This past week brought an unexpected sadness. It was Friday. I had taken the day off to be with Andrea and her parents who were visiting for my pin on set for Monday at 4pm. We had just left the club making final arrangements for the ceremony, checking the room, and the schedule of events. Saturday was my brother's wedding in Austin and the family was gathering from across the country. It was to be one of the few occasions when all seven of us kids and so many cousins were going to be together at once.
About 2pm I had a message to call my brother, which I was sure concerned the wedding plans. It did not; my mother had had a massive stroke and was in a coma. In an instant travel plans were changed and my brothers and sisters were now gathering in Dallas.
I grabbed a flight Saturday morning and returned that afternoon as the family decided to go ahead with the wedding in Austin that night. It was exactly what Mom would have wanted. It was a beautiful wedding and I now have another sister named Mary. Our family had grown by one, sadly though our mother was not there to join us. To see the beautiful night skyline of Austin. To see the happiness on my brother's face. To see best friends become husband and wife. It was almost the perfect evening. We missed Mom's smile and the excitement in her eyes as she would have seen Neil and Mary exchange vows.
Tuesday Andrea, Anthony and I drove to Dallas to see Mom. She was being moved to Hospice. Two of my sisters, Maureen and Mary were there. We arrived at the Hospice at about 2:40. At 4:07 Mom left behind her broken body and received a new one. She passed with all of us with her, my sister Maureen lying on the bed holding Mom. It was as perfect as it could have been.
I know what you see is an officer with lots of seemingly important things on my chest, But I feel like Jimmy, #8 the youngest of this magnificent family.
Today I represent the second half of the kids. Those raised long after matching clothes were a necessity, when the camera was just too much trouble to get out. But for all the differences us last three kids had, Mom's love was the one constant for all of us.
For the past four years I have been dealing with Andrea's cancer. Facing death as the husband. Then suddenly this week I was dealing with death as the son. It is different to lose your Mom. The one who cared for you. The one you could always talk to. The one always ready with words of encouragement. Who always made it better. There is the sense of loneliness as if you lost your shield in life. You are suddenly exposed to life's elements. And you wonder if you are up for the task that lies ahead. Have you learned all you could, can you remember all those words spoken to you? Are you ready to carry on such a legacy as the one handed to us?
All of us kids have our memories of Mom, some we share in common, some all our own. We shared some of those Tuesday night and last night. As you would expect they brought both laughter and tears. Mom was so special. She was proud of all her children, and even more of her Grand kids and Great Grand kids. She was a part of the greatest generation. The ones, who faced the depression and fought WWII, felt the craziness of segregation and the assassination of far too many great men. They saw what man can do when he puts his mind to it, living under the threat of nuclear war, and seeing unthinkable obstacles overcome and a man standing on the moon. They watched such giants as Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy and watched later generations become slaves to wealth and self, whose heroes seem to be those catch passes or strike out batters and chief qualification is the size of their contract or square footage of their house. They watched society change from one of sacrifice to one built on self. Yet we were blessed to be raised by a mother whose wisdom transcended fades and generations she taught the value of hard work, a love for family and most importantly the necessity of faith.
She suffered and in doing so she taught us patience. She lived life as it was and in doing so she taught us contentment. She lived life with a smile and doing so she taught us joy. She respected others and taught us the same and in doing so she taught us there are things more important in life then ourselves. She lived a truly successful life and in doing so she taught us humility. In everything she taught us to be thankful. She taught us that our only limitation in life was our own fears. She taught us the importance of faith.
There is not one of us kids that did not get a call or letter from Mom asking if we were in church. It was not just to be in church, which it could have been misinterpreted as. It was because Mom ever wanting to protect her children knew that faith was what really matters when life threw at us the inevitable challenges. She taught us to do our best but not at the expense of our Faith. Thank you Mom for all the prayers I never knew you spoke for the blessing I received from your faithfulness. I count it an honor to have prayed for by you.
Most of all Mom taught us by simply living life. There is not one of those lessons she did not live out every day. Looking at her life you would hardly say it was fair. But she never complained. She raised eight children, on the salary of an Air Force Captain yet never do I remember feeling poor. I always remember feeling at home yet if you ask me where I'm from I don't know how to answer. Looking back I can't imagine how hard it must have been to move with all us kids. It's all Andrea and I could do with two kids. But all I have are good memories of growing up. I loved the adventure of moving because we would get to make forts out of the boxes, especially the prized wardrobe boxes. I loved the new schools because I got to meet new people and I was never really alone, because I all had a brother or a sister with me. I loved to travel and see new places. I love most of all the memories of being together as a family. Sure we had plenty of hard times and we kids made far more than our share of mistakes, but we were always a family.
Looking back at these past few days, I saw that Mom was still teaching us. She taught us why faith is important. When she drew her last breath she reminded us that faith is the one thing we take with us. She challenged us in her death to live a life that makes a difference to mankind and not a bank account. She taught us why family is so important. When she left us, she left us kids holding on to each other. Few things speak more about Mom then our close bond to each other. Maybe we had really learned what Mom was trying to teach us all these years. I hope she knows what a great job she has done. I hope we are up to the challenge of following in her footsteps. I hope I can do half as good as she did
I miss you already Mom