Sunday, August 25, 2019

From Leaves to Roots

I've been thinking about family trees a lot lately, as recently there was a major change to mine. After 82 years of life, my mother passed away.

Family trees are a wonderful snapshot, detailing generations of connected lives. They capture a moment in time, a piece of history, but in reality they are constantly changing. Over the course of our lives, we start out as leaves, but we end up as roots.

My mom had been battling Parkinson's Disease for many years, and month by month it ate away at her strength, her appetite, her speech, and her clarity of thought. Each time I visited with her, it was shocking to see the changes, and I would find myself crying in my car as I drove down the highway, two hours home. I have been grieving for my mom for months.

But the visits were also precious. I told her about all my travels and the amazing places I got to see. I had photos printed of my children, and grandchildren, and my trips, and more. We went through the pictures one at a time, and I would tell her the stories associated with each, and then leave the photos there with her to look at anytime she wanted.

I held her hand, and rubbed her back, and told her how beautiful she looked. One time she asked for a chocolate Klondike bar from the freezer, even though she couldn't remember what it was called, and I sat with her, feeding her ice cream bite by bite, something I am sure she did for me when I was little.

On one visit in particular we were talking about family. My granddaughter had just been born, her great granddaughter. I was showing pictures, and discussing children and grandchildren, talking about the family tree. My mom was more confused than normal this visit, forgetting words and trying to connect thoughts. But for a few minutes she seemed to find clarity.

She looked at me and said, "Love never ends, does it?"

I said, "No, Mom, it never does."

I went on to talk to her about everything I had been thinking about family trees.

We all start out as leaves. We begin as babies. A new bud on the end of a twig, off of a branch, coming from the trunk. A great grandchild of a grandchild of a child of a parent.

But over time that changes. We have children of our own, and we become a twig.

Then they have children, and we move to be a branch. A grandparent.

Then if we are fortunate, we see great grandchildren born, and we become a trunk. A mighty trunk with branches and twigs and leaves reaching up to the sky.

My mom was that trunk. She had six children, 16 grandchildren, and 29 great grandchildren.

But eventually, there is one more change. In time, for all of us, we become roots. At the end of our life we move below the ground, no longer to be seen.

But love never ends, does it?

As roots feed a tree with water and nutrients, we still live on through the people we leave behind.

My mom passed away, but she is not really gone. She is the roots now for my family tree, and she lives on through me, my children, and my grandchildren.

Her unconditional love. Her gentleness. Her eternal optimism. Her kind words. Her willingness to listen. Her acceptance of everyone.

I told her that as we sat there. No, Mom, love never ends. The way you loved me, is how I love my children, and how they love their children, and that love will continue on.

Now I am a trunk. My dad passed away when I was eleven. My mom passed away as I am fifty. I am now the trunk, with my children and grandchildren branching off and reaching up.

And someday I too will move below the ground and become roots for my family. My hope, my goal is to love others the way my mom loved me.

Three days before my mom passed away I was able to speak to her one last time. I was in Texas for a training, but my sister had come up from Florida to be with Mom for a few days, as we knew she was getting close to the end.

My mom had stopped eating and drinking. She could no longer speak. She slept most of the day, waking up only briefly from time to time.

My sister texted me to let me know she had woken up, and that if I could call, she would hold the phone up to my mom's ear. I called right away and spoke to her for several minutes.

I told her about my travels, and made a few jokes. I told her I was sorry she wasn't feeling well.

Then I told her I knew she couldn't speak, but that it was ok, she didn't have to say a thing. She had been telling me she loved me in so many ways for my entire life. It is one thing I have always known without a doubt.

Thank you Mom for always loving me, for always being there, for everything you did for me. I will do my best to pass on your love.

I love you.

I miss you.

[In memory of my mom, Linda Lee Campbell, July 18, 1937 - August 19, 2019]


  1. What a beautiful celebration of your mom. Sorry for your loss...

    1. I am in tears reading your beautiful message. It is so true. What a beautiful tribute to her and your family.

  2. Last September my dad died. It hit me like a ton of bricks. With my mom and oldest brothers, he was the only person I had known my entire life.

    Grieving is hard work. We who rely on you for inspiration will give you time and space.


    1. Thank you, and I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your dad.

  3. My deepest condolences, Eric. We all know that at one point in life, that we must move on and accept the reality in life, we will pass on the love of our parents to children, and be the roots who isn't longer visible but will have an effect on their lives. My prayers for you and your family ��

  4. Simply beautiful. Thanks for sharing, Eric, and my deepest condolences.

    1. Thank you Sylvia. I really appreciate it.

  5. Absolutely breathtaking words, Eric. I am so sorry for your loss. I pray peace and comfort to you and your family in the days to come.

  6. Eric,

    Thank you for writing about your mother and your family. I am so very sorry about your recent loss. I lost my mom, Marilyn, four years ago when she was 86. I miss her and think about her every day. Sometimes, I even talk to her. :-)

    You have a gift for writing and connecting with people. I can see why your mom was so proud of you.

    Condolences to you and your family.


  7. What a great tribute to the power of family and unconditional love.

  8. That was so beautifully written Eric. You have other gifts! Those brave and faith-filled women (not just religious faith, but faith that a good world would be waiting when their last child would be grown) who sacrificed their own dreams to have large families are slowly fading away and that is sad. I honor your mother and others like her.
    Peace Out Eric

  9. Absolutely beautiful! My heartfelt condolences to you for the loss of you mother, I lost my mother ten years and I miss her dearly, she was my best-friend...I miss sharing my daily stories and the foolish things my kids would do...just laughing about really nothing in particular...the love of a mother is like no other!

  10. What a beautiful writing! Persian says: "What arises from the heart will, of necessity, sit well with the heart."
    My deep condolence to you for the loss of your mother. I have a very old mother back home in Iran, and when I read your writing about your mother, I had a feeling I am reading about my mother. She is 98 years old now and I know life is very near to the end for her but I am too far from her that even I don't have a chance to hold her hand in my hands, looking through her eyes and listen to her voice. I call her everyday and she collect all her energy to tell me on the phone that she loves me. She sometimes makes an apology that she can't talk properly and can't remember names and words anymore. Sometimes she just cries because even a simple word takes twenty minutes to exit her mouth. But I always understand what she is talking about, and what she means. There are many spaces between us , she is in Iran and I am in Canada but we understand each other even when she is only crying and I am listening and let my tears goes down slowly. As you've beautify said a mother gives her children all her unconditional love, and when it comes to our turn , we will pass this love to our generation. God bless your mother and bless all the mothers on the earth.

  11. Hi Eric! I found your blog after seeing your presentation at ISTE.
    Such a heartwarming and poignant story about your beautiful mother. My heartfelt condolences and empathy. I shared moments like that with my mother before she passed away.
    My Dad was also born in 1937. We have conversations about technology and family history regularly. He is Norwegian and we are close to our Norwegian heritage.
    Hence, the name of your blog really spoke to me.
    I was telling him about some of the Virtual Tour technologies and possibilities.
    He said it would be awesome to have one from the Science Museum in Bergen Norway that we visited last year.
    If I get the chance to go back to Bergen, I will definitely take a 360 camera with me.

    Thanks again for your reassuring voice online in this stressful time!

  12. I just happened across your blog link on Control Alt Achieve. What a beautiful story. My eyes are stinging with emotion from the love you wrote about for your mother. I loved your analogy of the Family Tree and the way we progress through it's growth. Thank you for your heartwarming thoughts!