COLUMN: Treasure mom always, even when she’s gone

Published 9:15 am Saturday, May 11, 2024

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Mother’s Day is tomorrow. For me, that proves to be difficult to accept each year since 2020.

Linda and Zack Maio from a family beach trip in the summer of 2007.

My mother Linda was battling cancer for a few years leading up to February 2019. It was at that time when she had a “scare” and had to be rushed to the hospital. We found out she had some major complications and were pretty much told she had six months to live.

I was just distraught about the whole thing knowing my mother could not make it, and there was no timetable for when the unthinkable could happen.

I tried to spend as much time as I could with her when I went to visit her and my father Frank. Fast forward to August 2019, nearly six months exactly to the date from her hospital visit, I get a call from my stepfather at the time. (My dad was also battling health issues and had become diagnosed with either Alzheimer’s or dementia. We never really knew for sure which one but knew he had lost his mind sadly. That’s why my dad did not call me because he did not know realize what was going on here.

Long story short, I get that dreaded phone call I did not want to hear. My mother had passed away on August 27, due to her complications. To say I was a wreck was an understatement. I took some time off from my previous job and tried my best to be strong.

While losing a loved one, especially a parent, is never easy, I took solace in the fact my mom was no longer suffering and was sent to join my sister Kim above.

This will be the fifth Mother’s Day without her, and every year on Mother’s Day, I visit Andalusia Memorial Cemetery to talk to her at her graveside. While my dad had lost his mind, he did have a nice headstone put together when he was more coherent years ago. This was around the time my sister had passed in November 2016. (After that, both my parents started to go downhill as they say when health issues arise.)

Needless to say, you can never know what you have until you have lost it. Yes, my mother was much older, but she was my true best inspiration growing up. She made me the man I am today. For that, I will always be grateful.

She invested so many morals and values in me and really took care of me growing up. She made a huge difference in my childhood. (My dad did, too, but hers was far more impactful.)

I would have never gotten through my early days without either of my parents. The three-year anniversary of my dad’s passing was earlier this month. All three of them are together at Andalusia Memorial Cemetery, and I get emotional any time I go out there.

Whether it’s for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, my sister’s birthday, or any of the dates they pass, it’s hard to accept when God says it’s time. I love and miss my mom so much, and words honestly cannot describe how difficult it is for me. She lives on in my heart, though.

I know she is smiling down from above and would be proud of me for “finally getting paid to write” as she put it. She supported me during my 10 years at my alma mater Straughn High School but always said, “Zack, you really need to get paid to do this.” Apparently, she had a vision for the future. When I stepped away from Straughn in May 2021, it was not even a full month later before I was interviewing with our publisher Robert and discussing my skills.

Mom, you would be proud Robert believed in me and gave me that opportunity when we did. As you wanted, I am finally “getting paid” to write for a living. I am sure you would be supporting me even to this day.

On a more positive note, I have someone I can call Mom again. Leah Smith, when you came into my life six years ago, it was God’s way of introducing us. Thank you for being that mother figure and loving me unconditionally as one of your own. I love you dearly and cannot thank you enough for everything you do for me!

Keep flying high, Mom, and say hi to Dad and Kim for me. Just know I will be visiting you tomorrow for Mother’s Day. I’ll remember everything you ever did for me and love you forever and ever. I’ll join you one day but hope that’s not for a long time. You were 80 almost 81. I’d like to live as long as you or longer since that longevity runs on your side of the family.

Mothers everywhere, thank you for being you and thank you for everything you do! Whether you know it or not, Mother’s Day will (and should) always be about you.

Let’s treasure those we call mothers and celebrate their day tomorrow as with every Mother’s Day each year. I want to say “Happy Mother’s Day” to my mom face-to-face but don’t have that opportunity. If you can, do something special for your mom or that person you consider being a mother.

Happy Mother’s Day to all from this writer who wishes he could have his mom back!