Ocean Beach TotemThe last few years have been something of a whirlwind for me. I left behind the Midwest and the great city of Chicago and headed west; all the way to the coast.  Chicago had been a good place for me to land when I first arrived in the US.

For most of my time there it had proven itself to be a worthy companion and occasional adversary; pushing me to accept challenges head on.  Instilling in me a strength and sense of never say never.  Carrying me on its shoulders until the true meaning of perseverance settled deep into my psyche.

Chicago had provided me with a home away from home.  

It was a place I could be proud of, a city to root for, and a geographic location that for most of the year beats you down with a harsh arctic back-hand. The city conjures up an image synonymous with hard work, adversity, and adaptation.

For the first few years of my residence I had lived with youthful exuberance in this city that embraces the energy of the young. I bellied up to bars and ate frequently during happy hours.

In those days Chicago happy hours offered buffet feasts along with free or heavily discounted drinks.

My nights were a mix of nightclubs and parties. Seldom did I return home before pm met am; seldom did this affect my ability to rise with the sun and make my way to the financial district where I worked.

My next chapter, and the ones that followed, became more and more subdued as age and the perception of maturity took hold. Nightclubs became the first victim. The music inside changed, in what seemed like an overnight transaction, from songs where lyrics were as important as melody, to industrial beat and thump.

My relationship to this non-stop grind lacked any relevance to my own life. Over time the tiny whisper in the back of my mind became louder. It urged me on. To leave behind Chicago, the winter, the gridlock, the crime.

I searched for many years.

I eliminated cities all over the country and the world.  I visited, with the express notion of setting up house, cities in Australia and New Zealand.  I visited, with the same notion, several states in the US; Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and California.

Boulder Colorado came out on top and no sooner had I moved there to seek employment; I was offered a job. I flew to Houston Texas for the interview and a few days later was offered the position.

The position was located in Chicago!

For years I had attempted to move away and now, as I was on the verge of breaking free, the city sucked me back in; tempting me with salary, benefits, and the familiar.

Life settled down and Chicago continued to treat me well.

Something was missing.  A sense of despair consumed me over a period of months and eventually I walked away.  Leaving the job for peace of mind.

In 2011 I was offered a two month contract position in San Francisco.

I arrived on July 4th and a new chapter in my life was set to the music of gratitude, joy, sorrow, and peace.

Almost a month to the day following my arrival in San Francisco I boarded a ferry to whisk me across the bay, past Alcatraz, and on to Sausalito.  From here I boarded a stagecoach bus en-route to Muir Woods; a redwood national park.

Home to trees cloaked in a dark red spongy bark that grew straight as an arrow towards the clouds.  Majestic and ethereal all at the same time.

Fog would creep throughout the forest surrounding the base of these 387 foot giants.

It was on this stagecoach, with that destination in mind, that we met.  Our conversation can be measured in seconds but it was enough.  It set us both on an unforgettable course into the future where absolutely anything and everything seemed possible.

In December of that same year I returned to New Zealand. I was not alone. The person you often hear about in movies; in romance novels. The one who completes you;  your better half.

The chick you met on a bus!

Alison, after knowing me only three months, came to New Zealand with me. We toured the country, taking in the sites, experiencing adrenalin pumping activities, and enjoying every step of the way.

Her introduction to my mother had been like that of two old friends. They had never met or even talked yet no beat was skipped. She ignited a spark of happiness in my extremely optimistic mother that I had never witnessed before.

Pregnant pause, awkward moment…not with these two!

Mum took to Alison and her joy was obvious. She knew she was the one for me and it was written all over her face. I noticed a contentment wash over her.  Not that I had ever thought something lacked in her happiness but this had taken it into over-drive. Her job as a mother and guardian was a success. She had managed, through her guidance and love, to place all of her children into relationships that were both meaningful and lasting.

She was very, very pleased.

In April of 2012 I returned to NZ for a quick ten day visit. The ability to make a quick visit home was new to me but since I now lived in San Francisco the journey had been reduced from twenty four hours to eleven.

Visits home could now be more frequent.

My sister joined me from Australia and together the whole family, including my brother and his family, indulged in road trips, conversation, laughs, games, the rekindling of memories, and group photograph sessions.  Always there was one family member missing as the notion of a “selfie” had not yet permeated our domain.

Upon my departure I was sad. I was always sad when I left. Mum got a big hug at the departure terminal.  I would see her soon.

Of that I had little doubt.

Four weeks after returning to San Francisco I was once again on a plane bound for New Zealand.  On arrival I was picked up and taken directly to the hospital. My brother, sister, and me surrounding the bed.  We were getting lost; spinning.

Mum passed away on June 18th; 4 days after I arrived.

Her final words were a series of three “I Love You’s”. One for each of her children. For every moment I spent with her throughout my entire life, I am grateful.

61 thoughts on “Grateful

  1. Wow, what a journey from Chicago, across the country, back to Chicago, San Francisco, falling in love and New Zealand. You’re so lucky to have met your soulmate, and how wonderful that the two most important women in your life bonded so beautifully. It’s hard to lose a mother, and it sounds like you think of her often. This was a lovely tribute to her!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a beautiful post, Tim. I am so grateful I had the opportunity to read it, and to let its love raise my vibration today. How wonderful that you were all there to hold your mother’s hand and feel her love one last moment before she moved on to the next plane. That feeling and her love will warm your heart forever.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What an absolutely beautiful tribute to your Mom, thank you for sharing that part of your life. And after reading your line, “the chick you met on a bus”, I read most of your post underscored with the, Paul Simon’s, bittersweet and haunting, “Kathy’s song” . It’s one of my favorites, so thank you for that as well!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve truly enjoyed all of your travel stories Tim, but I believe this is my favorite article to date. Having spent a good deal of time in the areas you spoke about, including New Zealand, it was easy for me to imagine your journey and what a wonderful homecoming. Your mother sounds like she was wonderful, and yes, for that you should be very grateful.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Tim, thank you for reprising this post for those of us who missed it last year. It is beautifully and evocatively written (and many of your readers know how hard that is to achieve). More often than not, the posts I read about family are about how the author was damaged by one or both of his/her parents. It is heartwarming to read your tribute to your Mum. I am so sorry that you had to lose her when there was more of your life you would want to have shared with her, but from your description of her transition, she knew she was loved and had the peace of knowing that her work here was done as manifested by the legacy of the three good people she raised. I know it sounds cliche, but in your case, it’s abundantly clear that her essence lives on through you and your siblings, and no doubt, others whose lives she touched.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Suzanne,from both me and Alison. Your comment was heart felt and that was certainly felt here as I read it out load. Obviously you know Mum meant the world to me. Thanks again.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This post is written with such vulnerability and transparency. Thank you for sharing from the depths of your heart. I am sorry for your loss.

    Life experiences; both painful and joyful have made you the man you are today.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Tim, I simply have no words to comment your story. I can feel the emotions you felt reading your post, it is so deep and personal. You’ve been fortunate to see your mother before it was too late, to speak her again, for the last time…

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  8. “She had managed, through her guidance and love, to place all of her children into relationships that were both meaningful and lasting.” — This is not easy to do! Your mom must have been a wonderful woman, and I’m so sorry to hear you lost her. But the great thing about this is that you have your memories. Hold fast to them!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Very nice post. I went through this with my mother two years ago (getting there a couple days before she died) and it is very hard. Wishing you strength at this time.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. That was a touching and difficult post to read. Always hard to read about someone else’s loss. Good that you both had a nice “goodbye” at least. You seem to share her optimism and positivity. I’m sure she’s very proud of you. Thanks for sharing this experience.

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  11. I salute your bravery of turning your back on things the world “deems” pre-requisites for happiness, to what you want for you to be happy. You have no idea how many people are not living the life they want for fear of the unknown, which they would rather pursue. I have just given away my next post. My condolences for your mom, gave a sad ending to a truly whirlwind story.

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  12. OMG I am sitting here at work with tears in my eyes. Sorry for your loss. At least you made it home in time. Mum passed at the end of October last year. I had planned to go home alone and spend some time with her in November. But never got to. Did spend her last birthday with her in the beginning of October. Still think of her every day. Deb

    Liked by 1 person

    1. From what I can gather the thinking of them never stops and even though, like yesterday, it was tough and left a knot in my stomach, I’m glad because I don’t want to ever have my memories fade. Like you, I feel her with me daily and that is a great comfort. Tim


  13. I loved the story of your time in Chicago and San francisco. But I was so sad to read at the end when you mention about your mum’s passing. Loosing a parent is always hard but just think of the quality time you spent with her. It’s a bonus that she liked your partner too. You have many happy memories of her and you were there when she left you all for a better place. May God rest her soul in peace and give you the strength to bear with your loss.

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  14. I am also sorry for your loss. We always must remember our own mortality, but also remember that we live past and in those we leave behind. Our legacy is how we deal with others, and then how they deal with others. Being a good person is passed on and on, and we are a link in that chain forever.

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  15. I’m so sorry for the loss of your mom. She left you a legacy and you’ve done a beautiful job honoring her in this post. There’s never enough time, but as a mom myself I can imagine that she was at peace seeing her children happy.

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  16. So sad, but at least you got back to her in time…she was obviously very proud of you. Came via Kat who I’ve just done a trip with – good to check out your blog! I was just writing about my Grandmother dying in June, but then again she was 100!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for checking in Lucy. Yes, getting back in time to spend a few days with her is one of the most precious times in my life.


  17. Hi Tim, A very poignant story. I love many aspects of this story. May all the happiest memories of your Mom strengthen you. I was with my Mom in her last hour and had the opportunity to say goodbye to her. I enjoy your travel adventures, and those redwood trees. All the best, Bill

    Liked by 1 person

  18. A truly moving post Tim. I had been so excited at the beginning that you had visited my turf – the Bay area. But the story of your mothers death was both sad, and beautiful. I’m so glad you got to see her before she died.

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  19. Tim you were so fortunate to able to be with your mother. One doesn’t have to live close not to know and feel the love of our parents. I am a native from San Francisco and it was very hard when I moved to the East Coast and lost both my parents and I wasn’t there to see them before they died. Yes Tim in many ways you are fortunate more than you know.

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  20. This was just beautiful Tim. Of all your posts, this is so far my favorite. Your mother gave you many gifts, it seems…a sense of adventure, the ability to have faith in your own instincts, the courage to act on them. But none greater than those last three words that will live in your heart forever. I’m happy for you…and I thank you for sharing this bit of your amazing life with us 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jacquie and you are absolutely right. Mum gave me many gifts and one of the biggest was a passion for adventure and the courage to fulfill it.


  21. You’ve been lucky to live in some amazing places. I’m sure you still miss your mother, but how wonderful that Alison had a chance to meet her and they got on so well.

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  22. Tim, I’m so sorry for your loss, but what a treasure that you were able to be there to hear her say I love you. I lost my mom 8 years ago and I still think about her everyday – sometimes with sadness, sometimes with a chuckle.Take care Tim

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Beautiful, Tim. I enjoyed not only hearing about your Mom and the priceless gift of those three magic words she gave you upon her soul leaving her body, but also about your time in Chicago, a place I called home for 11 years. We thought we were losing my Mom two years ago and I was called to her bedside for our “last conversation.” The best ever. And she is still alive through a miracle. That talk will always be with me.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Hi Tim. One of the best of your many great posts. A risk of extended travel and a far flung family is that sometimes we don’t get to say the goodbyes that we need to. Glad your mom did


  25. Sorry about your mother, Tim. Lost my father when I was 22 and still miss him. Life is up and down, always has been and always will be. When everything’s plain sailing something comes along and hits you in the head. Most likely we are supposed to learn and grow as human beings. If not, it’s pointless, isn’t it:-)


  26. Tim, that was just beautiful. I enjoyed reading about your life adventures and althought it ended on a sad note, as a mom I can’t imagine anything better then getting to tell my children I loved them one last time.


    1. Out of everything it is that which I am most grateful. The opportunity to hear those words and have a farewell conversation with her.


  27. As always, Tim…your writing elicit echoes of similar feelings, situations and a sort of longing in the reader. I’m very sorry about the loss of your mother but I’m sure she would be delighted to know that “de appel valt niet ver van de boom:”


  28. Amazing journey Tim. Glad you have found that eternal happiness. Travelling is a passion for me, and like you getting off the beaten track the top priority…but there was a common feeling in each new exotic location, no one to truly share it with. Now we no longer need to walk alone mate…


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