How my mother shocked me in her final days

Leave it to my mom to depart this world with an incredible story.

A surprise.

A mystery.

This one unfolded during the early morning hours in her darkened hospital room in the days before she passed last week.

Just me and her.

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Oh, how I’m thankful for those stolen private moments available only because the nurses offered me the couch and some blankets to spend the night in my mother’s room.

Moments to write down all that she wants us kids to remember.

“Only buy an outfit if it flatters your figure and makes a statement,” is right up there with “Be bountiful when serving food to guests,” and “Love your kids for what they can do, not what they can’t.”

All great thoughts.

But the one,

The conversation I’ll be thinking about for the rest of my life, started with disappointments.

“We’ve all had so many,” my mom sadly remarked.

“Yeah, we have,” I validated, “But we’ve also had joy. Don’t you think so, Mom? Haven’t we had joy?”

She weakly nodded her head, “Yes.”

I moved my chair closer to her bed.

“What has been the big joy of her your life?” I asked, thinking, hoping, guessing, that like so many women, her automatic answer would be, “Children.”

I must’ve momentarily forgot.

My mother was never most women.

She seemed to stare off into space for a moment, so I leaned in and asked again. “Mom, what has been your great joy?”

I got even closer to hear what might be a whispered answer.

She took a big breath and exclaimed, “Tony!”

“Tony?”

The shock pushed me back in my seat.

I interrupt this intimate moment with my dying mother to share we don’t know anyone named Tony.

Not my brother, not my late father, not a cousin, not an uncle.

The world has a lot of Tonys.

We do not.

“Who’s Tony?” I had to ask.

She simply smiled as I scanned my brain for any old stories, stumbling upon a possible old high school flame.

“Was Tony your boyfriend before you met Dad?” I asked.

She nodded again, smiling.

“Why didn’t you guys end up together?”

“Timing,” she said, smiling and drifting off to sleep.

I was able to later confirm Tony with my mom’s best friend since grade school, though she, too, was surprised he was still on my mom’s mind and heart.

It’s possible, Dear Reader, that you could chalk Tony up to one of my mom’s great disappointments.

I, for one, am thankful.

For a peek inside my mother’s shielded heart.

For the idea that a love, even one not played out like my mother might’ve wished, was big enough to last a lifetime.

Not everyone gets a love like that.

A woman who keeps you guessing until her final days?

Not everyone gets a mother like that.

Stolen moments in a darkened hospital room to share true love?

Not everyone gets a goodbye like that.

Thank you, Mom.

Thank you, Tony.

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