My sweet lady, my best friend, the love of my life. How do I begin to tell the story of our love, of a proud lioness and her youngest cub, of the perfect mother son relationship? How I could always be truthful with you, how I loved making you laugh, how I work each day to make you proud and be the good son that you raised me to be, how we shared a bond so deep and strong that I truly feel like I carry you in my mind and heart always, as I move through this world? We had so much fun together while I was growing up; going to the zoo, the park, going to the library, sneaking around and spending daddy’s hard earned money on fun stuff, even traveling around the world together.
Every day we told each other that we loved each other; through these and other daily affirmations, my mother taught me the art of love, of service, and to fully embrace life, science and my spiritual self all at once. To seek out the joy in life no matter how much money we had or didn’t have, to be both a lover and a fighter, to love completely and unconditionally without fear, to never give up and to demand excellence of myself, and those around me. You are my passion, my inspiration, my reason for loving and giving of myself in all that I do. For this and many other gifts, I give thanks to you my queen.
You and pop taught me to not only understand the world but to seek to change it. My father taught me to be an honest man, and to have conviction in my actions and ideas. You always reminded me to think with my heart and to let love guide those actions. Through your community activism and devotion to making a difference in the lives of everyday folk, you sowed the seeds of service in my heart and a deep loyalty to the people. With a degree in fashion and no formal public health education, you designed grassroots interventions to help families heal from the crack epidemic raging across Oakland, started a National Black Women’s Health Project chapter in California, ran for city council, and later inspired a new generation of public health activists as a university professor. As I got older, I watched you make a better life for our family with fierce tenacity as you pursued your graduate degree and sacrificed everything to give me the best life and education possible. My life giver, my queen, you are my inspiration and you will continue to light the path of my life with your wisdom, guidance, and love.
You wrote in your journal of unfinished business; goals of advancing your education, of improving this world and furthering your humanitarian work. You may rest in peace now; rest easy knowing that your son is ready. Ready to pick up your mantle of struggle and progress to lead the way to a better world, to a more secure future for your grandchildren, and those who they will share this new world with. I will make it my life’s work to restructure this health care system and the economic/political structure surrounding it. I will work to ensure that no other families suffer as we have. I will turn to you in my dreams along this journey, anxiously awaiting more of our mother son conversations.
Hearing your laugh, watching you dance, listening to your fiery pep talks. Your wisdom and love have gotten me so far in life. Your light will shine through me, as I continue your life’s work. I will continue strengthening our familial bonds and ensuring that each child and each elder is looked after, for as long as I am alive. As long as I’m here, you’re here. My children and my family will know you through my love and my actions. Your blood runs through my veins, your heart beats in my chest. As you pass the torch to your sons, we vow to continue your powerful legacy and carry your passion, ideas, and spirit into another generation.
Our capitalistic free market-based health care system murdered you; by the mandate of your insurance company, ignoring all warning signs and contrary to everything I’ve learned in medical school, your doctors ordered a cheaper, less comprehensive screening procedure to save a few hundred dollars to inflate an HMO’s profits, causing your doctors to miss the pre-cancerous polyps growing on the opposite side of your colon (the ascending colon, coincidentally the site more affected in African Americans with colon cancer).
The proper diagnosis came too late and left you fighting valiantly for your life for 3 years against an easily preventable disease. If doctors and not bureaucrats made medical decisions, then a full colonoscopy would have caught your cancer 5 or 6 years ago in its earliest stages and saved your life. Millions more Americans fall through the cracks each year just like this, casualties of our profit-driven and criminally ineffective health care system. I urge all of you to honor my mothers’ memory by taking better care of your health. Question your doctors, educate and advocate for yourself. Take proactive steps with your health and diet so that we can come together more often in times of joy and good health than in sorrow. Understand that our current health care system is designed to maximize profit rather than save lives.
I will honor your memory by avenging your death, 1 patient, 1 family, 1 community at a time, by improving conditions for the everyday working people whom you devoted your life to serving. Your powerful legacy will continue sweet mother, and the fire that you placed in my heart will continue to burn until each child and each family has the care that they need, and no more families in this world endure such senseless deaths. I will build and expand on your powerful legacy of public service, unconditional love, and devotion to the oppressed. I will love my wife and my family with the same affection and dedication that you showed us. Your resilience and steadfast commitment to justice will carry me through the trials of my life’s work to bring about a better world. Your love and unbreakable spirit will always resonate deep in my soul, like one heartbeat through time. Drawing on your strength and humility, I will approach the task of saving lives with the same immovable resolve. With the utmost love, adoration and sadness, happy birthday, my queen mother.