May 18th – A Year Later

Mom was always remarkable at keeping spectacular company. Five minutes with the most reserved in character would find them friends. Made friends were friends forever, no matter how often they crossed paths. As an observation, that ability served her well the whole of her life. A favorite example is found in recalling that she was the student body vice president in college, having vowed to meet three new people per day in her undergraduate career.

On the 14th of May, four months after she passed away, I spent the day serving myself a reminder of the kinds of people I have been fortunate to surround myself with. To make fast friends and keep them, a skill among the best she could have shared with me. For my part I know the people in both our lives have been what continues to save me and keep me strong.

Finding me here today, May 18th, the day a year ago that we left for Houston to begin battling her newly diagnosed Myelodysplastic Syndrome, a precursor to her eventual Leukemia. Her biggest concern in leaving home was leaving her friends. While we agreed that the best course medically was with M.D. Anderson, the uncertain journey before us at that time was not one that presented easy or clear paths. Convinced her ability to find friends would serve her well, we made our leave, flying on a private jet and entering a new adventure.

Mom entered a prolonged discussion on that flight with it’s owner, the president of Shell Oil. A generous man and one that I recall impressed us both. Later in the flight, I found myself in the cockpit (at my own invitation) talking with the pilots at 48,000 feet. Those conversations ushered in the thousands more we both would have with new friends – among them hospital staff from doctors to janitors. She knew everyone’s name that she’d met more than once, always introducing me to them (multiple times, in some amusing cases). When they would catch me in the hall or elsewhere in the hospital, they would tell me how she always talked about me. Hard for me to recall as I write this, if only because I’d like to hear it from her one more time (reminders surround me).

A new favorite example of her impact on those she met, over twenty hospital staff showed up to the last minute memorial we held at the hospital. All but one or two of them who were actually working and on call that very day and in their coats or scrubs. The chaplain and our great friend Beverly both commented at their surprise at the turn out. Never had they seen so many staff at a patients memorial. Other friends from Houston came as well, and many others from the hospital and otherwise sent word on their memory and her effect on them.

In this brief year so much has transpired, and so many examples remain. Many will go on unknown save in the memory of those who knew her, if even in a passing moment or brief exchange. I know my words here fall short of doing justice to the effect her legacy will continue to make on the world. I could fill thread upon thread with memories that make me proud of who my mother is. They keep me still on a path that, while not always easy, is very clear. A remarkable person, one I know from the hundreds of letters and emails I’ve received, who will have a consistent and deep impact on me for the rest of my life.

As she recommended food for thought at the end of her reflections, I too will leave you with my wish for you today: Use your life to make an impact on those in your life, and learn from the impact they make on you. Make positive decisions in the face of unpopular motives from the world around you. Your life matters, as have the lives lived before you that helped shape your own. One of the best gifts mom shared with everyone was to smile, daily, and it made her life one that she was proud of, and that I am humbled to have been present for.



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