Author’s Note: In last week’s post, I shared the words of my sister, Lynn, at my mother’s passing. These are my own.

My mother passed away on January 19th. In the weeks leading up to her passing, as she wasted away from dementia, unable to eat or drink, I found myself thinking about dreaming. And I created the two videos that appear in this post. At first, I didn’t know why I was thinking about dreaming or creating videos about it. But I think I do now.

My dad was what you might call a presence. (The photo in the post linked here was taken after he was sworn in as First Selectman in Old Lyme, Connecticut, where he and my mom lived at the time. I was photobombing because I’d managed his campaign.) He was social, outgoing, the quintessential gregarious Irishman. He loved being engaged. He was President of the Connecticut Jaycees, 1958-1959. He was involved in Civitan when they lived in Meriden, Connecticut. When they moved to Old Lyme, he was on the Planning and Zoning Commission before being elected First Selectman.

In 1998, they moved to Murrell’s Inlet, South Carolina. They lived in a golf community called Indigo Creek. As soon as he was able — and when he wasn’t on the links with the neighborhood pals he quickly met — he served on the community’s Drainage Committee. And when he wasn’t doing either of those things, he and another crew of his buddies would shuttle cars around the Carolinas and Georgia for Hertz. He was really good at everything except doing nothing.

They moved back, to Madison, Connecticut, in 2011. The pattern continued.

And Then …

Mom’s life was Dad. When he played golf, she’d get up at 0:Dark:30 to make his breakfast. (None of Dad’s golf pals could believe she did that.) When he went to Drainage Committee meetings, she’d stay home. When he drove for Hertz, she’d stay home. When they socialized, they did it together after Dad made all the arrangements.

Mom’s devotion to Dad was wonderful, of course. But when Dad passed away, my siblings and I were shocked to see how lost she was. She’d never made a life for herself. She held a number of jobs, part- and full-time. But she never had a sense of herself. She never found a cause, a purpose, or a calling. If she dreamed of things, of doing things, she never followed those dreams or pursued them in any meaningful or fruitful way.

The first time I went to have dinner with Mom after Dad passed, she was cutting peaches to make one of her favorite desserts: baked peaches with brown sugar and maple syrup. She was crying. When I asked why, she said, “Dad always used to cut the peaches.” It was heartbreaking.

The Moral

Clichés abound: You have to stay active as you age. You have to remain occupied. You have to keep your mind and your body stimulated. You have to continue to create new neural pathways to keep your brain from stultifying. All true. But more than anything, you need to have a purpose. You need to have a dream.

Over the course of a lifetime, different things may get you out of bed in the morning. But if you take them one at a time, you’ll always have at least one thing worth getting up for. And the more you dream, the more you’ll have.

By reading to me as a child, you gave me the dream of being a writer, Mom. I’m a writer. I wish you’d been able to do more dreaming.


Mark O'Brien
Mark O'Brien
I’m a business owner. My company — O’Brien Communications Group (OCG) — is a B2B brand-management and marketing-communication firm that helps companies position their brands effectively and persuasively in industries as diverse as: Insurance, Financial Services, Senior Living, Manufacturing, Construction, and Nonprofit. We do our work so well that seven of the companies (brands) we’ve represented have been acquired by other companies. OCG is different because our business model is different. We don’t bill by the hour or the project. We don’t bill by time or materials. We don’t mark anything up. We don’t take media commissions. We pass through every expense incurred on behalf of our clients at net. We scope the work, price the work, put beginning and end dates on our engagements, and charge flat, consistent fees every month for the terms of the engagements. I’m also a writer by calling and an Irish storyteller by nature. In addition to writing posts for my company’s blog, I’m a frequent publisher on LinkedIn and Medium. And I’ve published three books for children, numerous short stories, and other works, all of which are available on Amazon under my full name, Mark Nelson O’Brien.

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  1. Wonderfully written article about what is, unfortunately, an all-too-common situation. Your mother’s devotion to your father is beautiful and admirable. The other side of the coin can be devastating when what we love is gone whether it’s a person, a pet, a career, etc. Balance is often difficult to attain when the heart wants what the heart wants. My mother-in-law passed a little over a year ago. My father-in-law is much like your mother. His sons are trying and he’s coming around inch by inch, but I’m not sure he will ever be truly happy without her.

    We are all so blessed your mother read to you and inspired you to dream.

  2. This just touched my heart so much that I am sorry for your loss. It is important to have dreams I thank God I have my writing. I’ve seen a lot of people live vicariously through their children or each other. My mom did everything for my dad and he was Iost without her. He passed away a couple years later very lonely even though he had nine children.

    • Thank you, Eva Marie. Mom was already fading when Dad passed. Her fading slowly accelerate for nine years after he died. At this point, I tend to think of my writing as more of a companion than an activity.

      I’m grateful to you for sharing your comments.

  3. Oh, Mark, I am moved to tears by this piece and both videos and the way you continue to honor your mother, her reading to you as a child, and you becoming a gifted writer. Your post makes me think how for many mornings during some of the hardest, darkest days of my adult life a few years ago, I got out of bed literally singing, “Climb Every Mountain” and would especially tear up, choke up when I got to the lyric “till you find your dream. A dream that will need all the love you can give, every day of your life, for as long as you live.” This piece resonates deeply in every cell of me as I keep taking those daily actions to give all the love I can to my many dreams and imagining the world I would love my great great grandchildren or your great, great grandchildren to live. May we continue to seed the joy, the dreams, the wonder. Thank you from my humble, wide opened heart to yours, my friend.

    • Thank you, Laura. I’ll admit that once I figured out why I made those videos I’d have to write about my mom, it was difficult to do. But difficulty is NOT a reason to refrain from writing.

      You know that as well as anyone. You also know that real writing and true writers have to be fearless. Everything else is just jumping up and down on the rugs underneath which we’ve swept the things we’re afraid of. That won’t work for me any more than it’ll work for you. That’s why we’re joined at the heart.

      I love you, my friend. I look forward to seeing you today at 6:00.