Author's Note: I wrote this piece more than twelve years ago as my mother lay dying in a hospital bed, but it seems like yesterday.
For the longest time, I've tried really hard to find the words that would at least come close to doing justice honoring my parents. And with each attempt, my clumsiness and frustration have left me feeling only guiltier and more inadequate. I've never loved anyone more than my parents. And I've never ever received unconditional love like theirs.
I do take some pride in being at least modestly successful expressing myself (for a molar jockey.) And I really do want to share my feelings but seem to have a serious case of writer’s block, hysterical right hand paralysis, and chronic blurry tearful vision when a flood of memories slow me down each time I try.
My Dad died about twenty years ago. He was the best man I've ever known. He was the most honest, selfless, and generous guy I’ve ever met. If tomorrow I have to make a tough choice that will impact someone else and doing the right thing will be hard, I'll do the right thing because Dad’s still always there helping me. I'll probably never be half the man my dad was but I’ll have plenty of company.
It's really difficult for me to write about Mom. My Mom's been the source of unconditional, palpable, visible radiant love every day of my life. I've kissed her goodnight and told her I loved her in person or over the phone nightly for almost fifty years and that doesn't even come close to quantifying my feelings.
Mom's had a very difficult year, to add to an increasingly difficult decade, to add to an entire life marked by tragedy. Mom lost her mother as a little girl, her daughter at six months, her first son at age thirty and her husband one year after his retirement. Little by little, her freedom and independence have been kidnapped by diabetes.
Mom has withstood every embarrassment and invasion medical tests and treatment can muster and done so with unwavering dignity. As I’m writing, I’m visiting Mom at the Huntington Memorial Hospital. Mom's been in the hospital for about twelve weeks.
So a lifelong fireball who’d rather run than walk at age seventy-five; who’s enjoyed watching movies, plays, and USC football with her son and could dance anyone off the floor, is now confined to a bed 24/7. Mom, who’s being turned every two hours and can’t clearly see the television right in front of her, is breathing oxygen through a cannula and being fed through a tube...and is now beautifully smiling at me and kissing me. God, I'll never be half as strong as my five feet tall, ninety-five pound mom.
Mom’s never done a single thing in her life for which she’s ever had to feel ashamed. Her strength of faith and character has taken her through every challenge. Her ability to give love has been returned by all the people who’ve been part of her life.
My mom has never seen a baby she didn't love. The photos I'll never lose are family pictures of Mom surrounded by happy little faces.
Mom never let me leave the house without a cautioning, "Be careful". She never left a note without closing "Love, Mom". Mom has never complained; never hurt anyone's feelings and still loves listening to Sinatra, Elvis and The Stones. She made the best pasta sauce and enchiladas I've ever had. Mom married the only man she ever loved. She knew she'd marry Dad the first time she saw him.
Mom’s never cared about new cars, new homes, jewelry or the Joneses. She never really bothered discovering who she really was. She never indulged herself the time to be bitter or sarcastic.
Although I've given her many chances, Mom has never expressed disappointment in me. Mom and Dad both knew from the beginning, disappointing my parents was my worst fear.
And they were both wrong just this one time. Good night, Mom. Good night, Dad. I'll love you forever.