Lifetime Gift

When I was 14 and my sister eight, with three older boys already out of the house, my parents sat with us in the den of our home and shared some news. Mom had cancer… and doctors told her she had six months to live. “I want you to know,” she said, “that I spoke with Jesus, and he told me that I will be able to see you both grow up.” Since mom said it, I always believed it – and, as promised, she lived 12 years before passing away three weeks after my sister’s wedding.

While I was in high school, mom endured more than 50 chemotherapy treatments – and the side effects were bad. Her close friend – the mother of my best friend – filled in often: taking me to get things for school, feeding me meals, and letting me stay at their house when mom was in the hospital.

They lived 15 minutes from us, and after I got my driver’s license, I would go there and, if the family was out, just let myself in. They always had a certain ice cream bar in the freezer, and when they arrived home, I typically would be eating one. Thus was born a line I still use today: “You know, I’ve never had a Klondike.”

In college, their house was the hangout during breaks: always plenty of food and games – and never a protest when we stayed late… no doubt making a lot of noise and getting in the way of a good night’s rest.

In 1988, her daughter, another son and I started a travel company, and seven years later I joined them full-time. Of course, they had hired their mom long before that. During my tenure, she arrived each day by 7 a.m. and worked harder than anyone – even though she was past the age most in her generation retired. The hardest transition I had was when she insisted I use her first name. That was a tough habit to break.

During the past two decades, we saw each other a few times, including at a wedding where she kept dancing after many tired. I continued to receive a birthday card just as I had since I was a boy. Most months, she’d send a nice email acknowledging my newsletter, which always brightened my day… especially since she long ago taught me punctuation lessons, including when to use that crazy Oxford comma.

A young 84, she’s been caring for her invalid husband – looking forward to when that burden ends, so she can travel and spend time with her grandkids. Of course, while God keeps promises, sometimes He has other plans. Last week we learned her body was failing quickly due to an infection. She died last night.

I believe my mother greeted her in Heaven with a warm embrace and “Thank You” for watching over me for four decades. Words I didn’t say often enough. When we meet again, I’m going to tell Jean Anthony how much she impacted my life.


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