Given that my mother passed away while I was in the middle of completing the new edition of this book, allow me to share how I never got to express my love and appreciation for her as much as I would have liked. On the first Sunday of February 2007 I was contemplating whether I should go to a musical performance at our local jazz club. I gave consideration to the fact that on the previous Sunday I had not visited my mother, which I had done virtually every Sunday for almost twenty years. Thus, I decided to skip the musical performance.
I picked up some items from a local supermarket deli and headed over to my mother's apartment. This particular Sunday my sister, Elaine, and her husband, Lorne, also showed up and we had an enjoyable dinner together. Later I noticed that my mother was wheezing after she climbed a flight of stairs. She also complained about how her legs had gotten really stiff lately.
Even so, I would later find out that my mother told others that she had a great day, because my sister, my brother-in-law, and I had visited her. What's more, earlier in the day, just as my mother was about to call my brother, Kenny, she received a call from him. The call was special to my mother because my brother lives outside the city and only visted her once or twice a year.
As it turned out, this was the last Sunday dinner that I enjoyed with my mother. You can imagine how fortunate I felt that I had skipped the musical performance. Two days later I called my mother to ask her how she was doing. She complained of severe headaches that wouldn't respond to Tylenol. Later in the evening my sister and her husband drove my mother to the hospital. The doctors decided to keep her for two or three days because of her low oxygen level but they didn't think it was anything serious.
On Wednesday afternoon when I visited my mother at the hospital, I was stunned to find out that the doctors had diagnosed her with acute leukemia. The head doctor indicated that she could live for several months if they gave her blood transfusions and chemo drugs along with morphine. Needless to say, I left the hospital in somewhat of a daze.
That evening I decided that I would visit my mother at least once every day until she passed away. I also decided to get a nice black book in which I would write down all the special things that I wanted to thank her for. I was also going to encourage other people to write in the black book all the things that they liked about my mother.
As fate would have it, the next day my mother took a turn for the worse. The doctor phoned early in the morning and indicated she had only a few days left with her likely losing mental capabilities in a day or two. Soon after I got to the hospital, I decided that I should bring my mother's best friend, Mary Leshchyshyn, to see my mother one last time while she still had her mental capabilities. After I brought Mary to the hospital, she and my mother were able to spend half an hour together while the rest of us went for coffee.
When we got back to my mother's hospital room, I noticed that my mother had gotten worse and was gasping for oxygen. At this point I felt that she might not last more than a day. So I immediately thanked my mother for two or three important things that she had done for me. She responded - as she struggled for oxygen - by thanking me specifically for having come over every Sunday. (At this point I truly realized how much my weekly visits meant to her.) I also told my mother that the reason that I had never married was that I had never met a wonderful woman like her.
Shortly after, my mother's best friend, Mary, stated that my mother looked really tired and that she should go home to let my mother rest. My mother was able to say a few more words to Mary including "Don't get what I got." Mary's last words to my mother were "See you later." I would find out soon after from my sister that my mother whispered, "Oh no, you won't." But Mary didn't hear these words.
Sadly, while I was driving Mary back to her apartment, my mother passed away. My sister, Elaine, and her husband, Lorne; my cousin, Jerry, and his wife, Lil; and the hospital chaplain, Blaine Allan, were there with her and said a prayer while she passed away. Surprisingly, my mother at eighty-five had her mental capabilities and even a great memory right until her last minutes, given that she was giving instructions to my sister about the funeral, including the dress she wanted to be wearing and how she wanted her head tilted just a bit in the coffin instead of straight up.
Later that morning, when my sister arrived, my mother told her, "I'm done." My sister responded, "What are you talking about?" My mother replied, "I lost the stone from my family ring. It's gone so that means that I am gone too." My mother was so sweet and so strong during her last hours. Even the hospital staff talked about the deep affection they had developed for her during her short stay in the hospital.
As hard as my mother's death was on me, there was something remarkably spiritual about it. There were also a few things for which I had to feel grateful. My mother did not have to suffer for a long time like so many people do in their later years. I was thankful that Elaine, Lorne, Jerry, Lil, and Blaine were there with her to say a prayer when she passed away. I also felt relieved that I had brought Mary to the hospital so that she and my mother got to spend half an hour together before my mother left us rather unexpectedly that day.
After I left the hospital that fateful afternoon, I felt blessed that I was able to see my mother her last day and thank her for at least two or three special things that she had done for me. But I was also terribly saddened that I did not get to give her a hundred more reasons why she had meant so much to me. So I wrote a letter to my mother, which follows this photo of her in her twenties:
I am so saddened that you left us rather suddenly while knowing that in many ways it was the right thing for you to do. I am sorry that I was not there when you passed on but I know that you appreciate that I brought your best friend Mary to see you one last time and I know that Mary appreciated having the chance to see you one last time. Unfortunately, while I was driving Mary back to her home, you left us but Elaine, Lorne, Lil, Jerry, and Blaine were there with you.
I will miss you. I hope that we meet in Heaven. I know that from the way you treated me and the way you treated others - and how much they held you in great esteem and admiration - that you have an outstanding chance of entering Heaven - far greater than me, that's for sure. But I will remember the great things that people loved about you and try to instill as many of your great qualities in myself as I can from now on. Perhaps I will get into Heaven as easily as you.
Because you left rather suddenly, there are so many things that I wanted to thank you for but didn't get a chance. Here are just some of the things I wanted to thank you for:
- Thank you for having stuck by my side so many times and gotten yourself in trouble with Dad when he thought I should be doing something else with my life.
- Thank you for lending me the money to publish my first book although, as you said when I was paying you back, you thought you would never see the money again.
- Thank you for making a prompt decision around eight years ago to sell your house and move into the St Andrew's Retirement Complex - I know that your living in the apartment complex rather than continuing living isolated in the house added several years to your life - and of course joy in other people's lives.
- Thank you for still making the great cabbage rolls this last Christmas that you made all these years even though you had been quite ill just before the holidays.
- Thank you for having taken care of your best friend Mary by buying groceries for her when she couldn't make it out on her own due to her low energy level.
- Thank you for having had the ability to always be so pleasant with everyone that you met.
- Thank you for your appreciation of other people - I can't recall your ever having said a bad word about anyone.
- I could go on forever about the things that I would like to thank you for, but I just want to wrap it up by saying I am somewhat mystified - but nevertheless proud of you - for being able to live to the age of eighty-five in generally good health and then make a fairly rapid exit from this planet without having to suffer like so many people do. Great work, Mom!
But I am going to miss you a great deal. Not having the regular Sunday dinners as we have for so many years and not having someone special to phone every day or two are going to be hard on me.
I promise to think of you as I live the rest of my life. I will give much thought every day about the types of things you would have wanted me to do and how you would have liked me to treat other people. I know that this will make me a much better person and I hope that I will have as many great people mourn my passing from this planet as will come to mourn yours.
Thank you, Mom
With all my love
I placed this letter under my mother's arm in the coffin when members of my close family and I visited the funeral home to pay our respects the day before the funeral. The next day, after I read a copy of the letter as the eulogy during the funeral service conducted by Father Don Bodnar, a good friend of mine commented that this is the type of letter we should all write to our mothers while they are still living.
To be sure, you should thank your mother a lot for all that she means to you while she is still alive - not only with letters but also with thoughtful comments every time you see her. Clearly, your mother deserves much more than a card, flowers, or candy once a year on Mother's Day. Why not send her a handwritten letter at least once a month? Start today because you never know when she may lose her life suddenly."
All that I am or ever hope to be," remarked Abraham Lincoln, "I owe to my angel Mother." George Washington declared, "I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual, and physical education which I received from my mother." Jewish people have a proverb about mothers that is even more eloquent: "God could not be everywhere and therefore He made mothers."
Here are a few words from Washington Irving to remind us a little more about how important mothers are to us: "A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts."
I was fortunate that I saw my mother fifteen to twenty minutes before she passed away and was able to at least thank her for a few things. I am also blessed that I get to dedicate this book to her and will have her name live on at least in some small spiritual way due to me - and, of course, due to the great person that she was. You may not get these same opportunities. So again, thank your mother a lot while she is still alive - and not only on Mother's Day. Trust me - you will deeply regret it later if you don't.
NOTE: The above article is adapted from the chapter called Thank Your Mother a Lot While She Is Still Alive! in the book 101 Really Important Things You Already Know, But Keep Forgetting by Ernie Zelinski. The book is dedicated to Ernie's mother Violet Zelinski (Waselyna Gordychuk) who passed away while Ernie was writing the latest edition of the book.
Following is a photo of Ernie's mother Violet Zelinski (on right) with her best friend Mary Leshchyshyn:
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- #1 Quote about Moms and Mothers for Your Mother's Day Cards
A little girl, asked where her home was, replied, "where mother is."
- Keith L. Brooks
#2 Quote about Moms and Mothers for Your Mother's Day Cards
Youth fades; love droops; the leaves of friendship fall; A mother's secret hope outlives them all.
- Oliver Wendell Holmes
#3 Quote about Moms and Mothers for Your Mother's Day Cards
Most of all the other beautiful things in life come by twos and threes, by dozens and hundreds. Plenty of roses, stars, sunsets, rainbows, brothers and sisters, aunts and cousins, comrades and friends - but only one mother in the whole world.
- Kate Douglas Wiggin
#4 Quote about Moms and Mothers for Your Mother's Day Cards
If I was damned of body and soul,
I know whose prayers would make me whole,
Mother o' mine, O mother o'mine.
- Rudyard Kipling
#5 Quote about Moms and Mothers for Your Mother's Day Cards
My mother had a slender, small body, but a large heart - a heart so large that everybody's joys found welcome in it, and hospitable accommodation.
- Mark Twain
#6 Quote about Moms and Mothers for Your Mother's Day Cards
No painter's brush, nor poet's pen
In justice to her fame
Has ever reached half high enough
To write a mother's name.
- Author Unknown
#7 Quote about Moms and Mothers for Your Mother's Day Cards
No one in the world can take the place of your mother. Right or wrong, from her viewpoint you are always right. She may scold you for little things, but never for the big ones.
- Harry Truman