Remembering my mother
I don’t think anyone, no matter the situation or circumstances, is prepared to lose their parent. We always think we have more time.
My mother, Tina Hitchcock, died of a heart attack on Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020. I had just seen her during our weekly visit. I had no idea that would be the last time I would ever see her.
My mother suffered from a pain condition that went undiagnosed for years, and was complicated by autoimmune disorders. But that didn’t slow her down.
While she was limited physically, she taught a full slate of online classes at three different colleges, sometimes working 60 hours a week. When she struggled to keep up at times, I’d tell her to slow down — her health was more important. But second only to her family, her students, current and former, were what kept her going and gave her purpose.
Teaching was her passion, a passion she came to later in life. Besides marrying my dad at age 21 and being a mom to two kids, she never took the “traditional” route. When I went to college, she went back to college to finish her bachelor’s degree, then her master’s degree in English. I can’t stay I was thrilled to share a campus with her at the time, but deep inside I was so proud of her for conquering the agoraphobia that she wrestled with since I was a toddler.
Perhaps it is because her life was not the easiest — or that her father was a Holocaust survivor — she felt a drive to help others in need and to make the world a better place. I don’t remember a time when my mother wasn’t educating me about tolerance and kindness. That spilled over to her work. She was scheduled to teach a course this fall on African-American literature she was excited about. She believed if we were just more knowledgeable about our fellow man, it would build understanding.
In her later years, my mom’s saving grace was the virtual world where she connected with so many people in her community and beyond. In a strange twist, the pandemic opened up even more opportunities for her to stream movies, listen to music and attend workshops and seminars. The world had finally come to her. I’m grateful that she was fully engaged in so many things she loved to do until the end.
In fact, the day she died she was busy grading her summer courses, and preparing to teach several fall courses. The last thing she did before she collapsed is attend a virtual book group, which she really enjoyed.
I hope she knows how much of a difference she made in the lives of her family, friends and students. So many people have reached out to tell me that my mom was their favorite professor, or how she helped them through a tough time, or even saved their life. That strengthens me.
I was also her student. For the past 12 years I’ve been the editor here, my mom has edited these notes each month. Her constructive criticism and guidance helped make me a better writer.
I hope she forgives me for going on and on about her in this editor’s note. She’d be a bit embarrassed. She was never one for glory, preferring to quietly do her good work and good deeds in the background.
But no matter how difficult it was for me to write this note, I think it’s time she got the recognition she so deserved.
She will have a forever place in my heart.