A Tribute to My Mother

Mom lived with Melanie and me for seven years. We both had reservations about this arrangement from the beginning. Mom had lived alone for many years, free to have things just the way she wanted in her space. At our house, she had her own basement apartment with a private entrance, so her freedom to do as she wanted remained unchanged. We enjoyed her company at dinners, card and scrabble games, and the sharing of spices, eggs, etc. when one or the other ran low. She loved working in the yard. She was a welcome sight driving down the driveway; she always had a matching bandana and t-shirt, hands in the dirt, and her bum up in the air. The weeds didn’t have a chance! We were surprised at how well it all worked out.

In early December, mom was diagnosed with stage 4 lung and bone cancer. The news hit us like a freight train and commanded our attention for the next six weeks. Mom had made it clear for years that she did not want medical intervention should she become ill and had every detail spelled out in a “Five Wishes” document. Her clarity about how she wanted to die and where (in our house) made decisions easier than they might otherwise be. But caring for a dying parent at home exhausted us. Melanie and my sister, Beth, took on the lion’s share of the caring, and mom’s friends pitched in as they could.

Christmas 2022 was the saddest Christmas I remember but also full of love and sharing. Our large family gathered with grandchildren and great-grandchildren from several states, visiting, remembering, and saying goodbye. Mom said it was like being at her own memorial, and she glowed in the family embrace.

Her decline sped up a bit after Christmas, and she passed away on January 19 in our care, just as she had requested. Her acceptance of the path she was on made some of this experience easier than it might have been. Cancer does ugly things to us as it ravages our bodies, but mom had the strength to leave with grace and the courage to bear the pain of departure naturally. We comforted her with pain medication and fed her as long as she could swallow.

We had the fabulous support of hospice and their nurses and music therapist to guide and provide the typical accouterments of hospice care.

Brian and gail painting - Brian Boggs Chairmakers

I owe my career to my mom’s support early on. We took art lessons together in Asheville starting when I was 8 yrs old and continuing off and on until I was in high school, where I had a great art teacher. Mom was an artist herself. I remember drawings I found as a young kid that she did for her high school science classes. They were amazingly realistic, and I wanted to be able to create like that. She made many of our clothes and unique sculptural birthday cakes when we were young.

Mom and I made the paintings above in our Asheville art class in 1969. The whole class used the same black-and-white photo with the challenge of bringing this forest to life with oil paint. It seemed to take forever to complete, but we did and, in doing so, created not just a painting, but a memory that will last my lifetime, a bond that will never break, and a love of art I owe to her nurturing. Thank you, mom. Your love lives in me and in my work.

1 thought on “A Tribute to My Mother”

  1. What a beautiful tribute, I enjoyed reading this so much. Your paintings are so similar, a wonderful testament to the connection you both must have enjoyed for so many years.

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