my mom died on friday.
those of you who know me well have a sense for what this means for me. for all others, you may imagine what an infinitely dedicated mother might possibly mean to an only, adopted child who, in youth, had a distant and strained relationship with his father.
she passed away in the hospital of the town i grew up in. she and my father were passing through on a vacation. i arrived at the hospital an hour after she died. the last time i was in that building i was seventeen and my mom made me visit the quarterback of my high school's football team who broke his leg in a game the night before. i asked why we had to go. she said it's what friends did. when i told her this boy and i were no longer friends and hadn't been since the sixth grade, she scoffed, called it ridiculous, and never broke stride. i vividly remember how dull and vulnerable that winsome, popular boy looked in the dim hospital room, alone and unkempt, his leg unnaturally raised beneath the sheets. i don't know which of us looked more surprised to find me next to his bed with a bundle of supermarket-flowers in my damp fist. but, that was the last time i was in this building. this time i was there to say goodbye to the woman who on that day stood in the darkened wings urging her boy to do the right and proper thing.
in our last moments with my mom before the hospital staff took her away, my father, his face hovering over hers, his hands holding her cheeks, sobbingly uttered, "she only thought of others. she only thought of others." these were the last words he said to his wife of forty-five years and a truer thing has never been said of this woman who i was undeservedly fortunate to call my mom.