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John Curley pens heartfelt letter after mother’s passing

(Photo from John Curley)

John Curley’s sister is an English teacher. So there was an added layer of anxiety when he recently wrote a letter to her, and his brother, shortly after their mother died.

Still, he could not help but put his thoughts down after all the funeral activity was over, and share them with this brother and sister.

On the plane ride back to Seattle, I had time to think about the past few days and my mind settled on an odd but completely understandable comparison — mom’s things and mom’s body.

In her apartment we discarded almost all of what mom had left in the world. We piled dark green bags on her half-made bed and looked, turned back, and then walked away.

Yesterday, with the greatest reverence, of course, and coaching from an obsequious undertaker — gentlemen face the hearse, gentlemen on my count, gentlemen we will turn to the right — we discarded what was left of mom, herself. I was saddened with the thought that this woman (who only sat in a chair so she could do more work in better light and get more done) was instantly transformed from movement to memory with the last breath that had left her lungs. Mom is now only a memory. And her life and how she lived — it becomes a sort of board game where people who knew her, or knew of her, can pick up various pieces and construct a story to make someone else laugh, or to wonder, or just to let that speaker relive a moment that they had with my mother.

I stared out the window from my seat in A7 at the pitch black sky and thought how incredibly small, how brief, how seemingly unimportant life can be. A few moments later I got a text my friend, Ben.

Ben is from Turkey. I don’t know if you know anyone from Turkey, but they are emotionally available (as the pop psychology parlance would go). If someone from Turkey tells you that they love you, they love you, they truly love you. If they tell you they’re going to kill you — move. Ben wrote: “I never knew your mom, but if I got a chance to, I would thank her for you. I love you, my friend, you made my life better. Your mom is in your heart, you’re in my heart. So your mom lives on, as well.”

I choked up briefly and then I fought back the tear. I talked myself out of crying. The message was so cliche; it was one of those things you find written on a board at Target imported from China. Then I thought to myself: “Men who come here to the United States from Turkey don’t shop in Target for things like that.”

And it came to me. The things we have, our bodies, our possessions, in the end hold no value. Those that live on just put them in boxes and bags and walk away. Only our actions of kindness towards others means anything. We could not be separated from our mom and dad — the good and the bad are baked right in. I take comfort that when I laugh hard at a friend’s joke, I sound like my father. Or when someone comments on my energy, well that’s my mother.

Dad is gone, and now so is mom. But not really. Hopefully the good will go on for us and live on, and on, and on, and on.

John’s sister gave the letter a firm B+ for content, and a C- for spelling and punctuation.

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