Today, May 14th, would have been my mom’s 52nd birthday. Today I’m also participating in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life in honor of my mom’s battle against cancer. My good friend/roommate Adri is supporting me at this event, and our RFL’s team name is Infinity and Beyond. Here’s why.
Growing up, my favorite Disney movie was Toy Story. I used to watch the VHS tape over and over again, learning the dialogue by heart. Buzz Lightyear quickly became my favorite, although I can’t really explain why. I guess it was because he was a pragmatic yet idealistic guy (toy?), and for a wildly imaginative kid like myself, that was a fascinating, foreign thing.
My mom fueled my obsession by buying me all kinds of Buzz Lightyear-related merchandise. She’d imitate Woody’s voice, and I’d shoot my “lasers” at her. These are fuzzy memories now, but I still remember those moments, as faded as they are.
Mom adopted Buzz’s trademark phrase into our daily lives: To infinity and beyond. Whenever she’d try to tell me exactly how much she loved me, she’d use it. When my sisters were born, she’d say it to them as well.
It became our thing.
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As I’ve written about before, my mom was diagnosed with colorectal cancer Aug. 2014, and I moved back home to take care of her. We watched a lot of movies while she battled cancer, mostly because she couldn’t get out of bed most of the time.
Every single time Toy Story was on, we’d watch it. I’d mouth the words to the dialogue, and we would both laugh at the jokes even though we had watched the movie a thousand times before.
And almost every night, even if it had been a rough day, we’d say something like this:
Mom: Do you love me?
Me: Yes, mom. To the moon and back.
Mom: That’s it? Well, I love you to infinity and beyond.
Me: That’s a lot!
Mom fought valiantly, stubbornly, painfully, for a whole year. Cancer spread to her stomach, liver, and brain, and her body started shutting down. Then, during a muggy August night, we talked a lot about life, about death, and whatever unresolved things we had left.
We went through our nightly ritual. She told me she loved me to infinity and beyond.
The next day, she suffered a stroke and was left unconscious and unresponsive. Her last days were spent in a hospital room, eyes closed and breathing ragged, and I stayed by her side day and night. I played music for her, talked to her, and the futility of it made my heart heavy with grief.
One morning, her breathing started slowing down, and it was obvious the end was near. I called her siblings so they could come to the hospital and say goodbye, and we stayed with her until the very end.
I held her in my arms and told her stupid jokes and talked, talked, talked. I told her that my sisters and I would always love her. To the moon and back. To infinity and beyond.
Mom died at 1:30 p.m., Aug.16, 2015. It was a sunny, beautiful Sunday. She was 51 years old.
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I haven’t watched Toy Story since Mom died. I’ve been tempted to, but I don’t feel ready just yet. But I constantly think about those words, infinity and beyond, and how they truly represent my love for my mother.
Because my love for her will never end. It will go on, forever and always, until the day I die, until I stop existing.
And who knows, maybe even after that. After all, it is infinite.