I am writing this 4 years to the day of my mother’s death. Pardon me for doing the more personal than usual post this time around. If you noticed the title, you have now made the connection with my mother but my university mentor died within 24 hours of my mother. It was a momentous week in my life. Actually, there was a natural disaster the following week so the whole month was about all I could handle.
Officially my mother died of a rare cancer. What the death certificate won’t tell you is that in all likelihood the cancer was caused by a U.S. government experiment in the 1950’s when they created a biological weapon then mixed it with radioactive ingredients and set up giant blowers to spread it across the city of St.Louis where she lived. They didn’t tell anyone instead opting to use St. Louis as a human lab. People died then from cancer – including people my mom knew – and are still even by government accounts dying from it. I think my mom was the only person in her family to die from cancer. I won’t comment further on the this for now.
Her last year is remarkable for what it taught me. I was there when she first took ill. In fact, if I hadn’t been she would’ve had died on the spot. As it was she nearly died during a routine test in the hospital a couple of days later and had an out-of-body experience. For skeptics all I can say is it was further proof to me of the interaction between both sides of the veil.
She recovered enough to live a few good months. I took care of her during that time. I was her driver and managed her during the day. She died in the room that made her buy the house my family owns. She fell in love with the room when they toured the house and it turned out to be her final spot on this planet. I was the one watching her when she took a final turn for the worse. About four hours later – I had been relieved and was sleeping – I woke up with a start realizing she had died. About 30 seconds later I got a call confirming that.
I think – actually I know – I was the only one who knew from the beginning she had reached the end of life. I treated that whole year with that in mine which is why I let her break the doctor’s diet with a hot dog she loved once in a while or the pizza she ordered. If you are at the end, why not?
She is also the reason I believe in assisted suicide. She begged us to kill her she was in so much pain the last couple weeks. She isn’t the first person I have had ask me that and I don’t understand why we insist on people dying without dignity or in pain just so we can feel better about ourselves. It is selfish and demeaning on our part.
Over 400 people attended her funeral. They flew in from all corners of the country. She was sociable with a history of helping people. One guy I know told me at the funeral how he’d been so broke when his tires on the car were shot that my mom gave him a credit card and said go get some new tires. He never forgot that. He flew in from about 1500 miles for the funeral.
My mom came from a town that no longer exists. It rests under a man-made lake. She was always proud that she was educated in an era when women often weren’t.
She loved kids and work. Her office was next to a daycare and kids would come in for free suckers. When she died it took them a long time to get over the fact she wasn’t there anymore. She worked right up until the end. She was generous, could be headstrong sometimes, but always had a charitable heart.
I have a lot memories about my mom but sorry, I can’t put them into a post. Maybe a book someday but not a blog post. I can say I learned a lot after her death about her that I didn’t realize beforehand. I was the guy who had to go through everything. That experience changed my perspective on people, living, relationships, and what it means to be human. It made me realize even more that as human beings – without exception – we can be both honorable and flawed at the same time. We don’t like to view ourselves that way, there is always justification in our eyes , but in truth we could all be a character in a Shakespeare play.
As I said, my mentor died 24 hours later. We grew much closer in his final years and as far as my writing goes, I owe him tons. He use to ride me hard in his classes but that was because he knew I had game. If you didn’t, he made it his goal – as he announced in class – to make sure you changed majors. He would find fault with this current notion that anyone can be a writer.
He was an award-winning poet. I drove him nuts at times but his major contribution to me I think was allowing me the freedom to explore. He was a vet of the Italian campaign in WWII. I think he learned the fragility of life in that war. If you were a writer, he wanted you out there experiencing life. Part of you had to be on the page and not from what you learned from another writer but rather from a moment that occurred to you.
I lost two close people that week and a major part of myself. I know their spirits are still be around. However, I also have come to the conclusion that every time we lose someone a little piece of ourselves crosses over with them. So tonight, I remember two people who changed me and helped make me what I am for better or worse. I give honor where honor is due.