It was 19 years ago that I learned how much a mom means when mine left me. Her departure was not without a fight. Lord only knows that she battled breast and bone cancer bravely for nine years before she was taken from me, my sisters and my father.
I found out about her departure as I was about to give a test in a course I was teaching at then Utah Valley Community College. My wife called me and said, "Rick, your mom passed away this morning. You need to go to your dad."
I was 30 miles away from Murray and I hurried. Upon arriving I found my oldest sister there with my father. My mother's body had already been taken away by the mortuary. We sat there in silence, none us knowing what to say. We knew we had a lot to do, but it was one of the darkest days of all our lives.
I looked around the house. She, of course, was everywhere.
This had been her dream home - that little stick built 900 square foot castle on a little slip of land nearly on the corner of two very busy streets. She and my dad had saved for 15 years before they bought it when I was two years old. They paid cash.
In my parent's lives everything was about their children. If my mother wanted a new sofa for the living room, it could wait even if the one there had broken springs and a hole in the fabric. Then when she did finally break down and buy one it was almost always the cheapest one she and my father could find.
For us as kids, however, it was seldom that way. I, being the youngest, was also by far the most spoiled. It used to make my oldest sister, who had much less than I did when she was young mad, although she seldom let on about it. We had everything we needed and then some; My mother never scrimped on us. Mother's Day around our house was special when I was a kid, but not because of us, because of her. It usually fell on a warm May day and my father and I would go out to check on the cows in the pasture in the morning; when we returned, from two hundred yards away from the house we could hear her piano playing. The sound drifted over the warm air as noon approached and the overwhelming fragrance of fried chicken she always made that day hit us in the same way. We seldom did much for her, but it was obviously her pleasure to do a lot for us on that day. She loved us dearly and was thankful for everything she had. An immigrant to the United States, she knew what doing without meant. And she knew tragedy having lost many she loved in her life.
She was a character too. She never let a good joke go by.
She also always looked to a better future. She was always talking about how things would be better next week, next year or in 10 years. She was the eternal optimist and not a cynic about much of anything.
As I got older I forgot about how important she was to me as other women came into my life. Then one day she fell sick from an illness that doctors kept telling us she was beating, but which never completely went away no matter how much they did or how much money was spent on trying to dispatch it from her body.
The last thing I had said to her a few days before her death was in anger - a stupid disagreement with involved details that have been forgotten. How I regret that discussion, because I left without kissing her and telling her I loved her. It was the last time I saw her alive.
So value your mom if you still have her; kiss her and tell you love her.
And never forget how important she is to you.