My mother called us early on the morning of December 10th to let us know that she was in the hospital. She had gone to the emergency room the night before. She had been given two COVID tests. And both had come back positive.

What follows is the last part of the euology I delivered at her memorial service on December 30th.


Our modern, western concept of time thinks of the future as stretching out before us. It’s like we’re in the front seat of a car, moving forward, scanning the road ahead. That perspective is so ingrained in our heads that it’s ingrained in our language. A friend reminds you that you’ll see them next week, and you say, without thinking: “I’m looking forward to it.”

The Greeks thought about time differently. We aren’t in the front seat looking forward, we’re in the back seat looking back, out the back window. As the car moves forward the future rushes up from behind us. We never know what’s coming. Things appear suddenly in our view. And then we watch as they recede into the distance, recede and fade away.

We didn’t see this coming.

In November my mother sent me Obama’s memoir as a birthday gift. I told her that I’d wait until the inauguration to start reading it. She said she’d do the same so that we could talk about it then.

We didn’t see this coming.

Even on Sunday, that last Sunday, we didn’t see this coming. I chatted with her Saturday morning, by text, and she still seemed upbeat.

Saturday night I started getting worried because I hadn’t heard from her again. I sent her a text before I went to bed. I sent her another in the morning, before I went for a long run.

For two hours I kept hoping, and trying not to hope, that there would be a text waiting for me when I got home. There wasn’t. And I felt devastated.

I knew something had changed. We had been texting each other every day. This was the first time I had gone a day without hearing from her.

I knew something had changed — and still, and still, I didn’t see that phone call coming. It was rushing up from behind, while we were looking out the back window, thinking about the video chats on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and the chat on Saturday.

The doctor called to give us the news at about 5 o’clock. About half an hour later a nurse, Norberto, called. He was very emotional. He said that he was an ICU nurse, and that he had seen many deaths. Still, this one had hit him very hard. He had first met my mother a few days earlier. He said that they had instantly hit it off.

If you knew my mother, you know what a familiar story that was. She had an ability to create deep connections very quickly. She had an ability to care about people, and an ability to get people to care about her.

Norberto said that in that last little while, when things took a very sudden turn for the worst, he spent time holding her hand.

I can’t begin to tell you how much that touch of human kindness means to me, to us.

For the week and a half that my mother was at Presbyterian Rust everyone I spoke to was so kind, so gentle, so patient. I’m not the type of person who can leave work at the office. It amazes me that people choose to do what they do. It amazes me that people can. Especially now, when the toll must be so great, when they’ve had to carry the burden for so long.

It feels like there is so much sadness right now, everywhere. Just a month ago a young woman here in Toronto, Alex, was killed while riding her bike. We didn’t know her very well, but we knew a lot of people who did, and it’s just so difficult to imagine the incredible pain and loss that everyone around her feels.

We know other people, other stories, other sadness. And those are just the ones that we know personally. My mother’s story, a COVID story, has been repeated so many times around the world. There is a great weight that hangs over all of us.

It helps so much to know that in the midst of all that, of all that sadness, there are people, so many people, who care, who give. Give with kindness, give with humanity, give with love. People like Norberto.

It helps to know that my mother, who spent so much time and energy helping others, was helped at the end.

The future is rushing up behind all of us. Even on a Sunday morning we can’t quite see what’s coming on a Sunday afternoon, despite the clues.

If we can remember that, maybe we can remember that in the end it’s the acts of human kindness, the acts of humanity, that seem to matter most.