One last column for a one-of-a-kind mom

by | Jan 25, 2015 | Detroit Free Press | 47 comments

Over the years in this space, I have, occasionally, written about my mother.

I once wrote a Halloween column on how she made me the Mummy. (She wrapped me in toilet paper, which was fine until it started raining.)

I wrote about how she marched me into the library after a librarian had told me “that book’s too hard for you” and my mother yelled, “Never tell a child something is too hard for him! And never THIS child!”

I wrote about how she insisted I stay in college, even when my father lost his job. How she refused to learn e-mail because she feared I would stop calling her. How I beckoned her to the stage at the Fox Theatre during a charity benefit, and a friend yelled out, “She’s in the bathroom!”

I wrote what it was like feeding her after her stroke, a spoonful at a time. And, finally, what it was like to stare at her as she withered, wondering whether she knew me at all.

The difference between all those columns and this one is pretty simple.

I could show her those.

I can’t show her this.

She is gone.

Funny, fierce and loyal

We lost her gradually, first her balance, then her movement, then her speech, her recognition and finally, last weekend, her breath. She did our family a final kindness going that way, because she was too great a force to disappear all at once. Instead, like one of those NASA rockets, she stripped away piece by piece en route to the heavens.

How can I tell you about my mother? How do I fit her 84 years into words? She didn’t change the world. Only our world. She didn’t run a country. Only our country.

She lost her father when she was 15, and with him went her dreams of college and medical school. Instead, she became a teenaged parent to her heartbroken mother and younger brother.

She married the only man she ever dated, my father, when she was 20. They wed on Christmas Eve, because the restaurant was available. For six years they lived with my grandmother, who made no apologies for bursting through their bedroom at any hour. No surprise, my folks remained childless until they moved out.

How can I tell you about my mother? She went by Rhoda, Rho, Aunt Rho, Mrs. A or Bubby. She was funny and fierce and loyal and brilliant and while she never became a doctor, everyone ran to her for advice. She was loving, wise and patient and she cared not a whit what the world thought. She used to say, “The masses are asses.”

She volunteered as a clown in hospitals and in fund-raising for ALS. She taught herself interior design and became one of the most-respected designers in the Philadelphia area. In death, she leaves her mark all over the country, in armoires, ottomans, wallpapers and throw pillows.

Remembering her voice

She loved to walk while holding her children’s hands, she loved to sing and twirl us around in a dance. She loved to jump into our affairs, no matter how much we might resist, and she once actually said to me, “Mitchie, if you let me, I could straighten out your life.”

Yes. She called me Mitchie. Only a mother can do that, right? It’s funny. Over the last five years, as she slowly slipped away, I lost the sound of her voice. I only saw the suffering body in front of me, the locked arms, the grimaced expression, the 80-pound skeleton wearing an adult diaper.

The horror of that seemed to muzzle my memory. But now that she is gone, her voice is coming back. And so is the reminder of how truly, truly loved I was, and how much I miss it.

How can I tell you about my mother? This might sound silly. But in the 1941 movie”Dumbo,” there’s a scene where the captured mother elephant, through the bars of a cage, cradles little Dumbo in her trunk and sings:

Baby mine, don’t you cry

Baby mine, dry your eyes

Rest your head, close to my heart

Never to part

Baby of mine

I choke up whenever I see that, because I know that feeling. Forever loved, forevercomforted, through whatever bars may separate you, never to part. If this is the last column I write about my mother, then you should know. That was what it felt like to be her son. And it was glorious.

Contact Mitch Albom: Check out the latest updates with his charities, books and events at Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760). Follow him on Twitter @mitchalbom. To read his recent columns, go to


  1. Theresa Ramus

    Awwwww, sweet sentiment. Your mother sounds great. A mother has an important job and mine took care of me when I was very young and then the role reversed and then when I was a preteen and after I took care of her for the most part. That is okay. I was always a caregiver to both parents and other family members.

    • Dianne Fisher

      I cry knowing how you will forever miss Mama Rho

    • Pat Bristow

      What a loving tribute to your Mother you have given the world.
      In her eulogy to my mother , my sister wrote, “Irene lived an ordinary life in an extraordinary way.”
      Mitch, you and I have something in common. We were extremely fortunate to have such wonderful women to call Mom.

      • Diane pendleton

        I’m here if you need a listening ear. There’s nothing more relaxing than having an ear to talk to that holds no judgement. My thoughts and prayers are with you
        Take care

    • Maria

      Mitch you are so loved and that was because your mom taught you all those loving traits. You’re a legacy to her awesomeness!!! May God bless you and your family with peace and happy memories.
      Be well Mitchie!!

    • Mallika

      It brought a lump to my throat.

    • Joanne Sawchuk Léger

      Sublime memories of a beloved mother always…

  2. Jenifer Garcia

    What an endearing article and bravo for you to share with the world and all of us Mothers with sons. Very relatable and inspiring to other Moms who never feel like they got it all right with parenting. Hold on to those memories and create similar ones for your own children/ family. 5 years have passed and I can still “hear” my mothers voice and the nicknames she called me. It does stay with you forever!

  3. Kimberly Rollins

    Wonderful! Thank you for sharing.

  4. Brian Chisholm

    Another example of why me and millions of other readers really enjoy your work.
    Mom’s are very special people!

  5. Jane Backus

    Devotion. Raw, pure, flexible, adaptable, loving, forgiving, understanding. They give us life. We give them devotion.

  6. Mary Neall

    Thank you Mitch for your lovely tribute to your wonderful Mom. My Mom would have been 106 this past September 23. I miss her so much. Sometimes I get a scent in the air of her favorite perfume. I know she is near and that comforts me.

  7. Charlene Edelson

    Your a fabulous human being! You touch so many in your words and actions. You are an inspiration to all those who allow it!

  8. Jane Masucci

    Beautiful Mom, Beautiful Love ❤️

  9. Charise Anne Guerrero-Salonga

    I burst into tears reading the second paragraph of the “Remembering her voice” part. I also saw how a disease gradually weakened my mother’s body. She lost the two-month battle with Cholangiocarcinoma on the 14th of August, four years ago. She never knew about her illness. We weren’t able to tell her. Or should I say we were afraid to tell her? Until now, the moment I saw her breathless, still haunting me whenever I missed her. How I badly wish to have a phone to call in heaven or to have even just one more day with her. Hugs!

  10. LaCinda Schubert

    Thank you for your beautiful words. I lost my loving husband to dementia a year ago. You have such a gift. May you bless us for years to come.

  11. Gail Kerr

    Awww, such sweet memories you have of your mother.

  12. Richard Colman

    Your Mother sounds a lot like my Mother. She didn’t linger but I felt the same way about her as you did yours. I always tear up when you write something meaningful that reflects humanism and compassion, Mitch.

  13. Carole

    Beautiful, Mitch! Thank you from an 88-year-old mother…

  14. Vonnie Donohue

    Oh, Mitch, that is such a beautiful reflection of your love for your Mother. I am a big fan of yours. I’ve read many of your books. I am always waiting for new releases to come out. I spent 32 years in a classroom with children and always wanted to write a book for them but I had no confidence. I always had good ideas in my head but never seemed to be able to transfer the thoughts onto paper.When I retired, I took a brief college course on Memoir Writing and loved it. I have started a journal for my grandchildren so that they know who I really was (inside my head)!! I am now 74 years old and realizing that I will never be an author. What can I do with all these old ideas stored in my head???
    Who is your favorite author? Have you ever written a love story?
    Respectfully, Vonnie Donohue email:

  15. Juli

    A beautiful tribute to a remarkable woman and mother from a remarkable man and son. God bless you and thank you for sharing.❤️

  16. Carol Urbance

    I am bawling my eyes out! Love everything you write! Full of ❤️!

  17. Pat Shea

    I can barely write because the beauty of your love for your mom is taking all the space in my heart. I know the path you walked because I lost my mom 5 years ago and I talk about her in my comedy act but always at the end I thank the audience for laughing and listening to my stories because it’s like being able to visit with her again. I am so very sorry for your loss but so grateful you shared your heart

  18. Mary Ellen Sokalski

    Your words are magical, Mitch. As I’m sure hers were to you. Thanks for sharing this treasure.

  19. Anthony DiCoio

    I’ve read all of your books. “For One More Day “ is one of my favorites. I too was blessed with two wonderful parents. Mitch, I believe God sends his message through people like you. Thank you for all your wonderful books, and everything you’ve done for others.


    Beautiful tribute. Thank you for sharing your heart.

  21. Bev

    Dear Mitch, as I read your memories of your mother, my heart was touched. I had this kind of mom, who would be your mom s age, does the ach of missing her ever leave? Iam sending you a hugg

  22. Patricia Ribiat

    You do it every time. You pierce the heart with your words. Your mom sounded wonderful, like mine did. I sit here thinking of mine with tears in my eyes. You have pierced my heart again.

  23. Frances Perfetto

    So heartfelt said unforgettable memories I know the feeling mine parents died father heart attack at 60 my mother 1 year later with cancer I was 25 felt I was robbed

  24. Catherine Nall

    I remember Rhoda, your mom with great fondness, if you had the pleasure of knowing her, she touched your heart. Beautiful Rhoda, forever remembered.

  25. Roberta White

    Lovely counts about your mother.She sounds like a wonderful woman,mother
    and friend.Ay she RIP.

  26. Michael T. Fisher

    I’ve been close to my mother all my life. She’s a rock. I get what you have to say, and I totally understand what you have written. I only hope when Mom’s time comes, I can put into words what you have done.

  27. Cindy Tadla

    You can always bring me to tears. Your writing is so thoughtful and always hits home. Thank you for sharing the memories of your mother with us. It’s true what you say about remembering your mom’s voice. My mom left us in 2010 and just recently I saw a video of her and she was laughing and talking and I literally started bawling, because I realized I really have missed her voice and her laugh. They were good tears, remembering the good times, she is truly missed though. I hope she is the first person I see you in heaven.

  28. Mariana Mill

    A very beautiful story of a life well lived & the Love she had for you as well as the Love you had for her to the end…

  29. Barbara Pearse

    Very beautiful just like I am sure she was

  30. MaryMargaret Ney

    My mother’s been gone 20 years. I miss her so much. She was glorious! And, she still influences my life every day!

  31. Shirley Belk

    Hit home. She sounded like someone I could love and admire. Glad you had her and still do in your heart and beautiful words.

  32. Kelly Spicer

    What a beautiful piece to honor your mother. Thank you for sharing. Prayers for strength and comfort to you and your family

  33. Colleen Kelley

    Love that photo of you and your mother. What a blessing that you shared mutual love, respect, insight….and humor. I’m sure she was very proud of her. And you obviously are proud and honored to be her son. What a gift!

  34. Annam Balasundram

    Such a lovely article. Thank you for sharing with all of us

  35. Cindy Frankland

    Mothers are fierce. There is nothing more powerful than a mothers love. Your writing is beautiful.

  36. Margaret Haman

    What a sweet tribute to a lovely mother. All we can do is hold on to all the memories, pictures, pieces of clothing or pieces of treasures they left behind. It’s funny how roles reverse when we get older and they get more health problems and more frail. I remember running every day to the rehab center for my mom. They wouldn’t let her have solids anymore. I asked her what she would like to eat. Mushroom soup and a Wendy’s frosty. From that day on I would come home, stir up some mushroom soup, strain it and put it in a thermos and stop by Wendy’s and get her a little frosty. I would spoon feed her whatever she wanted. I love all that time and many more times with her. Cherish my memories now and go to the cemetery to visit mom and dad and put seasonal flowers on their grave (and yes, maybe talk to them a little)

  37. Mallika

    It brought a lump to my throat. Miss my mother, reading this

  38. Gwendolyn Makowiec

    Such a beautiful testimony of your mother’s love for you, and your love for her.
    It’s hard to be your parents guardian, I know how hard. But it’s something that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.
    I hope many precious memories of both my parents last days, and I know that they knew just how much I loved them.
    And I know how much they loved me.
    You have been blessed to have a mother who loved you enough to kick your butt and set you straight when needed, and your memories will always be with you and let you remember your mother’s voice, especially since it’s in your heart and not just your mind.♥️

  39. Ruth Kniveton

    So beautifully written. She must have been wonderful

  40. Suzanne Dolgoff

    Your mother sounds like she was loving , strong and amazing. You have so eloquently expressed the essence of who she was. You were blessed to have been brought up and loved by this amazing woman. Thank you for sharing such a personal relationship

  41. Jean

    If you invest time in making memories while they’re alive, when they’re gone, they live on within you. Like a penny in a piggy bank, even though it’s gone. Shake it, and you can hear it.


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New book, The Little Liar, arrives November 14. Get the details »

Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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