As some of you might know, the last two-plus years have been very good to me and Samantha. We got married. We bought a house. We’re expecting our first child. And there have also been hard times.
In August 2017, my mother passed away from an aggressive form of lung cancer. It was unexpected and incredibly fast-moving. Three months after her diagnosis, she was gone.
I’ll never forget something she said to me before she passed. She had very little time left and was beginning to slip in and out of consciousness. In one of her last good moments, I thanked her for being a great mother to me. Her voice was weak, so she pulled my ear close to her face and whispered that she “would always be my mother.”
In preparing for fatherhood, I’ve come to better understand what my mom likely meant. Parenthood is forever. It’s a bond so strong that not even death can break it.
What I miss most about my mom was her ability to create moments that no one could ever forget. She always went above and beyond for the people she loved, and for every birthday, every Christmas, and every big life event, she somehow found a way to outdo herself.
For my 21st birthday, my mom flew from Detroit to Richmond (I attended college at UR) with four checked bags full of gifts for me. The most ridiculous was a crate of DVDs carefully curated by members of the family — mostly my brother and my cousin.
When I say “crate,” I do mean a crate. There were 40 or so classic movies that I “had to watch” in my twenties. Over the next few years, friends and family jumped at the chance to help me watch every movie. Some of my favorite nights were spent watching those movies with mom and dad.
Before my bachelor party, my mom asked me if there was something extra special I would like to drink to celebrate. I told her I would really enjoy a specific bottle of scotch: a Macallan that I had been eyeing for years but never bought.
My mom didn’t buy me the scotch I wanted; she bought me a much nicer Macallan. That wasn’t enough to her, though. My bachelor party haul included a dozen other bottles that my mom had carefully selected, enough to stock a GQ-quality home bar.
For the impact of these gifts to connect, you need to know that my mom was not a woman of unlimited means. My father was the breadwinner, and he worked hard to make sure our needs were met. Sometimes money was tight, and my mom cleaned houses to help make ends meet. While I was away at college, she worked full time as an end-of-life caregiver to help cover my tuition.
My mom knew that if I was going to live the life she wanted for me, I needed to feel that I mattered. She stacked the deck at every turn to make it clear how much she loved me and how special I was to her. And with every year that goes by, her efforts mean more to me.
Of all the gifts my mom gave me, the greatest was something she couldn’t buy. She made me believe that life can be magical. She also showed me how it’s possible to share this magic with others.
As a father, I know how important it is to pass on this magic. I believe I can. I think that’s half the battle.
You can find Zak on instagram at @zakkozuchowski