Mom wanted a girl.

Her chosen name for her baby girl was to be Robin. Instead I showed up with non-girl parts. She had no boy names picked out. My grandmother named me after some actor she liked.

To Mom’s credit, I know this only because she told me, not because it was evident in how I was treated growing up. Had she not told me, I would have assumed that I was the son she’d waited for her entire life.

I was not that child that could do no wrong. I was the child who could do anything he set his mind to, including plenty of wrong. I was just raised to know better.

Mom, thank you for your unconditional love and support.

My mom let me be myself, even when it was difficult for her to understand my actions. I wasn’t the rebel in a typical manner. Here’s an example: I kept rat skeletons on my bookshelf. I was overjoyed to discover a rat graveyard not far from our back yard one summer.

I collected bones and skulls, cleaned them up and painted their little skulls, and displayed them proudly in my room. I can still hear her voice, calling me to dinner: “Todd, I know it’s too late, because you’ve probably got every disease known to man, but wash your hands for dinner. Use soap!”

I’m thankful that she didn’t give me away a few years before, when I made her come outside to meet my new friends. She said I called them, “big worms,” and that they had, “the prettiest eyes”. She was horrified to see my playing with baby snakes. She knew even then that there was an explorer inside me.

Today, I make art using potassium cyanide and several strong acids, any of which could create a literal gas chamber – if the user is careless, that is. I’m not, thanks to Mom. She allowed me to play with fire just enough so that I could feel the power of the heat. In this way, I would back away out of wisdom, not just because she said so.

Mom, thank you for your letting me pursue my passions, and for your trust that I could succeed at them.

She made me do my homework as soon as I got home from school. She taught me the importance of learning and of making studying a priority. The woman who never finished college gave me the encouragement to pursue multiple advanced degrees. She made me promise to never stop learning.

She said things like, you can do and be anything you want. I’m proud of you. I love you more than anything. And that there’s a standard I’m expected to live up to. She longed to see the heart of a servant inside me.

Mom, thank you for your faith.

Yet in all her faith, Mom was a worrier at times. This woman refused to watch the news whenever I flew as part of my job, because she didn’t want to hear about a plane crash. She sometimes called my wife, Alane, to make sure i was not on the plane that crashed on the other side of the world.

I’ve made four trips to Australia on business. Mom spent each trip of mine sleepless, until she knew that I had arrived safely. After 911, she learned that a few weeks prior, I had been on the same flight number of the plane that hit the Pentagon. She said, “See why I worry so!”

On her deathbed, Mom was concerned that she had not been the example she should have been for me, that she could have or should have done or been more of a mom to me.

Mom, thank you for your life.

No more worries. You loved, cared, corrected, encouraged and prayed me into a safe place. Your could not have been a better mom.


In peace.


Mom and her non-girl baby boy

Mom and her non-girl baby boy