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.

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.