Despite appearances, my dear mother is very weak. In fact, she is dying. She is clearly in her last months, and she knows it, too. She can feel it. I asked her yesterday if she would allow me to tell my friends and her friends about the facts, because there’s always an awkward silence after there’s news of cancer. The silence can go on for months, even years, and sometimes forever. There seems to be, with some folks, a discomfort with discussing the end of another’s life, especially as it concerns illnesses that slowly take life away, such as my mom’s cancer. Mom agreed, and gave me permission to share with my friends and family the nature of her condition.
We’ve seen many positive comments accompanying photos of her recently. Some say that she looks good, or that she looks upbeat. That’s a credit to my mom. She insists on having a good time right up to the moment she simply cannot.
I took the picture above last week during her visit to Kaiser Hospital… we’ve had many visits to this place since January of this year, the first one revealing her cancer. As she was getting her ID out to claim her prescription at the Kaiser pharmacy, a quick glance at her driver’s license reminded me of what she used to look like just 10 months ago. At that time, in January, I considered that I might be looking at her last months on this side of Eternity, but today I am surprised how much of her has already been taken away, so slowly, yet so quickly, indeed.
The cancer that riddles the lining of her abdomen is such that surgery would probably kill her, and chemo has not been doing anything but making her weak and nauseated, [previously] bald and sick. She opted not to go a second round, rather to finish up her life feeling as good as possible. We are all in agreement that this is best, and whatever she wishes is our wish for her.
She looks well, but she’s really not. Cancer is stripping her of vitality, strength, wellness… it’s taking everything. Our trip together to the Haggin Museum in Stockton yesterday was a long, slow trip. When we got there, we walked slowly together, and walked slowly about, and left slowly. I treasured every second of it.
I only found out about this museum and exhibit of JC Leyendecker’s work a few days ago. And I immediately thought of asking Mom if she wanted to go, but thinking she might turn it down. I’m glad she didn’t.
Mom is my first art teacher, and at an early age showed me the marvelous paintings of Norman Rockwell and JC Leyendecker on the Saturday Evening Post covers. I grew to appreciate their skills from a very early age. In 1988 on a business trip to New York, I took a day off to drive north to Stockbridge, MA to visit the Norman Rockwell Museum. It was an other-worldly experience to sense the humanity in each painting as I moved slowly from one to the next.
Until yesterday, I had never seen an original by my other Illustrator Hero, JC Leyendecker. We were there 20 minutes or so before my mother suddenly realized that we were looking at original paintings by JC Leyendecker, not photos. The wonder on her face is something I will never forget, as she realized this and her head spun around to glance at each painting she’d already seen.
This trip was an experience I will never forget. For me, the trip was one of the last I will have with her, and I wanted to build a memory with her connected to art. She and my father were 100% behind my pursuing art as a vocation. Mom’s been my biggest fan for my entire life… and holds the unique position of being the only one who has known me and loved me longer than my days “on the outside.” When mom was in high school, she was one of the strongest artists in her rather large Los Angeles high school, and she wanted to attend the LA Art Center but could not afford it. 4 years later, she married my dad, and went to work to help support him through his last semester of his college years at Caltech in Pasadena, living in a small house several blocks from where I would live 32 years later, when I attended Art Center College of Design — the same school my mom wanted to attend, but with a different name and new location.
The thing is, we believe it’s probably best to let everyone know now. She is, in her own words “not long for this earth.” Her muscles are all atrophied, and her appetite is diminishing. She rallies short moments of strength — but she’s never lost her sense of humor.
I am asking those of you who know her, even a little bit, to send her off with the blessing of a kind note while she is still of sound mind and strength to read it or have it read to her. [email] [Facebook Page] You may get a response, but more than likely not. I hope that’s okay with you.
Would you simply tell her what you like about her, or how she has impacted your life in any way? Maybe you can tell her a memory you have of something that cheered you, touched you or eased your own pain? Don’t worry about making her cry. She probably will, no matter what you say. 🙂
Our thinking is: we’d like to have her be present at her own Memorial… to hear the things people say about her BEFORE she’s gone.
We have praying friends, friends who send positive thoughts, friends of all faiths, and friends with no faith at all. We appreciate the friendship most of all.
From our praying friends, I ask you to pray two things in one: Ask God for a complete miracle healing or quick passing — hopefully, she says, in her sleep. It’s okay with us for you to ask that her passing be quick. She has our permission to leave.
We also request that you PLEASE REFRAIN from typing out your prayers on her Facebook page, or that of John’s, my sister Joanne’s or my own. Thank you. (It’s something we see done by well-meaning folk, and we just don’t want it at this time. Thank you for respecting our wishes over your desire to carry out your faith in that way).
My mother loves her kids the way they are, and would not want us to change. Though the tone of this note is somber, I know that my mom would not want me to alter my daily postings due to her diminished health or demise, so I plan to do my best to share what I love and what makes me laugh right on through her passing and after — I hope that doesn’t appear to be uncaring. I just know my mom would want that. (I am calling a moratorium on my own political rants, though — really, what’s the point?)
We are a family of faith, but beyond that you’d have to really know each of us to know exactly what that means to us each. Our faith is a hope in things not seen, unprovable and non-disprovable. Based on our faith, and trust in the Scriptures, we believe that none of us measures up to what a holy God requires (Romans 3: 23), but in his mercy he provided a solution: salvation by grace — a free gift from God himself, accepted by us through the vehicle of faith and nothing more (Ephesians 2:8–9) — and based on this, we have assurance we will see Mom again outside the realm and constraints of time. We will join her again someday in Eternity.
Therefore we anticipate her departure from us with some measure of sadness, but not loss. For it is only temporary.
I want to thank each of you I have met over the years here and online elsewhere for making my mom part of your lives. For taking her in as you have me. We are grateful.
Thank you for taking the time to read all this, my dear friends.