Larry Elder

My mom died suddenly, unexpectedly, the morning of June 13.

She passed less than a month before her 82nd birthday. My brother Kirk and I often had a "What next?" conversation about providing care for the surviving parent -- only we assumed Mom would be the surviving parent, not our recently-turned-91-year-old father.

Then came my mom's heart failure. An ambulance rushed her to the hospital, where she did not regain consciousness. Years earlier, my mom and dad executed a living will. My mother reduced to writing what she repeatedly told us -- that she expected us to refuse "heroic measures" to save her life. She talked about how she said she never wanted to "end up" without her faculties, kept alive only through so-called artificial means.

As my mother lay in her hospital bed -- kept alive and breathing on a ventilator, her weakening body attached to tubes and wires -- one member of the hospital team said: "It looks like soon decisions will have to be made. Did your mother make provisions?"

I went back to Mom and Dad's house to retrieve the living will. But my mother, in her typical fashion, took the decision from the family by dying quietly in the coronary care unit.

So where to begin to honor and celebrate the life of my mother, an outstanding woman, my best friend, my psychologist, my financial advisor, my confidant?

Her circle of friends seemed to grow exponentially year after year. Mom volunteered, taught Sunday school, cooked for friends and family, and made and mended dresses, shirts, socks and coats. She took up auto mechanics, and served as a seamstress coordinator for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. The phone never stopped ringing with friends calling, seeking her advice, guidance or counsel, or offering an invitation to breakfast, lunch, dinner, a banquet, a barbecue, a wedding, a retirement party.

Mom performed the role of teacher, philosopher and lawgiver. One time, Kirk and I decided to "run away from home." Now, mind you, my parents' rule against crossing the street required my brother and me, as we fled home, to stay within several hundred yards of the house -- and on the same side of the street.

Who knew my dad could run? He caught me, and we started the long march home, where a severe whippin' awaited. Immediately, I took pre-emptive action. I started bawling right away.

Larry Elder

Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an "Elderado," visit