Personal Post

Relationship with our parents

Relationship with Our Parents
Something to Upload (for those who love a little red)
Moving on Up for Dad
Sister Act

"I'm beginning to hear voices and there's no one around

Well, I'm all used up and the fields have turned brown

I went to church on Sunday and she passed by

My love for her is taking such a long time to die

I'm waist deep, waist deep in the mist

It's almost like, almost like I don't exist

I'm twenty miles out of town and cold irons bound"

It was January 15, 2004, a day I'll never forget. The temperature was near zero and the wind was howling when I got the late afternoon phone call from my older sister, Laura. She was in tears and said Mom had suffered a massive brain hemorrhage and was in the hospital. I asked what the prognosis was and she gave the phone to the doctor. When I asked what could be done she said, "We've done all we can do." My sister came back on the phone and said she'd place the phone next to Mom's ear so I could say something. I mumbled, "I love you Mom." When Laura came back on the phone I told her I was on my way and hung up.

"One look at you and I'm out of control

Like the universe has swallowed me whole

I'm twenty miles out of town and cold irons bound"

Brenda was in Las Vegas with her girlfriends so I left a message at their hotel telling her Mom was in the hospital and I was headed for Maine. I packed an overnight bag, food for the dogs, and the three of us headed out into the cold night for the 2 1/2 hour drive to Maine. On the drive north I thought about the divorce that took place more than thirty years earlier. Dad headed back to North Carolina in search of his youth while Mom stayed in Maine where hers had been. A year later the divorce papers showed up on her doorstep.

A few years later Mom's old high school boyfriend-the one she had turned down which caused him to throw the ring in the river-showed up and they began seeing each other again even though he was a married man. His family found out about her after he died from lung cancer. About the same time Dad met and married Nan, someone he had not known when he was a teenager, but who had lived close by. I'd visit Mom regularly and she always wished Dad the best. I'd visit Dad very infrequently because I knew I'd have to listen to how the 30 years with Mom was the worst time of his life and that he thanked his lucky stars he'd found Nan. I've visited more often since Nan died last year. Dad no longer dredges up the "unhappy days" like he once did.

"Oh, the winds in Chicago have torn me to shreds

Reality has always had too many heads

Some things last longer than you think they will

There are some kind of things you can never kill

It's you and you only, I'm been thinking about

But you can't see in and it's hard lookin' out

I'm twenty miles out of town and cold irons bound"

When I reached the hospital Laura was waiting for me with the news that Mom had passed away shortly after I'd hung up the phone. She wanted me to see her. We walked down into the bowels of the hospital with the doctor until we came to a door. I should never have opened it.

"Well the fats in the fire and the water's in the tank

The whiskey's in the jar and the money's in the bank

I tried to love and protect you because I cared

I'm gonna remember forever the joy that we shared

Looking at you and I'm on my bended knee

You have no idea what you do to me

I'm twenty miles out of town in cold irons bound

Twenty miles out of town and cold irons bound"

This was the last picture I ever took of Mom. It was at Christmas and my older sister, Laura, is in the picture. Mom had 21 day left to live.

Mom had written down what she wanted done after her death. One of the things she wanted was for me to say a few words at the church service. I ended by quoting Paul McCartney who wrote "And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make." And then I said that it seemed to me that Mom had traveled through life on a river of love the size of the Mississippi.

Thanks to Andrea Petersen for the nomination.

43 responses

  • Rob Roy

    Rob Roy (Deleted) gave props (20 Nov 2008):

    John, this is likely the most beautiful parental tribute I’ve ever read. He knew it before you wrote it …I’m betting He shared it with your dear mother and that it drew her most grateful and loving smile ever! Thanks for sharing! "…with God all things are possible." —Matthew 19:26

  • Spectre Photo

    Spectre Photo gave props (20 Nov 2008):

    This was so beautiful to read, thank you so much for sharing this. :)

  • Karen K Smith

    Karen K Smith gave props (20 Nov 2008):

    Beautiful (through tears).

  • Litz Go

    Litz Go gave props (20 Nov 2008):

    John, this so beautiful and very touching story, Thank you for sharing .

  • Gail Anderson

    Gail Anderson gave props (20 Nov 2008):

    oh John. you tell a story so beautifully. i think because the reader knows you are sharing a part of yourself in each one. this is a beautiful story that brought me to tears. you shared a part of yourself with us today, thank you.

  • Lynn H

    Lynn H (Deleted) gave props (20 Nov 2008):

    Very touching.....ty for sharing this with's beautiful.

  • Penny Nannini

    Penny Nannini   gave props (20 Nov 2008):

    You made me cry (at work!). Beautiful tribute!

  • Simon Kossoff

    Simon Kossoff (Deleted) gave props (20 Nov 2008):

    Such a touching tribute, John. Lovely..

  • david ong

    david ong gave props (20 Nov 2008):

    very touching...

  • Christine Corrigan

    Christine Corrigan gave props (20 Nov 2008):

    John, A beautiful and touching story!For the quiet guy in the photo class,You have alot to say and say it so well you really have alot to say and always say it so

  • Sherry Davis Johnson

    Sherry Davis Johnson gave props (20 Nov 2008):

    *Tears* John, thank you for sharing the tender parts of your life with us. You always choose just the right songs for the soundtrack.

  • Vicki Koch

    Vicki Koch said (20 Nov 2008):

    John you are always so kind with your comments of my meger photos. Thank you
    Thank you for the story of your mom, I could feel her love she gave you in this story. I believe your dad was or is more mad at himself more then your mom ever, we always see what we do not like about ourselves in other people...
    I am just sad I did not get to meet your mom.
    Thank you for sharing.

  • Farras Abdelnour

    Farras Abdelnour gave props (20 Nov 2008):

    so touching and so beautifully written

  • Kiwi ana

    Kiwi ana (Deleted) said (21 Nov 2008):

    This is a beautiful story John!
    I love the animated conversation you captured.

  • Michael Ball

    Michael Ball gave props (21 Nov 2008):

    Very touching story!!! Very well done!! I really at a loss for words!

  • Sonia Adam Murray

    Sonia Adam Murray gave props (21 Nov 2008):

    John your love shines through, your story is very touching, thank you so much for sharing!

  • Sherry

    Sherry gave props (21 Nov 2008):

    Powerful and emotional story !

  • peggy gardner

    peggy gardner gave props (21 Nov 2008):

    very touching story john. I lost my mother, passed in her sleep, 8 years ago this past oct....I know the love between a mother and daughter can be stressed, but ours wasnt. In addition, being the mother of four sons, I know and can feel the relationship you had with your mother and let me tell you it never dies...even when one parts. Very neat shot, I'm sure you're happy to have it. I admire her finger pointing....a personal trait I'm fond of myself...

  • Camille Susak

    Camille Susak gave props (22 Nov 2008):

    Just beautiful-thanks for sharing-wow-moms-what a blessing~

  • Sharon Griffin

    Sharon Griffin gave props (22 Nov 2008):

    Such a loving and heartfelt tribute ! I'm sure your eulogy was just as moving as this if not more and that your Mom smiles and watches over you everyday from that specail place in Heaven, reserved just for great Moms like yours and mine.

  • Lori Reece

    Lori Reece gave props (26 Nov 2008):

    Sounds like your Mom was very special! Your are lucky to have had her!

  • Natalie S

    Natalie S gave props (29 Nov 2008):


  • ! Mario Scattoloni ¡

    ! Mario Scattoloni ¡ gave props (2 Dec 2008):

    A very touching story John. You have brought me 2 a very emotional place with this tribute to your mom (& dad in a sense), I never got that chance 2 say goodbye 2 either of my parents in this manner. Touching tale & oh so beautifully written John.THanks for sharing that heart felt moment with us here.

  • Loree McComb

    Loree McComb   gave props (5 Dec 2008):

    OMG! this is so lovely - It's so difficutlt to lose our parents but then again, that is the circle of life - My deepest condolences to you and your family

  • Mary Ann Reilly

    Mary Ann Reilly gave props (10 May 2009):


  • Richard Knight

    Richard Knight (Deleted) said (15 Aug 2009):

    John, this is literature. Well, we were on the watch in January of 2004, as well. Dad left us in the early morning of January 30. We took no chances. For minutes after he drew his last breath, we reassured him of our devotion and gratitude -- we did not want to risk the possibility that his presence was still in the room. I am confident that he is enjoying fair weather and following seas, the wish of every sailor. Thanks.

  • Christopher J Chalk

    Christopher J Chalk gave props (12 Jul 2011):

    So beautifully worded,John. An emotional but such a meaningful and loving story!

  • Sonia Adam Murray

    Sonia Adam Murray gave props (12 Jul 2011):

    John it was wonderful reading your story again, very moving and beautiful!

  • Susan Littlefield

    Susan Littlefield gave props (12 Jul 2011):

    A very moving story, John. Your poignant words have touched many, I'm sure! My mom is getting ready to celebrate her 90th this year, and my dad his 93rd; I know that one of these days in the not to distant future, I will go through this upheaval as well. Beautifully written, John.

  • Carol Arntsen Masiak

    Carol Arntsen Masiak said (12 Jul 2011):

    so well written - thank you for sharing, John...

  • Andrea Petersen

    Andrea Petersen gave props (12 Jul 2011):

    John, Your story moved me to tears...but that's what a great story writer should do ...evoke emotion and to touch the heart.. Thank you for this beautiful story..You got my vote!

  • Kathleen Mercado

    Kathleen Mercado (Deleted) said (12 Jul 2011):

    No words for this.

    I'm just sorry Chris beat me to the nomination. Thank you for sharing this important and very personal experience.

  • Pamela Haberman

    Pamela Haberman gave props (12 Jul 2011):

    Lump in the throat. Poignant stuff John, and very, very well done.

  • dp *

    dp * gave props (12 Jul 2011):

    Lovely story. Thanks for the great read, sorry I missed this until now. Story of the week .... for sure!!

  • Richard Knight

    Richard Knight gave props (12 Jul 2011):

    John, my dad followed your mom fifteen days later (30Jan2004). Thank you for your poignant essay. When you turn to editing, please let me know. You could improve on my writing.

  • Winky Vivas

    Winky Vivas (Deleted) said (12 Jul 2011):

    John, thank you for sharing this very personal, beautiful, and moving story with us. Very well written, indeed...

  • Betty Maxey

    Betty Maxey   gave props (12 Jul 2011):

    Wow, tissue warning! Such a moving story John!

  • Julia Robertson

    Julia Robertson (Deleted) gave props (12 Jul 2011):

    Thank you so much for sharing this story. I share a similar experience, my mother passed away December 16 2007.

  • Suzanne McGeady

    Suzanne McGeady said (12 Jul 2011):

    I have come all over with goosebumps!! John what a most wonderful, emotional and loving story of your dear Mum. how sad, and how precious. Words have a way of bringing solace, of healing, and of remembering. Thank you for sharing. A beautiful worded tribute to your Mum.

  • Carol Holmes

    Carol Holmes gave props (15 Jul 2011):

    Beautifully tribute, John...thank you for sharing.*tears*

  • Deborah Downes

    Deborah Downes gave props (23 Jul 2011):

    Wow! Have chills over this deeply moving tribute. You're a talented writer, as well as a gifted photographer. I greatly admire your work.Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Andrea Petersen

    Andrea Petersen gave props (7 Mar 2014):

    I got tears in my eyes when I read your photo essay...Very powerfully written and felt....You are good at expressing yourself in your photography and in your writing...You have my vote!

  • Frank Summers

    Frank Summers gave props (8 Jun 2014):

    Wonderful tribute, Thank you for sharing with the world.

Want to leave a comment? Log in or sign up!