I love you, Mom:
A Living Tribute
Topic: Real Talk: Survivor, Patient & Family Stories
As told by Stacy Waldman Bass
When I began this project, my hopes for it were somewhat modest, but important. I shared images from my mother’s life on Facebook — tiny slices of her then almost 74 years as a daughter, a summer camper, a counselor, a student, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a friend, a teacher, a philanthropist, a passionate theatregoer, and a lover of language (to name only a few). I had hoped to create a living and breathing portrait, one that would both delight and remind my mom of the wonderful life she had lived and the range of people she had impacted and influenced. I also had hoped that in sharing these images, each day from February 1, 2018—one month after her diagnosis of metastatic pancreatic cancer— until January 13, 2019, the day following her woefully untimely death, I could somehow create and fuel a community of supporters to nurture those memories and to engage my mom in an online conversation that could buoy her spirits and positively occupy her time. I set out to harness the immediacy, range, and force of social media for good. And it worked.
Receive a copy of the e-book
In partnership with the Lustgarten Foundation, donors who contribute $20 or more to the I love you, Mom initiative will receive an e-book version of this book as an acknowledgment of your contribution to this worthy cause and in gratitude of your kindness and support of my project and my mom. A link to download your copy will be emailed beginning on Mother’s Day.
There were moments along the way when I began to believe that the swelling force of the movement that formed around her over the year could somehow change the course of her prognosis or, at the very least, extend her time. I think she believed that, too. The love and positivity that flooded in her direction, from near and far, from “likes” and “loves” to comments and questions, was so empowering and transformative that maybe, just maybe, it could work. The digital conversation quickly spilled offline and my mother was supported in ways unimaginable by many she knew and loved and many more that she did not.
When I started the project, my mom asked how long I thought I might do it and in those first terrifying days, I was honestly thinking “for as long as you live”–fearing the accelerated pace of the cancer—but wanting so much to be optimistic, I instead said “for a year. Let’s start with that.” And in that one instant, a goal was born. Let’s make it a year. One year. Please, at least one year.
Every day, my mom woke up looking for “her” post: curious and excited to see what image I’d chosen and what I might write about it; eagerly anticipating the interest and engagement of the community; enthusiastically responsive to questions and comments. And true to form, while she might call me to gratefully acknowledge a particular post or to clarify my query about a date or time, she also never hesitated to point out an errant typo or mischaracterization which I would then quickly remedy.
This living tribute changed things. Her thinking shifted. As did mine. Through the process, and my intense absorption in it, I had the chance to fall in love with my mom anew. I grew to see her as a whole person, a complete and multifaceted woman who was my mother, but also so much more. It gave me a more refined appreciation for the nuances of her life, the choices she made, the challenges she faced. I saw strength where before I’d seen only softness. Layers and layers of lovely that I may have taken for granted, now shone through.
I spent a fair amount of time daydreaming that when she reached that milestone one-year mark, I would make a book of the accumulated posts. It would be a gift for her, a small but beautiful treasure, to have and to hold. I thought that together, we could celebrate the victory of both the medicine and memories and marvel at the extraordinary community that blossomed around her. That part was not to be.
This story, like far too many stories of cancer, did not have a happy ending. And though most days still, this plain fact is unbearably and heartbreakingly sad, I nonetheless still found myself wanting or needing to make that book; and to find a way to redirect the gift that was intended for my mom to others who are still fighting, and who could still prevail. And so, this book, in honor and in memory of my extraordinary mom, Jessica Friedman Waldman, is now a mission and one that I believe is a critical one: to help fund groundbreaking, life-changing research to defeat cancer, and in particular the pancreatic cancer that took her from us. In partnership with the Lustgarten Foundation, the leading-edge pancreatic cancer research group, and its collaboration with Stand Up To Cancer, donors to the I love you, Mom initiative will receive an e-book version of this book as an acknowledgment of their contribution to this worthy cause and in gratitude of your kindness and support of my project and my mom.
What follows is a slightly curated version of this almost year-long project. I hope that in reading it, you will not only learn about my mother or my journey or my loss but that, like so many who followed along, day by day, you will be similarly inspired: to be grateful for and expressive about the relationships in your life—with your own mother, or daughter, or sister or friend; to mindfully nurture and attend to those relationships and to cherish the simplicity and beauty of the everyday.
Every day that you can.
Stacy Pamela Waldman Bass