke repeatedly as I sat in her home and watched the pain and discomfort she experienced during her final weeks in home hospice care. Despite all of our feeble efforts to ease the discomfort, her pain never fully subsided while she was still alive. As the days wore on, she had become smaller and more frail, but her fighting spirit stayed strong until the end. My mother was that kind of person. She was silently stubborn at times and had taught her kids to never give up and to hold on to their dreams. She also had an innocent sense of humor and was continually looking for fun things to do with her kids and her grandkids.

There are so many wonderful things that have been written about her by family and friends and I thank them for their kind words from the bottom of my heart. I also want to thank my dad, brother, sister and sister-in-law for everything they did to assist and comfort her during those final weeks. In many ways, she was truly the embodiment of the generous, giving soul who always took an interest in others and helped them feel like they were a part of something bigger. Maybe that was one of the reasons why she chose to become a special education teacher. Those souls with special needs who came down to earth might have felt the most alone of us all and like they didn’t fit in. It was God who put them in her path and vice versa, so that those with special needs would feel that love and the inclusion from someone special like her.

She was someone that I admired throughout my life. When I look back now, my one ‘irrational’ regret is that I didn’t take more pictures standing beside her… just she and I and no one else in the frame. I was proud to have her as my mother. I guess I just thought she’d always be around and there would be time for more pictures.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but being a part of my mother’s end-of-life care taught me more deeply, some lessons I might have forgotten otherwise. Give time to loved ones. Cherish the present with the people you love. Be gentle. Be brave. Be kind. Life is too short to hold onto destructive grudges. Forgive while you can and seek others’ forgiveness before it’s too late.

My mom was a unique and special individual. I wish more of you could have gotten to know her like I did. She was the kind of person that really did take an interest in others and show it outwardly. I think some of her good qualities rubbed off on me, Cassell and Kenlon along with our spouses.

When I think of her life and example, I’m happy and proud to say I am and always will be Julia Clark’s boy.

Love you, Mom.

http://www.fontanaheraldnews.com/obituaries/obituary---julia-anne-clark/article_13793c76-88ea-11e7-9e70-377fbe08eaf3.html

In case you're wondering, I am not the cute little bald guy in the center of this picture. No, I am the sailor with the dutchboy haircut.  Hey, what can I say?  My dad saved so much money putting that salad bowl on my head before the haircuts started. 

In case you're wondering, I am not the cute little bald guy in the center of this picture. No, I am the sailor with the dutchboy haircut.  Hey, what can I say?  My dad saved so much money putting that salad bowl on my head before the haircuts started. 

Taken at Container Park in Las Vegas sometime early in 2016.

Taken at Container Park in Las Vegas sometime early in 2016.

Me and Mom.jpg

The Pain is Exquisite

Thursday night, my mother passed.  

It was a long battle with pancreatic cancer that lasted nearly a year-and-a-half.  During her final months, as we watched her slow physical decline, I never saw her lose the optimistic, upbeat personality she must have developed long before I was born.  

I have felt the pain of losing a parent and the sadness that comes with it happening too soon.  My confession is that it is more intense than I would have ever imagined.  Whether I had lived 40 years or 400, the pain was always going to be the same.  

Yesterday, I wrote a letter to her that was tear-filled and marked by pangs of sadness.  In it, I listed the 'no more's.'  I have since concluded that I did it out of gratitude I felt for all of the times I was able to enjoy doing those things that unfortunately cease when a loved one is gone.  

I loved her deeply.  

I had the opportunity to spend many a day and night in the final two weeks of her life, at her bedside, trying my feeble best to ease her pain and suffering.  It was never enough and in hindsight, I know that.  

The morning I departed from their home, she was resting in the hospital bed in the living room hooked up to morphine and a bag of liquid nutrition.  I whispered some things near her ear and told her that my 15 years as a parent have taught me that she was good for me as a mother.  I have a deeper appreciation for what she did and what she tried to do.  I also apologized for my imperfections as a caregiver.  Those imperfections of which I'm ashamed have nothing to do with actual imperfect care.  After all, I was always gentle and patient with her in those final weeks.  Instead, my imperfections had to do with the anger and resentment I had felt toward other people in the times of caregiving.  What mother would want to know her son was angry over the way others engaged with her to ease her pain and suffering in her final mortal moments?  

I also felt some anger and a touch of melancholy over the situation and how things happened and I know it didn't help anything.  It wasn't until my final 24 hours in her presence that I finally felt at peace with what was happening, the contributions of all others and the fact that I couldn't fix everything.  Those are life's tender mercies.

I'm grateful for that. 

My mom and dad on a train trip that I think was on the way back from Santa Barbara to LA.

My mom and dad on a train trip that I think was on the way back from Santa Barbara to LA.