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I Love You, Mom!

Steve Sipress & Lyn Sipress

I sent flowers to arrive 5 days early before my Mom’s birthday, because I didn’t think she would make it that long. They arrived this morning, and then about an hour later my Mom drew her last breath and moved on from this world.

10 days ago my beautiful wife Michele and I flew to spend two fantastic days with my Mom and say our goodbyes. We all knew she was leaving her building for the last time as we enjoyed her favorite meal at her 2nd favorite restaurant (her favorite is not wheelchair-accessible). The next day we ate lunch and dinner in the restaurant inside her building, and Michele painted her nails. We laughed, we loved, we enjoyed each other’s company for the last time.

My Mom was awake for only a few minutes on Thursday, and again yesterday. Her longest lifetime friend Joan (they met the first day of Kindergarten) had flown in from California to be with her – but all Joan could do was sit by my Mom’s bed for two days. Joan woke my Mom up yesterday to put her on the phone with me, and after the all-too-brief conversation told me that was the only time my Mom really perked up at all for those two days. We told each other “I love you” (I think I said it about 10 times), and my Mom went back to sleep.

She never awoke.

Of course, no words could possibly express what my Mom meant to me. She loved me, cared for me, raised me, taught me, led me, guided me, and molded me into the man I am today. She was a Fighter – a true renegade, who taught me by example how to fight the system when it was unjust and how to stand up for what was right, even when everyone else said not to and did nothing.

My Mom loved everyone, and everyone loved my Mom. For decades, she taught English As A Second Language to high school kids and adults who came to America as refugees from all over the world. Many of those immigrants went on to become business owners and all kinds of successful people, and going anywhere in my hometown with my Mom was like the movie “Mr. Holland’s Opus” – “Your money is no good here, Mrs. Sipress,” seats and popcorn and candy at the movie theater, the best tables at restaurants, and the owners always coming out to share stories of how my Mom was like a second mother to all of these extremely-accomplished people, and how much they owed her that they could never repay.

Ahhh… But they were just my Mom’s students. I actually got to be her son. Her first-born child. No one on Earth ever had it as good as I did.

My Mom fought Multiple Sclerosis for over 60 years. The ironic thing about that disease is that one’s brain is actually fighting against oneself. Then, a few months ago, that brain dealt my Mom one final, crushing blow: it developed an inoperable, incurable “glioblastoma” – known as “the most common and most aggressive malignant primary brain tumor in humans.” The brain cancer specialist estimated that she would only have about 90 days left to live.

And live she did.

She was constantly visited by friends and family. She continued to make the trek into New York City to see Broadway plays and have dinners. She played Mah Jong and Bridge right up until weeks before her death. She had fought the crippling effects of MS for decades – refusing to use a wheelchair or move to an assisted living home, or even hire a home healthcare aide, no matter how difficult that made even the most basic aspects of life that most of us take completely for granted – and she wasn’t going to stop just because she was near the end of her life, and everything was far more difficult than ever.

My Mom was a fighter. A Champion Fighter. What a tremendous example she set for all the world to see, and what a positive and everlasting impact she had and will continue to have on everyone fortunate to have had any contact with her.

Life will go on.

Just not nearly as full and rich and wonderful as it was before.

Today is a new day for me – I’ve never not had a Mom. Even though she is finally done fighting the good fight on this Earth, I know that she is still with me. And through me, she will continue to be with everyone I will ever come into contact with.
If I could only be 1/1000th the person that my Mom was. I’d like to think that somehow I could – but I know that’s not possible.

I love you, Mom!

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