One of the great joys of serving as founder of the Give Something Back Foundation is the opportunity to interact with many of the students whose education we have funded over the years. I’ve grown close to many of these kids—some of who are now adults—and enjoy corresponding with them and offering encouragement when I can.
The following email, in particular, holds special significance since I wrote it after the death of the mother of one of our first students. Frances saved this email and sent it to me recently after we had dinner once again in New Jersey.
Frances’ mom was her source of inspiration and her biggest cheerleader. I wanted to share with Frances the experience I went through after the passing of my own mother years earlier, and way too soon. My mom was also my inspiration, as are so many mothers to their children.
I learned of your Mom’s death from Bob Tucker and Steve Cardamone on the 14th when you sent your note to them. I wanted to wait a bit to send you this email because this is such a tough topic.
I feel so badly for you and what you are going through. There is no other relationship like one’s relationship with their Mother. That makes the loss of a Mother different and more difficult than almost anything else in life, I think. No doubt losing a child or a grandchild is more difficult but my Mom’s six kids all outlived her and so far I have been fortunate to have six very healthy kids of my own.
While I haven’t had to deal with the loss of a child, I did lose my Mom on Mother’s Day in 1993 and Jill’s Mom died 18 years ago yesterday. Jill is an only child and her Mom was someone I admired and loved very much. Both of these lives are never forgotten, not even for a single day.
When I was 18 and my Mother was 40, my Grandma Evans (my Mom’s Mom) died unexpectedly at the age of 57. I was a freshman at the University of Illinois at the time and dropped everything and, of course, traveled to the funeral back in Trenton, Missouri.
My Mom was the older of two children and her 35-year-old sister died just a few weeks after my grandmother in Los Angeles. My Mom’s sister weighed more than 400 pounds and was in very poor health, but my Mom said she died of a broken heart.
My Mother, too, was just destroyed emotionally. But after a few months she was getting back to her normal self, making more and more progress each week. She often would just sit and cry at the spur of the moment but those episodes became less and less frequent as the months went by. Many, many years later I would occasionally see a tear in my Mom’s eye and when I asked her what was wrong she would simply say, “Oh nothing, I was just thinking about my Mom.” To be honest I never really understood that very well as a younger person. But now that I am a 62-year-old man, I completely understand it.
My Mom is the person who made me who I am today. She was the most positive influence in my life. She taught me that I am just as good as anyone else—anyone in the whole world. But she also taught me that I was no better than anyone else, either.
Where would I be without my mom? What would I think was important? How different would my life have been?
My Mom was everything to me and I know that Jill’s Mom was the same to her. Frances, I am pretty sure the same is true for you and your Mom.
So if you ever see me with a tear in my eye, I am probably “just thinking of my Mom.” I have to tell you that these are bittersweet thoughts. I enjoy thinking about my Mom and all of the things she taught me with her words and her actions. And I enjoy thinking about Jill’s Mom and her incredible ability to have everyone love her so much. My Mom was the last link between my childhood and me. Siblings can be a link, I suppose, but there is no link like a Mom. I was 48 years old when my Mom died and that was the day that I cried the hardest I have ever cried. I couldn’t say goodbye to my Mom because she died so suddenly.
She never wanted to go into a nursing home or be a burden to her children. She worked at my business the day before her “minor” heart attack on Saturday, and passed before noon on Sunday. She was 69 and her wish was fulfilled; she was never a burden to her family.
So Frances, I have been thinking about you and your Mom a lot. It is really a tragedy for you to lose your Mom at such an early age. I remember your Mom and how proud she was of you. I am sure this hurts very, very much right now. But I promise you that it will get better and I imagine that you will be like most of us, as you grow older. You will remember your Mom and all that she did for you to make you who you are today. You will forever and always be the great joy of your Mom’s life.
God Bless you, Frances.
Thank you for your kind words and sharing your experience. It definitely isn’t easy at all. It also doesn’t help that my father is not in my life so it’s just that much harder. I’m just trying to keep busy, work a lot and I’ve found a good support group that I’m working with for colon cancer prevention.
Thanks again for the email, it really means a lot to me and it helps to have the support.