“When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live.” – Stuart Scott
There is no easy way to say this, so I’ll just say it. I lost my mom on December 30, 2014 to a very aggressive type of cancer. She was always super health-conscious, and there was no family history. Life is just crazy… and to be honest, I’m just trying to deal with it all but not sure how to just yet.
I have experienced quite a bit of loss for someone my age, but this time it was the woman who gave me life, the one person in the world I lived and breathed for and always wanted to make proud. My mother, my best friend.
The last 16 months since my mom’s diagnosis had been unbelievably hard on her, physically and emotionally, yet she never once wavered in her inner strength and determination to recover and get back to teaching her beloved preschool kids, and to being the most amazing mother, daughter, wife and friend she had always been in her 55 years of life.
She smiled through the taxing treatments, and with every blow of jarring news we got from the doctor. She endured it all in such an unbelievably positive manner, and after a year of chemo, surgery and intense radiation, she was so happy her scan in September 2014 came back clean, and she went back to work and came out to events with me again. She was glowing full of life as she always had been, before her treatment had started.
Then in late October 2014, less than two months after her clean scan, the cancer came back… worse than ever. It had spread to vital organs, and the unthinkable happened. Within two months, my mom suffered so much each day and night not being able to sleep or eat due to intense pain and discomfort, it was heartbreaking to watch… trips to the ER and ICU, then back home, then back to the hospital again… until the doctors gave up on her and sent her home.
We tried to take the best care of her we could, with the help of at-home professionals to help manage her intense pain and suffering in the final days. We felt so helpless. I just tried to be by her side as much as I could, caress her, and tell her how much I loved her. She was strong throughout it all, just for us, as all our hearts were silently breaking and our family was being torn apart. She knew how much we needed her, and she tried her best until her final days… and then she was gone. Forever.
I am so glad she is no longer suffering, but now the painful journey for those of us she left behind has just begun. I just can’t believe it’s over, that I’ve lost my mom and best friend in my 20’s. She was the epitome of perfection, grace, kindness and selflessness. She helped anyone and everyone, whether she knew them or not, and never once did anything out of selfishness, not in childhood nor all her life for that matter.
She was an incredible mom from day 1, and every single day of my life from then on.
Her memorial service was just yesterday, and although I haven’t before shared very personal things here on the blog, I would like you all to know the inspiration and motivation behind my work, and of course who I am as a person today. Thus, I wanted to share the speech I wrote for her memorial service, to which 200+ amazing family and friends came to attend.
You know, the reason I finally started this blog was that I felt the intense need to scale back on work (for once) to be with mom more. I thought it was the perfect time to start writing again and doing what truly made me happy, and this time instead of doing it as a food editor, I would launch my own blog, as many people had encouraged me to do for years. It was my way of moving forward and staying productive while also spending more precious time with my mom throughout her fight to recover.
My mom was incredibly proud of every blog post, video, or milestone in my follower growth… just as she had been before, when I was working 13 hour workdays at the office and commuting 40 miles to get home each day. She was there supporting me in whatever made me happy by helping me record videos, arranging the new recipes we made together for the perfect shot, and proofreading every post that went up. She was a Master’s degree holder in English, and I got my love of reading and writing from her.
With my mother, a part of me died, too. But then again, a part of her will always live on within me. Mom, who would have known I would be writing this tribute to you, on the very blog you gave me the courage and opportunity to finally launch and grow? I hope to always make you proud by doing what I’m passionate about, just as you would want me to.
Thank you all for your tremendous support. Sometimes it’s all that gets me by.
You will find the transcript of my memorial service speech below. I hope this helps you further get to know the kind of person my mom was, and what a special place she will always hold in my heart, and the hearts of all whom she touched. It is her who made me who I am today, more than anybody else in the world. And hopefully we can all learn a thing or two from the angel who graced this earth for far too short a time.
Note: I’ve posted more photos in the Memorial section dedicated to her. There, if you wish, you can also donate to an early education project in India. She was a loving preschool teacher for the past 25 years, and we hope her legacy lives on through this project in India. Thank you. I truly love you guys.
A Tribute to Ma
by Tanaya Ghosh
…as delivered at Prateeti Ghosh’s memorial service on January 17, 2015
First, thank you all for being here. The support has been incredible during the most trying time in my life.
I never thought I’d be here so soon giving this speech about my mom, who was always perfect and invincible in my eyes. Her spirit still is.
For as long as I could remember, my mother did all she could to give me the best childhood imaginable. She set a strong foundation for who I have become today.
She did this in many ways. By taking me to the library regularly, where I would spend hours picking out the perfect books, I got my unquenchable thirst for learning, reading, and my love of writing.
She taught me dedication and commitment by taking me to my weekly Kathak dance classes for 10 years. I wasn’t always very fond of going to practice, but I did like to perform. She stayed firm and urged me to stick to it, and I learned what it takes to work hard for things that are worth it.
Her trust and confidence in me was unwavering, always. Believe it or not, I was shy like her when I was younger, as those who have known me from way back know. But somewhere along the way, due to life experiences, I learned to come out of my shell. I got bolder in exploring all that life has to offer, regardless of my secret fears that I must admit I still have, to this day.
My mom taught me to be smart, responsible and confident in my abilities. With that faith in me, she supported me wholeheartedly in my adventures around the world, from volunteering in the Costa Rican rainforest to working abroad in Hong Kong. Her main desire was always my happiness and growth, even if that meant I was halfway across the world at times.
Even though, as I grew older, I deviated from the way she was (gentle and more reserved), she not only supported me but enjoyed living vicariously through me in whatever I did… from doing a radio show to pursuing my degree in public relations, from becoming a food editor to launching my blog in the time I took off to spend by her side… a decision I will never regret.
As I got more opportunities in pursuing my passions, she was the number one person I wanted by my side through the wild journey. She would always be my first choice for whom to take as my plus one when covering an event… she really was my best friend. She even helped me film some of my videos. She would sometimes get frustrated with my perfectionism in getting the shot right (who wouldn’t?) but she helped in any way she could, and she did it for me. It was my secret mission to get her out of the house more and experience more of life, and I’m so glad we got to spend so much time together exploring new things.
As I got older, through life’s letdowns, heartbreaks and troubling times, she became my confidante, number one supporter, protector and source of strength. During the darkest of times, when it felt like the whole world had turned its back on me, the one person who always gave me hope and a reason to live was my mom. Just hearing her voice on the other end of the phone… whether unwaveringly supporting me, or telling me like it is when I needed to hear it… she was always just what I needed, and more.
I still remember the night my world started to crumble. I was finishing up another 13-hour workday at the office, ready to work the Catalina Film Festival, and was feeling on top of the world… like everything was going right for once. I called mom to let her know I would be starting my 40-mile commute home, but by the extra gentle way she greeted me, I should have known something was wrong… that she was just being strong for me.
I came home to learn the unthinkable… that my invincible, perfect mother had been diagnosed with cancer. My dad I and reeled, our worlds turned upside down. And what did she do? She stayed strong for us for the remaining 15 months of her life. Throughout the entire emotional and physical roller coaster, she took it all with a smile and always asked how others were doing when they came to visit her. Such incredible inner strength from such a sweet, kindhearted person.
She was everybody’s favorite, from the dentist to her oncologist, to the vet to the Trader Joe’s cashier. Even the kids and parents at the school she taught at requested Ms. Prateeti as their teacher.
Although it was a long, twisting road, I am so glad we all got that last year to show her just how much we loved her. Not just me, but my dad, our relatives, and the entire community of friends surrounding us. Even our beloved 15 1/2-year-old Dachshund, Jellybean. My mom, who had always given and given without expecting anything in return from anyone, was so touched by everyone showing their heartfelt appreciation for her. I am so glad she got to know how much she meant to us all before she was taken from us.
Mom, I will miss the little things, like how you would pick out the absolutely perfect greeting card for any given person and occasion. We would spend an hour at the store when I was younger looking through cards, and I would eventually get annoyed. I later realized how much the right words can warm people’s hearts and stay with them.
My mother was never one to embrace the newest technology, often opting for a book instead. I remember teaching her how to text when my dad finally convinced her to get a smartphone. Once, I thanked her in great length for the delicious food that she had sent with me, as usual, to my grad school apartment. Her response to my lengthy text message was just… “ok.” And another time, she wrote an entire sentence as one long word, as she had forgotten where the space bar was! What I would do to get another text from her.
She started to learn Spanish with our urging, once she finally accepted an iPad into her life. She always had a knack for language, holding a Master’s degree in English… so she caught on very quickly. She was excited to recover so she could go back to work and talk to some of her students in Spanish.
As a big reason for a lot of what I do today, I also got my love of cooking and food from her. She didn’t like to cook elaborate things often, but I convinced her to be my accomplice in many food adventures we had together. Holiday baking each December for family and friends since my charmed childhood, or a full-course meal for a special occasion… some of my fondest memories involved my mom and our kitchen, throughout my life.
She was everyone’s timekeeper. I would often run late, so she would sit and talk with my friends while I finished getting ready. Then, as I rushed out the door she would say “Have fun!” …and then ask if I had my keys, or jacket, or whatever it was that I probably did forget. I would rush back in and say, “Mom, what would I do without you?” before saying bye and running out the door again. I don’t know now what I will do without her… not just for this reason, but for so many reasons.
The best part of going out somewhere while I was living at home was that as I pulled out of the driveway, she would — without fail — be at the window… waving goodbye to me, praying for my safety, and waiting to hear all about my adventures when I returned. Now that window will be eternally empty.
She really enjoyed all the treats I would bring back for her from all my food adventures for my work and on outings with friends around SoCal. Her eyebrows would dance and she would really relish the things she liked.
My grandmother and mom’s younger brother always said that my mom was always so obedient, and never went out of line or rebelled. Although I turned out to be a little more rebellious (who wouldn’t be, compared to her?) my mom never loved me any less for it.
People say I laugh a lot, and smile a lot. I tell them, you should meet my mom. Mom, with your selfless and loving spirit, look at the friends and family you cultivated for us. The support we’ve gotten these past couple weeks has been amazing, and I am truly grateful. Once again, mom left everything in place without even knowing it. Just by being her.
In her final months, her voice softened with me more than ever. I can still feel her playing with my ponytail in the hospital, with my head in her lap just laying there and enjoying her presence. Trying to soak up a lifetime of mom in just a couple more weeks that we had with her. Trying to freeze time.
How could it be that I was the one taking care of you so soon? I saw the appreciation in your eyes, but really it was the least I could do… I learned from the best in how to take care of others, but I would do anything especially for you, the woman who not only gave me life, but raised me with an unbelievable amount of love, patience, trust and dedication. I, too, lived and breathed for my mom… the center of my universe.
Sometimes I question why her, as she was quite a health nut. I remember watching “Dark Wing Duck” in the kids’ daycare at the gym while she went to her regular Aerobics class. I was the kid with the brown bread in preschool, and as I grew up my mom and I nerded out over reading Health & Prevention magazines. She cooked all the “right” foods for our family (garlic, onion, turmeric… and all the antioxidant-filled foods), and we used to go to the gym regularly together. No family history… yet cancer still happened. Life is just so crazy, and quite honestly, I’m scared to live the rest of it without you, Mom.
I still wonder why she was taken so soon from us all, since the world could use more exceptional people like her… but then I try to remember what I now realize: She was an angel here on earth, and we were blessed to have her with us and to know her for any amount of time that we did. Although I lost my mom in my 20’s, I had such a unique and special bond with her that is so hard to come by, no matter how long one lives. If quality over quantity is really the best thing, I consider myself fortunate. I am so incredibly lucky to call the woman whom we are all here for today my mom.
Although it breaks my heart that she will never be able to see my wedding or her grandchildren, all I can do to make sure that my future kids know their incredible grandmother is to show them stories, pictures, videos… and just try my best to be the kind of mother she was to me. Although I am a work in progress, if I can be half the woman my mom was, that’s all I can hope for.
Every happy occasion in my life from now on will have a deep sadness and emptiness to it… but I know that she always wanted me to thrive, and to be as happy as I can be, in whatever way that may be. Now I will try to do just that, not only for myself, but for the two of us. Some days, that is the only strength I have to go on. I love you Ma, and I hope I will always make you proud… until the day we meet again, my best friend.
I ask that you all please keep the memories of my mom alive within you, by sharing your stories today and long after. And most importantly, let’s all remember to carry at least a few of the many lessons she taught us by example during her time here:
– Smile often. Laugh often.
– Material things mean nothing. For her, as long as her family and friends were happy and healthy, she was content. She took pleasure in the small things, like her afternoon tea.
– Life really is short, so never stop telling (and more importantly, showing) those you love how much they mean to you. Don’t hold grudges. And know that you’ll never regret spending “too much” quality time with those who truly matter. Do it now before it’s too late.
Now we’ll take a little break from the speeches and songs with the following visual montage. Special thanks to Sumita for working so hard to help me put this together, and to my dad for taking so many photos all our lives. Even though Ma and I would often get frustrated on our many family trips around the country and world (we got tired of stopping and posing), thanks to you we have all these visual memories to cherish today.
We hope that you continue to hold Prateeti Ghosh in your hearts and memories to continue to honor her spirit and keep her legacy alive.
Photos from the memorial service, as well as some photos from the slideshow of mom’s life are now posted on the Memorial Page.