The Last Time I Saw my Mother

The last time I saw my mother was the day our friend Jon Cavaluzzo died. I was visiting Mom at her home in Cookeville, Tennessee, and Tuesday, February 9, 2016 was the last day of a sorrowful visit. Her health was bad, and her state of mind matched the cloudy winter sky: gray, tired, and not able to hold the heaviness much longer.

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After a teary goodbye, I was filled with dread. Mom had been beleaguered. Something deep and dark hollowed out my insides as I left her apartment. Maybe this really would be the last time I would hug her, be embraced by all her fluffy warmness, feel her claw of a hand pat my back and intuit that one-of-a-kind love that housed only in her watery, hazel-green eyes.

I got off the elevator and walked into the common room of her building where a Bible verse was written neatly on the whiteboard in blue dry-erase marker. Cheerful potted plastic plants with flowers sat on top of board games and a row of Britannica Encyclopedias. Sweet people lived in my mother’s building, and I was so grateful to know she was safe. I walked past the long table covered in items other residents were giving away (half a package of cinnamon rolls, adult diapers, a Christmas tree candle) that ran the length of the room. I hurried across the parking lot to my rental car because it had started to sleet and I wanted to get to my hotel room near the Nashville Airport before the weather got too wild. I buckled the seatbelt and checked my phone. There was a text from my husband that said he had very sad news, and how sorry he was to tell me that our friend, Jon Cavaluzzo, had just died.

  San Francisco   Jon Cavaluzzo     2015

  San Francisco   Jon Cavaluzzo     2015

My husband and I do not have children and our friends are our chosen family.

I gasped. The motor idled. The headlights lit up a retaining wall. I looked up at the darkening sky and sobbed. We knew Jon had serious and difficult to diagnose health concerns, but he was only 55. I texted for more information then looked back at my Mom’s window. I had hoped she would be there, bathed in golden lamplight, watching me leave as she usually did for one last wave goodbye. But she wasn’t. I cried for a few more minutes then put the car in reverse.

Mom died November 30, 2016, one year ago today.

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