The Last Picture

On May 28th, 2014 at around 8:30am, my mom took her last breath. I put my hand on her chest and left it there until I could no longer feel her faint heartbeat. She went out of this world with all but one of those she brought into the world by her side. A week prior was the first diagnosis she’d received; colon cancer, stage four. It wasn’t my mother who received the news first, it was me. Six days later, she was gone. She didn’t drink, smoke, and ate rather healthily, but cancer couldn’t care less.

During the last week of my mother’s life on earth, there was sadness, forgiveness, togetherness, and lots of remembering. I listened as each family member reflected on their own unique relationship with the matriarch of our family.

Last fall was when my mother began to experience pain in her side and lower back. For ten years, she left her diabetes diagnosis go untreated, and when she finally went to the doctor for her pain, she argued with them about further testing. If you knew her, this certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to hear, as she was a stubborn woman. Knowing what we know now, it’s very possible that my mother would still be alive today had she gone in for extensive testing and treatment. However, that’s not what my mom wanted. Her lack of action to seek the medical attention her body was requesting may in fact be the only selfish act my mother carried out; maybe.

A month before she died, she had a liver scan that indicated she had dozens of lesions, which immediately concerned her doctor that not only did she have cancer, but that it hadn’t originated in the liver. When she called to tell me, I asked her how she felt, and she said without hesitation, “excited.” When I asked why she was excited, I already knew the answer; “because I’m ready to see Jesus.”

Over the course of the next four weeks or so, I spent as much time with her as possible, and watched as she hurried to do things for family and strangers alike that demonstrated her selflessness and concern for others. She struggled to do right by her children with what she was leaving behind, as she wrestled to manage the pain in her ailing body. She said many times that she knew she was going to die, but I’m not sure if she believed it, or wanted it so. I know I didn’t.

Not only was I her youngest child, I was her only biological son. As a boy, she instilled in me the values I still hold true today. Be honest, fair, just; forgive those who wrong you, turn your other cheek, help those who can’t help themselves, etc. When I became a man, and began to evolve spiritually and mature mentally and emotionally, our relationship changed, but never did the mutual love and respect we had for each other. My father’s death, my divorce, and the death of my faith were the three things that greatly challenged our relationship, however, we made it through all of it by communicating how these life events shaped what we needed from one another. In all my years as my Mother’s son, I’m grateful that I never allowed our differences to compromise the relationship that begun when I was just a boy.

Here is what I wrote and recited for my Mom’s Eulogy:

If I only had One word to describe my mom it would be…Selfless

Never did she live a day without serving others. Even in her passing,
she served those closest to her and remained concerned with those who
depended on her stability most.

She lived a life of purpose. A lighthouse to her family, friends,
church and community.

Her faith was immovable. Even for those who didn’t believe as she, her
genuinity and conviction was irrefutable and undeniable. She was in
love with the one who loved her most, and who have her purpose.

She served family and strangers without prejudice. She was a giver.

She was strong. Not only could she outwork most men in the room, she’d
do so without one complaint.

She was rich. She would always remind us that her father owned the
cattle of ten thousand hills.

She was wise. Life experience, street smarts, and some attitude made
her a person of interest. Never have I met a person that knew her that
didn’t love her, respect her, and was touched by her testimony or act
of kindness.

To the family:

She is gone but not forgotten, for she lives on in us. I can see her
in each of you, in me, and those who will only know her through the
stories we tell of how they remind us of her. My challenge is that we
become half the woman she was. For us, for our children, and for her.

No words will take away the pain, or the loss, and time has met its
match. So we grieve. Our hope is that what she believed so deeply is
true.

Since her death, my heart is filled with sadness. That she will never meet my soon to be born son August. Never will she sleep in the room we built just for her. Our Tuesday afternoon calls have ceased, and there is now a hole in my heart that I will attempt to fill by sharing stories about her with those who will listen. Whether I see her again is something I am unsure about, but then again, all I have to do is close my eyes, look in the mirror, or in the faces and actions of my children to see her legacy live on. In honor of my Mother, we’re naming our son August.

One comment

  1. D. Wilck

    A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.”
    ― Washington Irving

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