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In a mother's absence, influence remains

Sept. 12, 2002.

I woke up late in the night in my aunt's house after visiting my mother in the hospital. As I made my way to the bathroom, out of the corner of my eye, I saw my dad leaving the living room. I went to investigate. As my Aunt Barbara tried to explain to me that I was just dreaming, my dad emerged from the other room.

"How's mom?" I asked.

As silence filled the room, my dad grabbed me, pulled me over to the couch and held me in his arms.

"She's gone, T," he said, letting out a small cry. That was the first time I had ever seen my dad cry.

As a 10-year-old boy I couldn't fully understand what happened. I kept telling myself to wake up, that this was all just a terrible nightmare. Sadly, it wasn't. I would never see my mom again, and to make things worse, the last image I had of my mom was her breathing with an oxygen mask.

It's been 11 years today since my mom passed. I've spent more than half my life without her, and it hasn't been until this year that I finally realized that she has never actually left my side.

As I think back to the years I had with my mother, I remember she always put others before her. If anybody needed anything, my mom would be there to help in some type of way. Looking at how I interact with others, I feel as though I do the same thing. I don't do it to seem like the nice guy. I don't do it to get attention. I do it because she's there, guiding me.

If you asked me how I got into writing as a freshman, I'd tell you that I started writing poems after I was dumped in high school. Ask me that same question today and I'll tell you that it's because of the smile that lit up my mother's face as I read a poem to her on our last day together.

Even though she hasn't been here for the last 11 years, my mom has been the most influential person to my success. Everything I do is to make her proud. I can only hope that she looks down on me with the same smile I saw when I read her my poem 11 years ago.

T.J. Brennan is a senior journalism major from Floral Park, N.Y. He can be reached at

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