Reviewing backups, I find Mom’s last words to me

Mom called and left a message 3 days before she died. She said that the latest tests were good. That everything was alright. To say hello to everyone and God bless.


A lot of folks don’t get the chance to say good bye, or their loved ones leave with too much left unsaid. Unshared. Unclosed. I think its that way for all of us. There’s no way to share it all all of the time. Life just moves too fast and then its too late.

I think maybe I ‘tripped’ upon this file because of something Rose shared today. She’s missing her Mom especially right now.

I think I’m lucky to have that message. And to have the Mom I had. And to have the family I have in the here and now. I’m the luckiest bastard on the planet. And I know it.

To all those missing their Mom’s today – my heart’s with you.

Eventful Week Can’t Even Come Close…

Call this week eventful would be an understatement. Monday was the anniversary of Mom’s death. Wednesday night the Phillies win the World Series, yesterday my friends’s 2 month old son has a successful surgery to address an intestinal issue, and today it is Halloween (wait till you see Emma) and the Phillies parade (which we will hopefully get a chance to attend – we’re leaving now!), all the while, work continues hot and heavy.

And next week, with the election and me seeing a college admissions councilor looks to be almost at hectic.


Be seeing you, memento mori, happy Halloween.

Neil Diamond in the New York Times

Mom loved Neil Diamond and on some level, his music remains a part of my life.

NYTimes: Backstage With Neil Diamond, the Marathon Man of Pop

“I never expected that I would be doing this for as long as I’ve been doing it,” he said after his sold-out show at the XL Center here on Thursday, having changed out of his black silk stage costume and into jeans and a loose-fitting cotton shirt, his eyes hidden behind small round glasses.

“So looking back and seeing that it’s been over 40 years since the first hits makes you think, ‘Is there a time that you stop?’ ” he continued. “But I don’t think I’m ever going to stop. It’s the only challenge I have left in my life.”

I Fooled Myself

In the past, I fooled myself into thinking I could not miss what I did not have.

I grew up without a father.

Looking at many I grew up with, sometimes I thought I had it better. I had quite a few friends with dad issues that haunt them to this day.

But now, upon reflection, it feels like I’ve simultaneously lost a Mom and a Dad.

What a strange thing to write. I must be entering the so called ‘anger’ phase.

If only life were that sequential, I could expect the emotions to wash over me, to pass me by on my way towards ‘acceptance’.

But our lives aren’t really like that are they? They happen, in a cosmic kinda level, at something resembling all at once, and our minds attempt to give it order and structure, if there are such things, they are beyond our current understanding.

All I know is that Mom did exist, and she left a legacy in me, in her other sons. Her grandchildren and great grandchildren.

I’m rambling on my blog. Not like me at all. I’m trying to reach for something in writing I can’t quite get to yet. And my guitar is failing me on some level.

So good night folks.

Halloween Pictures

It may have been the day before Mom’s funeral, but she wouldn’t have wanted us, especially Emma, from having some holiday fun. We may have been harried making arrangements for that Thursday, but we had a good time. I feel particularly blessed to live where we live – a true blue old fashioned Philly neighborhood. It’s a great place for Halloween.

Back to work

Getting back to work after Mom passing away is a weird and strange. I’m still busy reconciling everything in my head and heart.

Funerals absorb so much of your time that you don’t get a chance to think about things until after they pass.

I’ll share some pictures later, but one thing that became apparent from the slideshow that Richelle put together was that she was, most likely, happier now than she had ever been in her entire life.

Ya know, there are two stereotypes of old people who have had extreme levels of tragedy and struggle to deal with in their lives.

One, the wizened old soul who rose above such tribulations and became a font of information and history.

The other, the poisoned heart, who can no longer see the good in much anything, and rails against the unjust nature of our world – especially to him or herself.

Mom grew into someone resembling neither of these.

Instead, as she aged, she became more childlike with each passing day. When I say this I don’t mean unknowledgable – no I mean more aware of wonder. Of laughter. Of surprise. Of the importance of deep hugs and never staying angry and unreconciled. And of never saying goodbye, but of saying see you later and I love you.

It doesn’t seem fair that it took so long to get to this place, and then to have her snatched away.

But at least she did get to this place. That I was there to witness it. And I will be there to share it with my daughter (I hope).

Mom passed on Saturday at 3 in the afternoon

Mom was in the hospital with what was thought to be congenital heart failure. By Wednesday she was looking good, but the swelling in her right arm had not gone down. She and I talked about this latest trip to the hospital, just a few days after the last, but that everything should be alright. Her spirits were good.

On Friday I spoke to a doctor who told me it was a blood clot in her right arm that was the trouble. Blood thinners should help, but they wanted to be conservative since her platelets were low as a consequence of her chemo.

I called to check on Mom Saturday around 1 PM and heard that she was in ICU.

This was a shock. While she has issues she was dealing with, her Doctor sounded confident with me on Friday.

I ran to ICU and got there around 2PM.

It turns out, around 6AM Mom was having difficulty breathing, they did a CAT scan and found another blood clot, this one in her right lung. They asked her if it was okay to temporarily be intubated. Mom has been in this situation before, and so she said yes.

By the time I arrived, Mom was looking like she had on other ICU trips, drugged, but stable. I held her hand as the doctor on staff told me what they would like to proceed with. Mom became agitated, possibly hearing me and the doctor discuss these things, possibly just because she was snapping out of her medication. They gave her morphine (which they had done countless times before on other trips to ICU) and she calmed down. The doctor and I talked for around 2 more minutes before her stats went haywire and alarms started ringing. I remember one doctor asking this doctor if she needed help and she said yes, get everyone. Someone pulled me away and asked me to go to the waiting room.

I was there for 10-15 minutes when they called me. They told me there was no heart beat, that they were keeping her alive at that point with CPR. They asked if I wanted to be in the room with her.

Within seconds of my arriving one doctor said he felt a faint pulse and I grabbed mom’s feet and demanded to her that she stay. The staff worked for 15 or so more minutes, with me present, but she was gone.

A nurse told me it was like she had waited for me to arrive, and then decided to let go.

I’m coming out of the daze of the day and am waking up with a million questions and what-ifs. I don’t know how many of them are coming from my head, and how many from my heart.

Thank you everyone for your support, your thoughts and prayers.

Steve Olson: “love is the shell’s kryptonite”

Steve Olson, who recently stopped by to post a comment wrote about “the top causes that make my palms sweat, my heart bleed, and sends tears rolling down my cheeks” for the Caring, Compassion, Charity project.

It’s subject matter I can relate to on many levels – “Why You Should Never Give Up on a Troubled Youth”:

…When I was young, many people who claimed to be helping me, lied to me, abused me, marginalized me, and wrote me off as another statistic. I don’t claim to be special or unique in any way, I am one of millions.

I did not expect to live past 18. I lived through events that should have killed me. The fact that I am here writing this – alive and free – is a miracle. Some of my friends didn’t make it. And some that did are the walking wounded. Ghosts of what could have been.

I owe my life to a couple of inexplicable events and to those few people – and there were very few of them – who accepted me as I was.

As my mind’s eye gazes into the reflection of my past, I clearly see that every moment of every day is a priceless gift.

But the most valuable thing I’ve learned along the way is that there is only one cure for what is wrong with people and the cure is unconditional love and acceptance. It starts with unconditionally loving and accepting yourself as you are right now.

Sound hokey? Cliche? Is unconditional love and acceptance a tall order? Yes, but it’s worth the effort.

Read the whole post.

He finishes with asking me to do the same here. That’s a scary request. It’s one I got to think about. I’m not sure I have guts to let it all hang out out here. There are reasons why I start my online personal history in my late teens.

But for now, let me just say again how much I can relate to his post. I had thought at one time I was going to die by the time I was 18. Then I had thought it would be 25. Then 30. Like so many I was written off by some and let down by others who thought I never could amount to much.

I’m blessed to have found folks along the way who believed in me.

It’s Cancer

On Friday the results of Mom’s second biopsy came back and confirmed the worst – that Mom had lung cancer – specifically, small cell lung cancer – a particularly nasty form of cancer that spreads unpredictably and fast.

They immediately scheduled a deep body scan to see how far it has spread while Mom agreed to undergo Chemotherapy which started on Saturday, just in case there was a chance to get ahead of this thing.

I should be hearing from her oncologist today about the results of the deep body scan. Mom told me the results were good on Sunday, that the cancer has not spread past her left lung. But what that actually means I don’t know until I speak with him.

Mom is in this place mentally that is hard to comprehend – she’s both clear headed and serene. In her own words she’s “ready to fight, because I have to – but if God is ready to take me – I’m am ready to go”. And I believe her.

Maybe she just isn’t facing the reality of this so far.

Maybe she’s just ready to die.

Or maybe her belief in what-will-be-will-be is stronger than I had ever imagined.

I hope I’ve picked some of that up from her. My core belief that you have no control of the hand you are dealt – and that it’s best not to to get caught up in the contents of that hand – how fair the cards are – or how often you’ve been given a set of cards that have low odds of success – because you do have control over how you play your hand. It’s how you play your hand, no matter how good or bad, that counts.

At least that’s what I tell myself when times are good.

Right now I don’t feel that way at all.

And I’m afraid that she might be playing ‘strong’ for me and Dante’s benefit.

Yesterday I told her that if she is, she should stop. That we can handle this together. She swore she wasn’t. I tried to discern the truth, but her eyes have such a child like innocence about them (an innocence that makes NO SENSE in the face of what she’s seen in her life) that I couldn’t.

Following the deep body scan results and talk with the oncologist will come difficult discussions.

My Mom *Might* Have Cancer

My Mom has had a few bouts of ICU worthy pneumonia over the past year. Last week she felt some chest pain, thinking it was a possible heart attack she went to the emergency room.

Turns out they found two large masses in her left lung and her lymph nodes are swollen. The doctors gave me an 85% chance that it’s cancer and in an advanced state. Her first bronchial biopsy was inconclusive so they are proceeding with a second today and then another test if necessary. So far her symptoms are no different than those she’s been experiencing with her COPD for the last few years.

She’s in amazing spirits. She’s 74 and has seen much hardship in her life. Recently she told me that these past few years have been her best. I’m proud of her.

I’m not doing so well. But that’s to be expected I guess. There’s still a chance that this is nothing more than a bad infection. A false positive. But the doctors seem to think that’s not likely.

I’m always trying to look for the bright side of things, that sliver of light down the tunnel, and there are a few – Emma has grown into an awesome toddler, she’s almost two! My herniated disk hasn’t troubled me as much since my last injection (over a week now of decreased pain). is rolling along, the feedback has been great. And Richelle has been supportive dealing with it all.

I know this is just part of the cycle of life. I can rationalize it a million ways. I know on an intellectual level I’m not alone. Especially with two brothers. But still, it’s hard not to be sad that a small dream of mine, that Emma get to really know Mom, is looking less and less likely. And when Mom goes, so goes the last of our ancestors. A door closes on our roots and our own origins. I hope I’ve been a good son.