My other mom died early Saturday morning.
I was at a journalism workshop when my best friend of nearly 30 years tried to call. I thought maybe he had seen my Instagram post about how hard teachers work and wanted to catch up. But when I didn’t answer, he sent me a text asking me to call him, and I knew.
At the first break in our workshop, I called him.
“I have some news,” he began.
How does a person make that phone call, telling people your mother is dead? I wished I could have spared him having to say the words out loud. If I was next to him, I could have put my hand on his arm, squeezed, and said, “It’s okay. I know. You don’t have to say it.”
But I wasn’t next to him, I was states away, hoping against hope that my instincts were wrong.
“Mom passed last night,” he managed.
The absence of the personal pronoun is important there. Because she wasn’t just his mom, she was my mom too.
Not my biological mom, of course, but his mom was the kind of woman that made her son’s friends her sons and daughters. From the time I was 16 until six weeks ago when I saw her last, she was my mom.
She sent me birthday cards and Christmas cards in the mail, always signed, “Love you honey. Come see us soon. Love, Mom and Dad.”
She told me which boys were worth crying over and which ones weren’t, even though I cried over all of them.
She and Dad took me in—twice—when I decided I’d had enough abuse at the hands of a fiance. Helped me move my things, fed me, sheltered me, tried like hell to convince me I did not need a man who hurt me with hands and words. Didn’t judge me when I went back to him.
And then she convinced me that my parents would never give up on me and I needed to trust them and accept their help.
When I moved from Montana to Nebraska, I didn’t get to see her and dad as often as I would have liked. But when time and money allowed visits, their door was open, and I have fond memories of sitting in their living room talking for hours. And every visit, she told me how glad she was that I was part of her life.
Before I had the crazy idea to drive across most of the country, the plan for the summer of 2017 was singular: go to Montana and see Mom. When it was time for me to leave her barely two months ago, she held my hands and looked in my eyes. We didn’t speak for quite some time, and finally she said, “I love you so much.”
Now it is clear what an absolute gift that trip will always be.