I spoke with my grandmother on the phone yesterday after calling her from here in England to her assisted living facility in Sarasota, Florida; I have referred often referred to the “sunshine state” as the “suck-ass state” ever since President-elect Gore was denied his rightful job in December of 2000. Politics aside, a 94-year-old grandmother has become the primary maternal figure in my life ever since my own mother died from ovarian cancer on Monday, July 10, 2017 in Chicago. Actually, my mom died only a week after my 43rd birthday when I couldn’t have been more lost in the emotional cloud of anger, grief, confusion, and the feeling of loss. It was in the city of Chicago where I lost my mind(Trump’s “victory’ as president with the ever-present Trump building and its gigantic letters of T-R-U-M-P as a taunting reminder in my former neighbourhood), my vocation(ten years as a psychologist became an enormous burden after my mother was diagnosed with cancer in December of 2014), and my heart(the feeling of love couldn’t be reciprocated in my previous relationship due to emotional burnout). However, I am reminded by Mom’s grace under pressure when she was given the final diagnosis that would taker her life; more than two years of chemotherapy resulted in leukemia that began with a decrease in her healthy blood cells in during the month of May in 2017. In fact, Mom was “living” as a guest in a nursing home at the time when the blood test results indicated an alarming decease of red blood cells that couldn’t be replaced with any additional transfusions from the cancer clinic at the hospital in Evanston, Illinois. While every member of my family was collectively losing their minds with anticipatory grief and a desperate form of anxiety, Mom appeared as calm, graceful, and dignified as a human could be when facing death that was just around the corner from life on earth.
The conversation with my grandmother from yesterday afternoon concluded with her saying, “Paul, your mother was a writer; you should be writing too.” Therefore, I made a promise that a rare and unexpected entry would be added to my blog that is read by almost nobody…with all due respect to my ten followers. I have thought often about my mother during this current month of May because it is the second Mother’s Day without her being celebrated by her fortunate son who once performed the song “Fortunate Son” dedicated to her from the stage of my high school’s County Fair concert in October of 1990(hey, I am aware that John Fogerty was actually singing “I ain’t no fortunate son” in 1969 despite my intention to demonstrate gratitude at a public event). Mom’s parting words of wisdom for her three children were to experience gratitude for even the smallest blessing in life and also partake in the healing act of forgiveness as the best way to let go of anger and resentment in life. Although I have been psychologically healthier from the gratitude and forgiveness, I am also still amazed today by Mom’s grace and courage when she said the fateful word “hospice” in early June of 2017. Given the fact that I worked as a bereavement counselor for my internship in graduate school from 2002 through 2003 at the hospice care clinic in Evanston, I knew the exact implications of a word associated with imminent death. As terrible as the ovarian cancer had been to Mom’s body, it was leukemia that would soon be taking her life. I was able to overhear a conversation that Mom had with a friend on the phone while visiting her at my parents’ house: “Although I could only wish for more years to live, my only regret in leaving will be the inability to experience my grandchildren grow up to become adults.” It is my realization now that Mom was accepting her fate as a mature adult, and the grace was her way of demonstrating the way to die with dignity; it was the final lesson that she taught to me without ever saying a word about it. In fact, Mom’s final words to me before she entered a comatose state on the night of Saturday, July 8, 2010 was a both challenge and new opportunity for my adulthood: “Paul, you are going to be a wonderful teacher someday in the future.” Mom, you were the best teacher from whom a student could learn without ever being in the classroom for the lessons.