14 years later, still finding signs that Mom’s with me

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

This Sunday, my Mom would have been 55. She died all too early at age 40 after a battle with breast cancer that robbed her of the ability to accomplish all her goals in life. The cancer weakened her physically, but it taught her to be a fighter — to bear the side effects of chemotherapy, to keep her family grounded, to move forward even when she felt like giving up.

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, she’d say, pretending to be the Little Engine That Could.

I often think about all the milestones Mom would have experienced with me if she were still here. She would have gotten to see me graduate from college (an opportunity she never had growing up); land a job in the field I’ve always wanted to pursue; and carve out a life for myself 1,350 miles away from home.

My dad tells me Mom would be proud of me for accomplishing these things. I like to think that’s true. Tonight, he sent me a sweet note that made me think about how, even long after loved ones have died, we can find signs that they’re still with us and want us to be happy.

Here’s the note, titled “A special message from dad”:

Hi Mal,

Mom would be 55 this Sunday, hard to believe. I was looking at your baby book when I was cleaning up the room downstairs. I thought it would be nice to share with you the dreams that Mom and I had for you when you were born.

Mom’s dreams:
To love and respect your parents
To take care of your family
Always have a sense of humor and a caring smile
Be kind to others, so they will be kind to you
To be what you want to be when you grow up
To go to college

Dad’s dreams:
To always be happy
To always feel loved
To always give love
To always have a beautiful smile and a kind word for others
To obtain your goals in life
To live a life when you grow up that reflects the dreams of your childhood.

I am very proud of you, and Mom would be too.


It’s funny how similar my mom’s and dad’s lists are. For the most part, I think I’m living out their dreams. I just wish my Mom could be here to see them come true.