Today would have been Mom’s 69th birthday. Mom was always pleased to note that she was the “first Baby Boomer.” And indeed she was born on January 1, 1946, the date historians mark as the first of the Baby Boom Generation. Mom’s birthday was also special, simply because it fell on New Year’s Day. While she generally hated having this date for her birthday, I always thought it was incredibly special and it made our New Year’s celebrations so much more meaningful. For me, both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day will always be intrinsically woven together with memories of my beautiful mother. And neither holiday will ever feel the same again – there won’t be any more birthday cake at midnight. I always thought it seemed so fitting to usher in the new year celebrating the birth and the life of my mom, one of the most remarkably good people I have ever known.
|Mom was featured in the newspaper with another little boy on her 5th birthday as the first of the Baby Boomers.|
Unfortunately Mom had a fall in her kitchen. She took a glancing blow to her head and thought she was perfectly fine. But it turned out she had started bleeding in her brain. And because her platelet counts were so incredibly low – her body had no way to heal itself. Because of her many complications, including kidney failure and dialysis, the brain surgery that would have been required to stop the bleeding would have been much too difficult for her to tolerate. She likely would have suffered, and likely wouldn’t have made it. Her group of doctors including her attending doctor, oncologist, nephrologist, and neurosurgeon all agreed that it was in her best interests not to proceed with further treatments – and we were sadly forced to agree.
Happy times together
She walked through life with a cheerful and open disposition, making friends wherever she went. I’ve never known someone so ready to embrace new friends and to see the good in others. I read a quote years ago that said “He likes to like people, therefore people like him.” And I’ve always thought this described Mom very well. She expected to be pleased with others and I believe she saw in others their finer selves, and in turn people loved her very dearly. And maybe it was this open-hearted, loving nature of hers that accounts for her generosity of spirit. Mom was tirelessly patient with others and giving of her time, energy, resources, and love. She was tolerant and accepting of even the most difficult people in her life – and was willing to continue to lovingly serve them when they were in need. She was always the first to speak up for someone and give them the benefit of the doubt. As an elementary school teacher she was not only routinely given the difficult children, but also worked with extremely difficult parents very well. She had a unique and rare knack for finding common ground and compassionate understanding with others.
Another remarkable trait of Mom’s was her lack of complaint. Throughout the 5 years of her illness, while she had many moments of feeling down, and gloomy, and sad – she never asked “why me?” I view this as a testament to her humble nature. In fact, she often asked the opposite, “why not me?” This always blew me away – so many of us (myself included) might rail against the Universe, scream “it’s not fair,” and ask over and over again “why is this happening to me?” Mom never did. While she was very sad and many times scared about her diagnosis, she accepted it and steeled herself against the heavy winds this disease brought her way.
|Mom in her classroom with her “Tigers.”
Mom not only appreciated beauty and art – she also created it. One of my greatest regrets in life is that I did not inherit her endless artistic talents. She was a wonderfully talented painter, despite not spending a terribly great amount of time doing it. And she brought her artistry into her classroom, creating wonderful displays and art projects that stimulated and enriched her students’ lives. Her classroom was always a riot of color and covered with art she created and taught her students to create. A school district custodian once told her she had the best classroom in the entire district – and he knew as he’d been in every one. But Mom’s talents weren’t limited to the visual arts. She was also a lover of music and was a dedicated and talented pianist as a girl. As a sophomore in high school Mom spent countless hours practicing Chopin’s Polonaise Heroic as her talent for the Quil Ceda Pageant, at which she won Sophomore Princess. One of the last things Mom wrote on her Facebook page was about an upcoming performance we were planning to attend together of Mozart’s Requiem. She had this to say: “I have always loved Mozart and said his music makes my heart sing, but his Requiem makes my heart soar!”
Dad, me, Mom, and my brother Tyler in Hawaii in 2006.
If you’d like to help remember Mom today, please consider donating blood, platelets, or plasma – and as I know many of you can’t – please encourage those around you to offer this gift. I can’t even comprehend the vast number of units Mom received, and that saved her life on more than one occasion, letting us keep her with us a little longer. I have continually marveled at the generosity of so many nameless strangers out there who gave this gift to my mom and to us.