My mom died early Saturday morning. She was my first proofreader, biggest champion and fiercest Scrabble opponent. She won money on Jeopardy! and sang at Carnegie Hall. She was remarkable. I’ll love her always.
Like so many Americans in 2020, I didn’t get to be near my mom as she died. A stranger held an iPad while I blubbered about how much I loved her. I’m grateful to that nurse while always mindful that this didn’t have to happen.
My mom didn’t die of COVID, but within it. Routine appointments got pushed back. How long had her heart and kidneys been failing? We’ll never know. Statistically, she’s part of the “excess mortality” of this pandemic.
This summer, we drove 1,200 miles to Colorado to see her. This is as close as we could get.
My mom was a hugger, and I didn’t get to hug her in the last year of her life. It sucks. To their credit, the strict protocols worked. No one in her senior living community got COVID-19.
Still, the pandemic did bring us closer. We FaceTimed every day at lunch. My mom was nosy in the nicest way. I got to know way too much about her fellow residents.
When I wrote the deathbed scene in Big Fish, I was drawing from the memory of losing my father in college. It was the fantasy version of the conversation I wished I’d had with a man I struggled to understand.
I had an extra 30 years to know my mom. There was no great mystery, regret or unfinished business. We were good.
Still, my mom was the last person who still saw me as her little boy. The last one who was proud of me for simply existing. That’s the loss I feel most today.
As a dad, a husband, and a 50-year-old orphan, I urge you to make sure the people you love know it. Don’t assume there will be time after the pandemic. There will always be something else.
This mask is one I sewed for my mom last week because I knew she’d want something Christmas-y.