My Mom | A Letter From Her Son, Taylor

Mom & Baby TaylorMaureen in New Orleans

Mom,

We still have so much to talk about. I still have so much to ask you. You still have so much to teach me beyond the love, strength, grace, and compassion you demonstrated every day. I want to go back to the day. October 19th. Two days before your passing. The day we sat together on the couch in the living room as I assembled an essay about things falling apart. With oxygen passing through tubes by your nose, when things were indeed falling apart, you exuded a delicate strength. Your quiet fortitude then and your quiet fortitude now have always and will always hold our family together like the cornerstone in each of your buildings. I wish I could see you one more time. Your tall, striking, poised figure. Your deep, calming brown eyes, eyes that came with a smile that shined not just happiness but a peaceful certitude. I wish I could hold you forever; I wish I never let you go that day on the couch. I know these aren’t just wishes. I know that you will be with me forever as I continue my journey through life. Keep in touch mom. I love you.

Sincerely,

Taylor

The Love of My Life | “You Will Never Know a Love Like Mine”

Powdered Donuts on the CornerIt was Friday night. 2 weeks ago. In San Antonio. Taylor, Kyla, Katelyn and I had just made the drive down 281 from Austin for a weekend in the Hill Country. We had settled into our hotel, and I had popped down to the corner Walgreens, along the Riverwalk, to pick up some powdered donuts. The Riverwalk is a special place for our family, both before Maureen’s passing a year ago and since. Actually, I can still remember the first time I visited the Riverwalk with Maureen. It was the Friday after Thanksgiving, the year we had moved to Austin in 1994. She and I sat there basking in the sun, enjoying a beer, thinking to ourselves, wow, it is probably pretty cold back in Chicago, from where we had just moved that summer!

The kids and I had come not just to celebrate but to reflect on a very emotional month in our lives. On Friday, October 9, tomorrow, the one year anniversary of Maureen’s passing from this world to the next was still two weeks hence. We knew we needed time then to be ready for now. We knew we needed to come back to the Riverwalk. Like Heraclitus, this river is never the same twice, but the love that flows through it is never changing. It is where we stayed when Maureen and I took the kids to Seaworld. It is the place of Bubbles AND Powdered Donuts. And, on this night, it is the place where heaven once again intersected earth.

Foodies @ CuredEver since my visit to Cured back in June, which I wrote about here, I have been raving to the kids about this awesome restaurant in the Pearl Brewery area of the Riverwalk. These three kiddos are foodies. They know chefs; they know good food. For almost a decade, Maureen, Taylor, Kyla, Katelyn and I would watch the latest season and episode of Top Chef on Friday nights, eating pizza, laughing at the bleeped out words from the chefs as they crafted ingredients into amazing dishes, rooting for our favorites, dissing those chefs who weren’t playing well or being nice. The kids and I had walked by Cured before, during our trip to San Antonio over the holidays last year, the trip that led to the post on Bubbles AND Powdered Donuts.

This Friday, however, rather than the river taxi we rode over the holidays, we climbed into a cab. A simple yellow cab. In the short trip from our hotel over to Cured, heaven pierced the veil with earth, and our family of 5 was reunited as we headed to dinner. Music was playing as we climbed into the cab, and these are the words we heard:

You’ll never find, as long as you live
Someone who loves you tender like I do
You’ll never find, no matter where you search
Someone who cares about you the way I do

Whoa, I’m not braggin’ on myself, baby
But I’m the one who loves you
And there’s no one else! No one else!

You’ll never find, it’ll take the end of all time
Someone to understand you like I do
You’ll never find the rhythm, the rhyme
All the magic we shared, just us two

The kids knew long before I spoke what was happening. Just like one year ago, Maureen was using music to talk with us, to share her love. A year ago, she played Chicago’s Once in a Lifetime through my iTunes library to talk with me alone. This Friday night in San Antonio, she was talking to all 4 of us. The kids couldn’t see what I could see, though. I looked down at the screen of the iPhone of our cab driver. These amazing words were from Lou Rawl’s song, “You’ll Never Find a Love Like Mine.” Before we got out of the cab, I knew I had to share with our driver what had just happened. I knew he would understand because on his dash was a picture of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. The kids told me later that our cab driver had tears in his eyes. I know I had tears in my own.

I shared with our driver the story of Maureen, our journey, our reason for heading to Cured, and why this song was so powerful to us. I told him that heaven had intersected his cab on this short journey from our hotel to the restaurant. I then asked him his name, and I was shaken to my core. Abraham he said. Abraham. Abraham is the father of a nation and of a faith. Before God came to him, he was Abram. After God has chosen him, he and his wife, Sarah, who were childless to this point, were parents to a multitude and to a nation. Abraham represents God’s covenant (promise) with us, His people.

I know because of God’s covenant with us through Christ that my precious, beloved bride, Maureen is with Him. I also know that heaven is far closer to our daily life than we can even imagine. Maureen and Lou were right. We will never find a love like Maureen’s. We will never find a love like God’s. I can honestly say after a year that I love Maureen even more now than I did the day she passed. Love goes far beyond our physical bodies and the physical world. She and I may not hold hands anymore. She can’t hug the kids like she once did. However, none of that stands in the way of love.

Lifting the VeilJust over 25 years ago, when Maureen and I stood at the altar of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Evanston, Illinois, we, too, made a covenant. Through the sacrament of marriage, we made a commitment that said quite simply what God has joined together, let no one put asunder. Not even death can stand between us and our love. On that beautiful July afternoon, I was not just lifting the veil to the most beautiful woman in the world. I lifted the veil to heaven.

My Mom | Reflections by Her Loving Son, Taylor

Cupcakes at Church in Chicago“Blessed By Angels Unawares” | Hebrews 13:2

When I was fifteen, I lost my mom to breast cancer. The day was October twenty first, and I was sitting on the left side of the library at the table near the window. As I was confirming my fantasy football lineup, Mrs. Winter, wearing a white cardigan, brown shirt, and white jeans entered through the front doors. She informed me my dad was in the front office. I didn’t think anything of this information or her arrival. However, as I entered, my dad wasn’t the only person there. My aunt, a short, grey-blonde, spitting image of my mom was there as well. Their faces were both blank. My dad broke the silence with two words, “follow me.” He led me to the little hill near the office where the grass fades from green into yellow. He said, “your mom’s sodium levels dropped last night. We don’t have any more time. She is already gone.” I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I started running. I ran to the track and never looked back.

1506946_10151956486513660_1321719001_nFour months later, I was still running. This time I was running a half marathon through the streets of New Orleans in memory of my mom, side by side with my dad. We ran stride for stride with each other for thirteen point one miles. Throughout this ordeal, we both had moments of doubt and fatigue, but when the miles got tough, we thought of the countless chemotherapy sessions my mom endured with a smile. As we ran through the French Market just off Jackson Square where Decatur Street meets Esplanade Avenue; I hit a turning point. With the smell of beignets drifting behind me and a water stop just in front of me, I could imagine myself crossing the finish line.

Over the past eleven months, there have been moments where my mom’s presence has been almost tangible. The most significant of these occurred as my two cousins and I paddled a two man kayak a mile off the shore of Fort Morgan, Alabama to fish. We fished for an hour, but as we turned for home, the situation turned for the worst. The weight of our three bodies caused the kayak’s hull to take on water. After each stroke, the kayak would rock unsteadily back and forth until it finally flipped. Our rods sank, and our tackle and ice chest scattered across the Gulf of Mexico. We tried to right the kayak, but our attempts were futile. After half an hour of this, we were almost out of options. We decided to swim the mile back to shore with our guardian angel watching over us the entire way.

The Three Amigos