‘Just be brave’

20120320-015947.jpg SAN PABLO, Calif. – I remember being really young, maybe four or five, and I couldn’t stand the sight of needles. But kids get shots and I was no exception. Every time, I knew they’d hurt. Every time, I’d cry. And every time, Mom held my hand, calmed me down, and reassured me that the sting would go away.

“Be brave, Marc,” Mom would say. “Just be brave.”

So, I was brave. I stopped crying at the sight of needles, and eventually, I wasn’t afraid anymore.

I think of this now that Mom is gone. In August, doctors diagnosed her with pancreatic cancer. In January, she chose to end treatment because it did little to help her condition. Soon after, she chose to enter home hospice.

At the beginning, she was scared. One night, I laid down next to her, took her hand, and told her that things were going to be fine. I reminded her of something she’d taught me a long time ago.

“Be brave, Mom,” I said. “Just be brave.”

So, she was brave. Amazingly brave. She spent the final weeks of her life slowed by her illness, but that didn’t stop her from fighting to make the most of every minute. Her sister flew in from halfway around the world, her children visited often. For the first time, she met her grandchildren, and experienced the joy that came with watching them play.

Her friends, a constant source of inspiration, visited in waves. They crowded around her and told old stories, brought her favorite foods, filled her in on the latest news. There was never a shortage of people willing to help Mom, and I suspect that’s because she herself spent a lifetime willing to help others.

You couldn’t go many places in town where Mom didn’t know at least one person by name. She was always this way. She had a gift for making people feel comfortable. Among her closest confidants, she reigned as the peacemaker, the one they leaned on to resolve conflicts. She laughed loud. She laughed often. It was easy to be her friend.

With us, she was strict, always the disciplinarian. She resolved to teach her children right from wrong, to embrace selflessness, to reject selfishness. She reinforced these principles with conviction. Sometimes, it wasn’t easy to be her child.

Nevertheless, we were all the better for it.

I was most proud of Mom near the end. She focused on the positives and dismissed the rest. She channeled all of her energy into her family and friends. She stood strong when she was weak. I’m convinced that her survival was a mere reflection of her bravery than anything else.

“I’m really impressed by you, Mom,” I told her one morning.

“I’m doing it for all of you,” she said.

One of the last times I saw her, I asked if she could teach me to make a few of the Filipino dishes she often prepared for us as children. By then, she couldn’t stand up for long periods of time. But she felt strong enough to sit nearby. From her chair, she quarterbacked the effort. In the kitchen, my brother and I functioned as her hands. I learned to cook pinakbet and sinigang that night — recipes I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to perfect. About 20 family members had come to see her. Together, we made enough to feed them all.

“I’m fighting for it,” she told me often in the waning days of her life. “I’m still fighting for it.”

Mom’s fight ended on Sunday night with my father at her side. Consuelo “Wilma” Carig — wife, mother, confidant — was 60.

I’m home now to say goodbye. The coming days will surely bring more sorrow. I know it’s going to hurt. I know I’m going to cry. But my phone has been buzzing with texts, emails and calls, overwhelming shows of support. Just know that you have given me the strength to honor Mom in the best way I know how.

Thank you for giving me the strength to be brave.

– 30 –

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43 Comments

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43 responses to “‘Just be brave’

  1. Sorry for your loss Marc. You are a great writer and this piece is a wonderful way to honor your mother. “Just be brave”

  2. timfxf

    A wonderful tribute Marc. She’s proud of you, I can feel it.

  3. Steve Popper

    Sorry to hear about your loss, but it sounds as if the days were treasures.

  4. That was a great tribute, Marc. Best wishes and safe travels.

  5. Marc Ernay

    deepest sympathies, Marc … you’ve done your mom proud with a terrific piece here

  6. Cindy Boren

    Oh, Marc, I’m so sorry. Many, many hugs.

  7. Frank Vignuli

    I have been following you on Twitter for a while now and have enjoyed your terrific sense of humor. Reading this piece shows an entirely different side of you and really makes me feel as if a good friend of mine has suffered a terrible loss. Take comfort in the fact that there are many of us who now know your special Mom.

  8. Craig Buckser

    My deepest condolences, Marc.

  9. Christian

    I’m a fellow pinoy and a yankee fan. Pancreatic cancer is close to one of the worst things that can happen to a person. I’m so sorry for your loss Marc. I hope you and your family remain strong. Best wishes.

  10. What a beautiful tribute, Marc. Brought tears to my eyes. I know your mom would have loved this.

  11. Carlos Barrios

    Marc, my sincere condolences. I lost my mom on January 15 of this year after a year and a half of being in home hospice care with liver cancer. She lived at home with me and your story touched me. She’s in a better place and proud of you. It’s not an easy time but she’s in a better place, no longer suffering, no more pain. Keep making her proud because she’ll always be watching after you. “Be brave, Marc. Just be brave.”

  12. very sorry for your loss Marc as i would for anyone in this situation. I lost my mom a few years ago to the same illness, and there isn’t anything harder in this world aside from losing a child i suppose. Thank you for sharing these special and private thoughts with us. You have all my best wishes and thoughts with you. I’d like to thank you for your Tweets , which are witty and always warm. even the ones about bunts…

  13. Marc, I’m so sorry for your loss. Text me where I can send you guys something. Yes, just do it.

  14. ComoPark

    The mother of my wife’s best friend just experienced the same struggle against the same disease and passed away at the beginning of the month. As you did with your mother, we admired the fight though wished that such energy could have been expended on something else. Nevertheless, the bravery shown by both mothers in the face of a ravishing and uncompromising disease like pancreatic cancer is a wonderful legacy.

  15. Sean Ramsden

    That was beautiful, Marc. I recognize so much in your relationship with your mom, so I can only imagine your sense of loss. She obviously taught you much about dignity, respect and love, all of which are manifest in this story. You make it fun for a slightly-out-of-area Yankees fan to follow the team online, so understand that I wish you peace and healing during this trying time, and a reminder of how proud your mom must be.

  16. Jorge Delgado

    I’m really sorry about your loss Marc. Beautiful piece.

  17. liv

    A beautiful post, mister marclester. Mad hugs.

  18. Peter Botte

    Marc, my deepest condolences for the loss of your Mom. That was a wonderful and touching tribute. She sounds like she was a remarkable woman and I feel like I know her through your words. As you know, I feel your pain, but know that the amazing memories your family shares will supply smiles and comfort as time passes.

  19. Joe DeCrosta

    Mark,
    I’m very sorry to hear of the loss of your mother. Our condolences and prayers to you and your family.
    On May 3, 1998 my mom died of pancreatic cancer so I can relate. She must have so proud of you and your writing skills.

    Joe DeCrosta
    ‘Inside Yankee Baseball’

  20. Anonymous

    What a beautiful tribute to your mom, Marc. My deepest condolences to you and your family.
    -Linda Bradley (Jeff’s wife)

  21. Anonymous

    Marc,

    Simply beautiful. I lost my mother to pancreatic cancer in January. She was 56. I share your pain, your sorrow and your next few days, weeks, months and years of recovery.

  22. Roch Kubatko

    That was beautiful, Marc. Brought tears to my eyes. And yes, there’s crying in baseball. It’s OK, my friend.

  23. Janis

    Mark, I lost my mother and my husband last year. Wish you the very best, and hope you find peace.

  24. Wiping the tears from my eyes, Marc. What a heartfelt, wonderful tribute to a wonderful mom and woman. Without ever meeting her, I feel like I know her because I know you. My dad passed from pancreatic cancer in 1985, so I know the territory all too well. I’m glad that she was surrounded by the people who loved her the most in her final days. If you need anything, please ask and if you want to talk, I’m here. Sending my prayers to you and your family.

  25. jondenunzio

    Marc,

    I’m so sorry to hear about your mother. And I’m not surprised in the least that you wrote such a moving tribute. Great stuff, pal.

    Be well and hang in there. I’ll be thinking of you.

    Jon

  26. Pingback: Postgame notes: Pineda adjusts to finish strong | The Lohud Yankees Blog

  27. Eric Scheinkopf

    Marc, my deepest sympathies on your loss. I know exactly how you feel as my own Mom died earlier this month due to complications from advanced dementia. I can tell from your tribute the love you had for her and what a wonderful person she was. Hang in there.

    Eric

  28. Anonymous

    Your mom would, and should, be proud of that article and proud of you.

  29. Pat M.

    She’ll live on in your heart Marc…..What a beautiful tribute to a remarkable women and a very special Mother….

  30. What a moving tribute to your mom, Marc. Thanks for sharing a little bit of her with your readers. My deepest sympathies to you and your family.

  31. Rich

    Great write up Marc. Thoughts and prayers are with you and your family at this difficult time.

  32. Pingback: Postgame notes: Pineda adjusts to finish strong | All New York Yankees

  33. Anonymous

    I’m so sorry for your loss. You’re mother is very proud of you. Stay strong.

  34. Anonymous

    Marc, I was on the Lohud Yankees blog and found a link to your story about your mother. I lost my mother in 2008 from pancreatic cancer and I think about her every day. Sounds like my mother had the same attributes as your mother. My prayers are with you and your family during this difficult time. My God Bless you.

  35. Anonymous

    That was a gorgeous tribute. Bravery is grand. So sorry for your loss. Your mother raised a lovely man.

  36. Anonymous

    Marc – Deepest condolences during this hard time. Your mother sounds like an amazing lady.

  37. Jeff Peterson

    Thank you, Marc. May God bless you all.

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  39. Tags

    What a wonderful peice Marc, she sounds like she was a great lady who I’m sure was very proud of you

  40. Anthony

    Excellent piece here Marc. Sorry for your loss…..

  41. Kris Mason

    Very sorry for your loss. I appreciate your ability to translate your emotions and thoughts into words to share with your friends and followers. Salamat

  42. Just wanted to thank all of you — friends and strangers alike — for all of the kind words and thoughts. They have been much appreciated by myself and by family during this very difficult time.

  43. Pingback: The Lessons We Learn | marc carig | off the record

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