Tuesday, May 25, 2010


My mother is dead.

It was not a zombie attack, or marauders, but something totally mundane.

There was a fire at her house last night, and she died while doing something stupidly heroic. There were three patients at the clinic in her home, and she collapsed after getting the one of them that couldn't walk out of the front door. She was burned, but Evans tells me that it was smoke inhalation that did it.

A lookout told me that he saw someone running from the house shortly before the blaze. I can't even think of that right now. Instead, I choose to eulogize her. It is the least that I can do to create some lasting monument to the person who shaped me more than any other. And to try in some small way to show you what you have missed, not knowing her, not being enriched by her presence.

Her name was Juanita. She was born into an Irish/German family in the fifties and raised as a catholic. It was her earliest desire in life to be an artist, but the realities of life led her to a stable career in nursing. Her career was with the Veterans Administration in its entirety, where she received many awards for her work. Her professional life was dedicated to providing the best care possible to men that had served our country, who had suffered in many ways for others.

She was selfless to a degree that I will never equal. I am not trying to paint her as perfect, because of the inherent impossibility of it, and because if I tried, she would be over my shoulder, correcting me gently.

She could be brash. She had a sharp mind that saw all sides of a problem, and was never shy about telling you when she disagreed. She believed to her core in the equality of all people, and in the sanctity of living things. She was a great mother, if an overly self-critical one, and it was that constant niggling doubt, I think, that made her such a spectacular parent. She was a constantly evolving person, always excited to learn and change, to cast away old habits if new ideas proved better.

She often apologized for her insane work schedule. She would cry sometimes, when she thought no one could hear, for the small things in the lives of her children that she missed. But my siblings and I saw her actions for what they were; a single parent determined to provide more than just the basic necessities for her children, a mother so in love with her kids that her only goal was to give us easier lives and better opportunities. We told her time and again that we understood, that we appreciated her. But now I wish I could have said it oftener, had hugged her every time I saw her, to better convey the gratitude toward her that I always feel.

My relationship with her has always been a strange one. We became friends while I was very young. We debated everything, and she was open-minded to a degree that I have rarely seen equaled. We talked often of many things, from politics to religion, philosophy to television shows. Every subject, any subject, and these are memories that I will treasure for all my life.

She shaped me in very unique ways. It was as though she could see my heart as a child, and knew that the normal means could not satisfy. Instead of teaching me morals, she taught me to build my own. She encouraged me to try out my own ethics, and logic, and create my own stances based on them. I am the youngest child, the baby, and my kind are often treated much more gently. I was no exception. But where I was punished less than the others, so was I pushed harder to be better, relative to myself. Because she taught me to appreciate that if I were the one to determine what I would be, what I would believe, then consequently I could only blame myself if I fell short of my own expectations.

I don't know how that sounds to you, but for me, it was a wonderful way to grow up. To be treated as an equal by my mother because I had shown her that I was up to the task was more encouraging than any other stimulus.

She was the biggest balancing force in my life, my constant well of advice and answers to tough questions. My sounding board for my own ideas.

If I sound selfish here, please forgive. I can't stop thinking of what is gone from our lives, and the memories flood me. How she and I related has shaped me like wind and rain on the mountains, and I can't imagine how to move forward from here. It feels like a limb is gone, and a part of me is numb. She was simultaneously the heart and conscience of this place, and we are all less without her.

My siblings and I are getting together for a while. Jackie and David are taking it as hard as I am, and we need each other. Later, we will have a service for her, and the people around here will have a chance to mourn the passing of a person who never hesitated to help them, to heal them, and to make them laugh.

My mother is gone.

Where do I go from here?


  1. We are all sorry for your loss. Let us know if there's anything we can do to help.

  2. I wish there was an easy way to lessen your pain my friend. We will all miss Juanita greatly, she made us all better and more human in a time which being human is harder than it's ever been. I know how you feel about alcohol right now but I think an old fashion Irish wake would be a fitting way to send her off and start every one on a healing road.

  3. Our prayers are with you and your family, your mother was always nice to every one that came in to this community. Be thankful you at least got closure, most of us here don't know if our love ones are alive, dead or the living dead. So sorry for all our loss.