Paulette Willis, 1951-2015, My Mom


The world needs to know who Paulette Rosemarie Lowe-Willis was. She was my mommy, first of all, but she was also a kindhearted, loving, giving, sensitive, caring, intelligent, funny, brilliant woman. She was a daughter, sister, aunt, and friend to many.

Sometimes when someone passes away, you have to dig deep to see what their legacy is, wondering if they left the world better off than they found it. You don’t have to do that with my mother. Her giving heart touched the lives of hundreds, and through the ripple effect, thousands. My mother made this world of ours better off in her 64 years in it.

I often argued with my mom about this. She would give her last penny, her last moment, to make someone else’s life easier, to ease their pain or discomfort. I’m not as generous as she is, but she would often tell me “God put me here” to do this. This was not lip service or empty religious piety. My mom walked the walk that so many others just talk about in the Christian bible.

She has only one biological child – me – but she has tons and tons of people she has “adopted” as her own throughout her life. She looked out for their education and well-being, even with her meager earnings she found a way to make their lives better off. She was selfless in this way.

I want to yell it from a mountain, I want to scream it until my lungs are shredded: She made this world better.


But of course, what I experienced in a way that nobody else did was the love of a mother. Many times my mother told me about just how much I meant to her. She told me that she never anticipated or was more excited about anything in her life as much as my birth. From the minute she found out she was pregnant with me (funny story: she and my dad first thought it was a bad case of gas, take from that what you will), my mother kept me in what she and I often called “the bubble.” From that day until today, she made me the center of her life, her “one and only” as she called me, to take care of even if I was a man based on my years I was always her “baby boy.”

My mother raised me on her own. She never ever ever sent me to bed hungry or without a roof over my head. She worked a regular 9 to 5 job then also worked jobs on the weekend, taking care of the elderly, cleaning houses, whatever, to keep up a decent standard of life for me. And always emphasizing education. Education was the single most important concept my mom worked towards for me. She was a constant presence in my school life, checking on homework, giving me extra work to further myself, prodding me to keep on task when I strayed (a bad report card once led to a complete and absolute television ban, a year in which I learned to appreciate baseball on the radio).

What my mom gave me the most – more than a Christmas tree groaning under the weight of hundreds of presents bought over the year for me, or multiple trips to Disney World – was complete and absolute love. I have never doubted for a single nanosecond of my life whether my mom completely and totally loved me without question. It was never up for discussion, it was unwavering and absolute with a certainty one rarely finds in the world. My mother loved me. No, MY MOTHER LOVES ME. I know this love extends beyond the barrier of life and death. I know that where she is now – on the other side with her parents Vincent and Pearl and our beloved dog C.K. – her love still encompasses me and her sisters and family here still in the world of the living. The act of death cannot and will never stop the love emanating from my mother’s soul, it is a force stronger than anything that can be measured or quantified.

I’ve never been more sad in my entire life than I have been in the minutes and hours since she passed away. My heart is broken. Shattered. I’ve never loved anyone as much as I love my mom, and she most definitely knew that. Correction: she knows that. I know that she is watching over me, as she has since the moment I was conceived. My mother is eternal, and she is beside me, protecting me as she always has.

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I love my mommy so much. The pain I feel is unbearable. I feel as if I will burst, every time I cry and cry I feel as if I have exhausted all my tears, only to find there is more to come. There is a seemingly limitless depth to my grief.

Her heart stopped and she went a considerable amount of time without oxygen, causing her brain to stop working. We had to let her go, as she had instructed me to do on numerous occasions. Some have said this was a hard decision to make, but in reality it wasn’t. We had spoken about it so many times, we all knew without question that it was what she would have wanted. Please talk to your loved ones about this so it isn’t in question when God forbid that moment comes in your life. Having done what she wanted I was not in a quandry about what to do. We knew what she wanted. My mom was a planner – unlike my disorganized self – and in this we knew the plan was to leave it in God’s hands as she wanted.


Until the moment the life slipped away from her body, I held my mom’s hand. I told her out loud what she already knew: That I and her sisters and family loved her with all our heart, and that she should never wonder, somewhere in her heart, if she was truly and absolutely loved. She is.

When I was a little boy, we had a conversation about the depth of our love. She told me she loved me more than life itself. I told her, “Mommy, I love you this much,” and I stretched my arms out as much as I possibly could. She replied, “How much do you love me?” And I stretched my arms out even further, straining my muscles to get them as far apart as was humanly possible. “This much, Mommy,” I replied.

I did the same on the day she went away, and I will love her forever. And I will know until the day I join her and my grandparents in the next life, that she loved me even more than that.

Goodbye, Mommy.

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  • bobinisrael

    Trying to understand why you blend the politics with the personal to this degree. Does it speak to some pathology of yours that you need to post all this stuff publicly and on your Twitter feed – for the consumption of absolute strangers? I’m not trying to be crass, I’m just curious about the psychological drivers of yours that cause you to do this.

    Sorry for your loss, anyways.

    • Well it certainly speaks to the fact that you’re a complete and utter asshole.

  • I’m so sorry. Lost mine three years ago almost exactly, also around mother’s day. Yours was much younger than mine, that must make it so much worse. Take care of yourself, she wants you to, and I promise your conversation with her will never end, at least.

  • Olivia

    Your tribute is beautiful and your mother is everything I have ever wanted to be for my children. She must have been so proud of you because you are a shining example of all her efforts. She was too young to lose and I am so sorry for your loss.

  • I’m so very sorry, Oliver. Sorriest that I never had an opportunity to meet her, because she has raised an extraordinary person in you.

    It does get easier, but there’s always a hole where they were that doesn’t close. It catches you off-guard, but along with it is the assurance that they’re watching over you somewhere. I don’t say that lightly or tritely either. I know my uncle (who was like a father to me) is watching over me still…I miss him every day but he’s out there.

    Much love and peace to you and your family.

  • I am so sorry for your loss. She sounds like a wonderful person who will be desperately missed. My thoughts are with you and your family. Take care.

  • sherifffruitfly

    Bye mom, and thanks :'(

  • cat48

    Oliver, I’m very sorry for the loss of your mother. My mother passed years ago and you just have to keep thinking of all the love you two shared during her life. She sounds like she was a great mother. Take care of yourself.

  • I am so, so sorry. I can see how she made you the person you are. She lives in you. All my warmest wishes and deepest condolences to you and your family. xoxo

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  • DenverDaveII

    You wrote about her often. Sorry for your loss.

    • FATTYWiley

      Who cares?

      • Anyone with a heart and a soul, which of course would automatically exclude you.

  • Paul Ackerman

    So very sorry to hear about your Mom. I lost my Dad at aged 86 now about 7 years ago and it still hurts to think about it. He and I had so very little interests in common – I’m a computer geek who doesn’t know what end of a hammer does what, and he built houses and worked with his hands until the very end. Yet he was my greatest cheerleader and I suspect your Mom was yours.

  • Ed Crotty

    What a wonderful tribute. So sorry for your loss.

  • AA Pundit

    Brother Willis, thank you for sharing your wonderful loving thoughts about your mom with us. Sorry to hear about your loss broher Willis. Again, thank you for sharing Willis. – Pundit

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  • I am so very sorry for your loss. Your beautiful tribute left me in tears. On May 22, I lost a very special friend who was not only a remarkable woman, also, but like a second mother to me. I have no doubt they stay with us and continue to watch over us. The love you and your mother shared is palpable and I hope you find some peace in these still-early days of grief and loss in knowing that she will never truly leave you. My best to you & yours.

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    So sorry to hear it. A normal obit: it doesn’t affect you much, even if you know someone personally. This though… was profoundly sad. Each day is better than the last, until finally you can breathe. Maybe you’re at that point now, maybe not. But well-done putting her name out there and letting everyone know that it hurts. I haven’t read anything like it on the internet in a good long time. God bless you and her both.

    • Thanks for your comment. Definitely not there yet, trying every day.

  • Jim Pauley

    As a parent.. this.

  • Isabel

    Hello, I originally read the tribute to your mom on another website and somehow landed here. Your tribute was the only one that came remotely close to how I feel about my mom. She was my world as your mom was your world. I just want to say thank you for writing this because I feel like there is someone out there who really really feels the way I do and it is my birthday tomorrow and the second one that my mommy isn’t here with me.

  • As a follower of yours (you are on my Twitter ‘must read’ list), I often read the tweets you’ve posted about your mother. Reading this (through tears), as I parent I now have one goal: To be a parent to my three kids that would be deserving of such a loving and heartfelt tribute. I know this is a over a year late, but you have my deepest condolences. I am sorry for your loss.

  • dbtheonly


    Apologies for being so very late to this.

    Your Mother lived long enough to see the President of the United States seek the advice and counsel of her son. Her son is well respected and successful.

    Isn’t that the best mark of a life well lived?

    Can any of us ask more?

    • Thank you, I appreciate the kind words. Every day I try to live up to her standards.

  • Karen Rousseau

    I’m very sorry. I do know how this feels, moving between gratitude for having Mom in my life for 53 years and wanting her right here still. She lived with us the last eight years of her life, we had a blast … I miss my champion, as I know you must. Can’t say it gets better, it just changes somehow. And then you see the Christmas pics, realize she, SHE dressed you up … and … I wish you peace, and that you will always remember everything. She obviously raised a very thoughtful son. Lucky you.