On Losing My Mother


Matt Freedman

Losing a parent is a single moment that you spend your entire life preparing for. From the day you first understand what death is, you know that some day your own parents are going to die. Yet despite the decades of trying to come to terms with that inevitable fact, you can never really be ready for it. Now, after my own mother’s passing, I would like to celebrate her life by reflecting upon a few of the many gifts that she gave to me.

Just like my mother, I was a voracious reader, and I know that my love of the written word comes directly from her and our weekly trips to the Troy public library to restock our respective piles of books. And perhaps my skills as a researcher come from her refusal to tell me the meanings of new words, instead always insisting that I look them up myself in the dictionary?

My sense of humor I am sure springs directly from her and her collection of classic comedy records. When the other kids were buying rock and roll, I was buying George Carlin and Richard Pryor. It was thanks to her that I preferred Monty Python to Led Zeppelin.

She gave me my first camera – I received that upon graduation from college – which is perhaps why now some 20 years later my life is completely consumed by photography.

But perhaps the most valuable gift she gave my sisters and I is a deep understanding of the importance of family. She demonstrated that to us every day – from the homemade soup, to the way she applied her skills as a nurse in treating our scrapes and scratches, to the way she cared for her own mother through her final years.

And speaking of caretaking, I need to take a few moments to deeply thank my father for the almost superhuman effort he has put in as caregiver for my mother. His laser-focused mission in life these last few years has been to provide for the comfort and well being of his beloved wife of 50 years. He literally almost killed himself with the effort, putting her health over his own to the point where he was hospitalized with severe pneumonia. The love and care he gave my mother are a lesson that I truly will carry with me until the end of my own life.

A close friend of mine, Bill Kleindl, suggested to me that one of the last gifts a parent can give to us is the final element needed to truly turn us into adults – a sudden and visceral sense of our own mortality. Though this final gift from her is surely unintentional, I know that my mother would be happy to know that this reminder of our own inevitable ends will help us all live the rest our lives to the fullest, and truly savor the beauty of each one of our remaining days.

Thanks mom, for everything.