Friday January 17 2020


Waking up super late this morning at 12:30 p.m.


Oatmeal with Cinnamon, Blueberries, Maple Syrup, and Almond Milk. English Breakfast Tea.


Catching up on business.


At the studio packing up all the music gear.


Tempeh Bacon with Spinach and Sourdough Toast with Vegan Cream Cheese. Coffee.




Revving up mom’s truck and packing all the gear inside. Got a gig at Abbey Road Pub tonight. Setting everything up. A nice old black man who’s giving away candy to everybody offers to help bring in a few things.


Starting off the night with a set of my own songs. Then Anthony comes up to sing. We’re splitting the bill tonight. While sitting with Ana and Tristan and listening to Anthony and Allyson belt out Lazy Danger tunes I’m reminded what it’d be like if mom were sitting with us in the seat over from me. She’d be thoroughly enjoying herself clapping and dancing. She always loved Anthony’s music.



It’s a fun time with music and friends. The regulars at the bar don’t seem to mind our joyous ruckus. Tristan even gets up on the bass and joins the band.


Afterwards, we don’t need to pack up anything cause we’ll be back here tomorrow night!


Back home. Hanging out in the dining room with Anthony, Allyson, and Ana eating snacks and talking.



Later on settling down in my bed with Ana. We make fire in celebration of life, music, and happiness.

Thursday January 16 2020

Waking up at 11:30 a.m.


Bowl of Granola Cereal with Almond Milk, Blueberries, and Strawberries. English Breakfast Tea.


Catching up on business.




Scrambled Eggs. Toast with Butter and Jam. Potato Chips. Coffee.


Teaching lessons at Music Makers.


Back home. Making dinner: Vegan Burgers with Lettuce and Tomato. Roasted Green Beans, Zucchini, and Onions. Corn Tortilla Chips.

Watching A Dark Place (2018).


Hanging out with Josiah, Jonnie, and Bobby at the storage unit practicing new Ladada songs. We haven’t linked up since the new year so it’s nice.



Sleep 4:30 a.m.

Wednesday January 15 2020


Waking up at 10:45 a.m.


Oatmeal with Cinnamon, Blueberries, Maple Syrup, and Almond Milk. English Breakfast Tea.


Basketball at the Rec. It’s been a long time – feels good to be running up and down the courts burning calories and shooting hoops.


Scrambled Eggs. Sourdough Toast with Butter and Jam. Salt n Vinegar Chips. Baby Broccoli. Coffee.


Teaching lessons at Music Makers.


Back home. Making a quick dinner: Vegetable Fried Rice with Peas.

Watching Earthquake Bird (2019).


Running a late night errand to Target. I was the official last customer of the night.


At the studio practicing songs with Ana.



Sleep 3:30 a.m.

Tuesday January 14 2020

Waking up throughout the morning from stressful dreams – sweaty legs.


Date and Almond Bar. English Breakfast Tea.


It’s raining hard outside – not the brightest of mornings. Seeing the dentist for a cleaning and to check on one of my fillings I got a few months back.




Scrambled Eggs. Sourdough Toast with Vegan Cream Cheese. Salt n Vinegar Chips. Coffee.

Watching Earthquake Bird (2019).


Teaching lessons at Music Makers.


Back home. One of our student’s mom’s got Ana and I dinner from The Green Cat: Lentil Soup with Brown Rice. Ana brought home a French Baguette to go with. Anthony joins us in the dining room discussing the latest Veer Music Award nominees. Ladada was mentioned in multiple categories.


Later on, at the studio practicing songs with Ana.



Sleep 3 a.m.

Monday January 13 2020

Waking up at 11:30 a.m.


Oatmeal with Cinnamon, Blueberries, Maple Syrup, and Almond Milk. English Breakfast Tea.


Taking care of bank things and mom things – calling life insurance, etc.


Scrambled Eggs. Sourdough Toast with Butter and Jam. Potato Chips. Spinach. Coffee.


At Music Makers teaching a normal full day of lessons. Kay holds it down at the front desk.


Back home. Making dinner for myself: Salmon with Baby Broccoli, Carrots, and Macaroni Salad.

Watching QT8: The First Eight (2019).


Later on, at Music Makers with Ana practicing songs – getting back into the grind for our gigs this weekend.



Sleep 3:30 a.m.

Sunday January 12 2020

Waking up late around 11:45 a.m.


Ana made us Blueberry Waffles. I brew some Tea to go with. She tweaked the recipe a little and she is disappointed with the outcome but it was only because we didn’t have almond milk.


I’ve got the entire day off. Just gonna catch up on business and whatever else I need to take care of.


Ana and I run grocery errands.


Deviled Eggs, Spinach, Sourdough Toast with Vegan Cream Cheese. Potato Salad, and Coffee.

Watching From Paris with Love (2010).


Posting some stuff about mom thanking everyone for their support.


Organizing MMLIVE things that start next weekend.


At Music Makers fixing up a place for mom’s remains using the flower arrangement from the memorial service. I want all the students and families to see it for a week. Then, I’ll prepare a small memorial thing at the studio so everyone is reminded of her impact.


Leftover Chicken with Kale and Mac n’ Cheese.


Chillin’ with Ana.


Back at the studio playing the piano.



Sleep 4 a.m.

Saturday January 11 2020


Waking up at 11 a.m.


Enjoying some of Ana’s homemade Cinnamon Rolls and Coffee for breakfast.


At Freedom Fellowship. Today is the big day for my mom. We fill up the sanctuary, packed all the way to the back door, and celebrate her life and memory! I sit next to Ana, my dad, aunt Pansy, Peter, and nearby is John and Cindy (two best friends of my mom and dad’s), Jimmy Carr, Jimmy Napier, Wanda, Karen Glaze, etc. I worked with Pastor Rick to design a structure to the service but he really brought it all home for the congregation. So much music and celebration. You could really feel the consolation and peace in the room. I put together a slideshow of pictures of mom all the way from baby pics to the last moments of her life. I placed an old recording of her singing with her dad when she was 16 at the beginning of it – it brings tears to my eyes almost immediately. Dan plays Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata on the piano for the rest of the video.


Pastor speaks in such a down to earth fashion it makes everyone feel at home and like we can really understand the truth behind the message.


Don’t let your heart be troubled...

Karen was sick. And she never lost hope. And so what I want you to know is that Karen is now with the Lord Jesus!


I came up with ten words that described my mom and who she was to many...












I wrote a eulogy that Pastor reads perfectly. At some point I get up on the stage with a guitar to lead the Music Makers students in a few songs. “Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” and House of the Rising SunAmazing Grace”. Wesley accompanies me on keys adding organ and piano. The whole performance is exactly what mom would’ve wanted to hear. She loved the students at Music Makers like her own children.


A Son’s Tribute


Where do I start? We had a special mom and son relationship. Not all sons can say this about their moms but I know I can say beyond a doubt that I had the best mother any son could hope for. You protected and nurtured me since day one. Cooked the best meals. Wrote the best cards. Sang the most beautiful songs. Told the best advice. Prayed the best prayers. Gave the best back and head rubs. You made a beautiful life for me filled with so many wonderful memories. Remembering all those extra long hugs you used to give me when saying good night, the kind I couldn’t escape from.

Goodnight son. I love you.

Love you too, mom.

I wish I was there now in your embrace.


You are the most important link to my past. I’ll always feel like there are more questions to ask. You comforted me through hard and traumatic times. You lost a daughter; I lost a sister. Because of you I am stronger. I am the man I am because of you. There was a season where you had to turn “single mom mode” on, working all kinds of odd jobs to keep the bills paid. I was grateful though to still have a father as well as a stepdad who supported us all the way through. Don’t ever think you did anything wrong when you were raising me. A child will bloom into their own, and when there’s an unconditional love surrounding them every day, they’ll become who they’re destined to be. You’ve always taught me to have compassion, listen to people, and to care for others. Some of your last words you spoke, “Be ready and love people!” That’s exactly what you did your whole life is love people, the embodiment of who Jesus is.


You always had a way of keeping things neat and orderly in the house. Thank you for doing so many things, big and small, for me, for us. Many times I remember coming home from a long day of work or rehearsals and the kitchen would be clean and the dishes were done. Who’s gonna do the dishes now? Don’t worry, I’ll take care of everything. I know you’re proud of me cause you never stopped talking about me to everyone. Every show I performed you made great efforts to be there right in the front clapping, dancing, or singing along.

Mom is your number one fan,” you always said.


One place you absolutely loved to be was at Music Makers. When I took over the business you were there ready to help build a community of parents and students that became like a second family to us. Anyone who walked through the front door of the studio immediately felt like home because of all the love and light you offered. You genuinely cared about each and every one of our student’s future. Your love is embedded in those walls and lesson rooms. I think you deserve employee of the month...forever.


I’m so grateful God gave you the opportunity to see so many friends and family before you passed on. Life is precious. Your love is precious to me. It haunts me every day the fact that you’re not gonna be around in my life. For one thing, I want any children I have some day to know how beautiful and wonderful their grandmother is. But like I said at the hospice bed, when I get a house “I’m gonna plant a tree for you. So I can show your grandchildren what a beautiful person you were.”


Mom, there are so many things I want you to know and so many things I wanna say. Words, of course, aren’t usually enough to explain. A friend of mine said, “Music transcends the tangible world. It guides and heals us – while giving us strength to carry on.” Music is how we celebrate your life. I hope you can hear the echoes of the melodies we play for you down here on earth. You live on in our hearts as you watch from your new life above in the stellar skies of the heavens.



Afterwards, Ana and I, along with family members we wait in the front row as people line up the aisle to give their condolences and many hugs. I probably received about 500 hugs today. It’s a little overwhelming at times but good to know there’s so much support from all the people who were impacted by my mom. There’s plenty of food to share! We all just stay right in the sanctuary and eat.


Back home. Ana and I go through the sympathy cards. Frank Mihlon spearheaded a fundraiser online that brought in well over the amount that was asked. Later on, dad comes over and we hang out in the living room. I set up mom’s urn, flower arrangement, and picture in there.



Later on, Ana and I lounge in the living room and watch a movie over leftovers. Marriage Story (2019).


Staying bonded with her the rest of the night. Making fire up in her bedroom, something we haven’t done in a long time, especially since all of this stuff began with mom.


Friday January 10 2020


Waking up at 11:37 a.m.


Jimmy, my former stepdad, is in town. Ana and I take him to Three Ships for Biscuits and Coffee. He’ll always be family to me.


Him and I run some errands. At Virginia Beach Florist in Kempsville ordering a cradling floral arrangement to go around the urn for the service tomorrow. Then, driving over to the Cremation Society to pick up mom’s remains and the death certificates. It’s kind of strange transporting her in a different form in the backseat.


Running an errand to drop off recycle but I discover they took away the recycle dumpsters so now there’s nowhere to recycle anymore. 2020 is really bringing on the changes.


Stopping by Outback Steakhouse to say hi to Jimmy’s aunt and uncle, Ann and Karl.


At Music Makers we rehearse with a select few students to help sing a few songs at mom’s service tomorrow. It’s kind of fun. Ana and her friend Erica are here also helping sing. Meanwhile, Jimmy and dad sit nearby.


Afterwards, we grab some dinner at Pho 79, just Ana, Erica, dad, and I. Trying out Fried Quail with Vegetable Pad Thai Noodles.


Back home. Ana and Erica bake up a storm in the kitchen. Kenny comes over, Erica’s recently acquired boy friend and also friend of mine through Elliott. Him and I hang in the living room and share stories of our moms. I never knew his mom also battled cancer and died this past year.


Later on, I sort through baskets and drawers in my mom’s room throwing away some things and putting some in a donation bag. I always come across little notes that my mom wrote. It feels like she’s still here.



Settling down in the bed with Ana.

Thursday January 9 2020

Waking up at 11:20 a.m.


Oatmeal with Cinnamon, Blueberries, Maple Syrup, and Oat Milk. English Breakfast Tea.


Catching up on business.


Meeting with Pastor Rick and Diana at the church to discuss the memorial service. It’s always so comforting to talk to Rick. His job is to love people and he’s so genuine, just like my mother was. I give him a flash drive with all the notes and eulogy I wrote.


Scrambled Eggs. Bagel with Butter and Jam. Potato Chips. Coffee.


At Music Makers teaching lessons. Lou is here helping collect payments and such.


Off work and back home. Ana started cooking dinner. One of the burners isn’t working properly, not surprised. I help finish the job. Enjoying Tofu Stir Fry with Quinoa and Vegetables.


Grabbing some gelato from down the street.


Taking care of stuff. Organizing. Chores.


Chamomile Tea.



Ana reminds me that we were supposed to pray together every night. Both of us still feeling like we need guidance but have plenty of peace.


Sleep 4 a.m.

Wednesday January 8 2020

Waking up at 11 a.m.


Oatmeal with Cinnamon, Blueberries, Maple Syrup, and Almond Milk. English Breakfast Tea.


Catching up on business.


Ana and I enjoy burning calories at the Great Neck Rec for a little bit. Haven’t exercised in a few weeks and we really needed it.


Scrambled Eggs. Blueberry Bagel with Vegan Cream Cheese. Salt n Vinegar Chips. Coffee.


At Music Makers teaching lessons and running the front desk. Everybody knows what happened to my mom at this point. Some ask how I’m doing but most just acknowledge condolences. Accumulating quite a collection of sympathy cards and notes from students.


Back home. Warming up dinner: Tomato Soup with Peas, Kale, Quinoa, and French Baguette.

Watching The Kid (2019).


Finishing up this memorial service preparation.


Chilling downstairs with Ana, a guitar, and the cat.



Sleep next to Ana around 3:30 a.m.

Tuesday January 7 2020


Waking up at around 11 a.m.


Date and Almond Bar. English Breakfast Tea.


Taking care of Music Makers business and scheduling. Not gonna teach yet cause there’s still so much to organize and do.


Running errands. Cleaning up the Christmas decorations at the studio.


Scrambled Eggs. Toast with Butter and Jam. Snow Peas. Coffee.

Watching The Kid (2019).


Meanwhile, a rain storm came through and afterwards I see a post from one of our students, Olivia. She took a picture of a rainbow that shone near Music Makers and said, “Ms. Karen came to visit Music Makers in the form of a rainbow!

So fitting. I see it as a sign from God that even with mom not here he is still watching over us.


I keep working on this slideshow of mom. It takes a lot of time.


Earlier today Frank Mihlon, a parent of two of our students and doctor who kept close watch on my mom’s cancer battle, put up a fundraiser thing on Facebook to raise $2,000 to help costs of the funeral/cremation and so forth. Before nighttime even hits people donated way more than expected. It’s not even about the money. It’s just the outpouring of love and support that feels so awesome.


Later on, Ana arrives home with a dinner idea: Fresh Tomato Soup with Peas, Kale, and a Baguette. We work together to get the meal done. Watching a Prank Encounters episode together.


I decide to pack Christmas away – taking down the Christmas tree on the table and other things we had out.


At Music Makers playing some music – trying to brainstorm some things to play at mom’s funeral.



Sleep at some point. Ana and I have started this ritual of praying with each other every night. It’s a way to reflect and keep our minds at peace.

Monday January 6 2020


At 10:34 a.m. Wanda comes to the house to wake me up. My mom passed on from this earth at 5 in the morning. Ana and I arise and take in what just happened. I knew it was gonna happen after I saw her last night. She was absolutely ready to leave this earth. I’m so glad I got the opportunity to exchange one last I love you with her before she drifted off into sleep.


Oatmeal with Cinnamon, Blueberries, Maple Syrup, and Almond Milk. English Breakfast Tea.


Composing a public post on Facebook so everybody knows what happened. Of course, it’s blowing up the internet. So many people out there are concerned and giving their condolences. There are a lot of great words of encouragement.

I love the way my friend Rocky explained the situation, “Today, you lost your mother in her temporal body, but in doing so, you have gained an ancestor whose entire being, as here on earth and now in heaven, was made to love and guide you. Her physical presence is gone and is reclaimed by the earth, but her spirit is with you always, loving you, nurturing you, and guiding you into your next steps. The bond you have can never be broken because it is a bond of unconditional love. Always remember that you were her masterpiece here on earth.


Organizing ideas for the memorial service this weekend.


I found Elvis lying in mom’s recliner chair. He’s right on top of her purse as if on purpose – his way of honoring and paying his respects to her.


At Music Makers for a little while. Kay is here helping take payments and watching the front desk. I print out some flyers to invite everyone to the service and take down the Christmas decorations.


Ana got off work extra early cause she couldn’t handle being there today.


We take care of some chores. I go on a hunt to figure out my mom’s mother’s maiden name cause I need to have accurate info for mom’s death certificate. I happen across quite a few things in one of her file boxes, one including a letter drawn in crayon from when I was a kid, another of my first piano recital program, and my dad and her’s marriage certificate which has all the names and information I need.


Ana and I decide to go out for dinner so we don’t have to cook. At Old Beach Tavern eating a Crab Cake Sandwich with Fries and a Stella.


Sunday January 5 2020

Waking up at 11 a.m. next to Ana.


We head to Three Ships for Biscuits and Coffee. Mom is still on our minds and hearts but we feel at peace. She still hasn’t left us yet.


I received a text from Wanda that mom woke up at 6:45 in the morning, saw Karen Iverson and Wanda and said, “What the heck! I thought I’d be in heaven!”


I take the afternoon off to catch up on business and communications with people.


Scrambled Eggs. Toast with Vegan Cream Cheese. Salt n Vinegar Chips with Avocado. English Breakfast Tea.

Watching The Aeronauts (2019).


Composing a letter to be read at mom’s memorial.


Later on in the evening, I decide to go to the hospice to see mom. She’s awake and feeling restless – constantly wanting to sit up and scratching. The nurses come in often to help situate her and give her things to help with the itching or pain. I’m able to have a few more moments with her. I know she was upset to still be here this morning because she was ready. I play a little piano while she rests. Telling her I love you and anything else to help her feel at ease. The whole thing is still surreal but I still feel peace.

At some point I feed a small bite of a muffin that Ana’s mom brought. She saw the box of them and said she wanted it. The nurse came in and I explained that I was able to give her a bite.

“A pinch,” my mom corrects.

“That’s right. A pinch,” I say.

It’s funny cause we always joked about that at the house. There were many times she wanted to try whatever it was being eaten. She’d say she just wanted a pinch.


While driving away I put on this Helen Reddy song she used to sing when she was in the family band way back when, “Keep On Singing”. It’s just another trigger cause when I start singing the chorus it grips me and I can’t help but cry. I remember singing this song with her a long time ago at a gig.


Back home. Cooking dinner: Smoked Salmon with Sugar Snap Peas, Carrots, Kale, and Quinoa.


Settling down. Ana gets off work. I update her about mom. It’s getting really close. She’s experiencing anger about the whole thing. We sort through our feelings...




Saturday January 4 2020


Waking up at 10:45 a.m.


Granola Cereal with Strawberries and Almond Milk.


Going directly to the hospice to visit mom. She’s actually been sleeping heavily all morning and afternoon. Dad’s here. All kinds of people showed up earlier including John and Cindy (old friends of my dad and mom’s) and Jimmy Napier (my mom’s first husband). She’s leaned over snoring sweetly every time she takes a breath.


I have to head over to The Sandler Center to set up for the big show tonight. DEJA and friends perform Pink Floyd’s The Wall, where we show the movie on a big projection screen and play the soundtrack live. This time we’ve got local all-star musicians guest starring on the stage to do solos and such. My head isn’t in a good space but I have to push through.


After sound check I head right back over to the hospice. Karen Iverson is here with a few other friends. Dad of course is still here. Now mom is awake and some of her funny personality is back. But it’s apparent the decline I’ve noticed day to day since she’s been here – her eyes glassy – slow formulated words and phrases. Somehow her true self still shines through cause really she gets energized from people. I stay for a little while but then I have to go. Hugging her at the bedside – and of course every time I start crying.

“That’s her baby boy,” someone says.


Back at the theater I get dressed in my black concert attire – wearing the black western shirt with the roses. Chowing down on some Vegetable Fried Rice I got from near the hospice. I gotta get my head right and focused for the show. The theater is a packed house. As we’re performing there are some great musical and emotional moments, some of the mother related themes feel relevant to me. It turns out to be a successful night. Ana and Amelia were in the audience along with other friends.



Ana and I ride back over to hospice again. Karen Iverson is here. They leave the room at some point so mom and I can have a moment.

“You made a beautiful life for me,” I tell her. “So many great memories.”


“We’re gonna get a house soon. And I’m gonna plant a tree for you,” I say.

“Wow,” she hoarsely says, a word she’s known to use frequently.

“So I can show your grandchildren what a beautiful person you were.”

We start weeping together.


“I gotta get up,” she starts exclaiming in her whispering voice. “I gotta get up to heaven.”

“I know,” I tell her.

Later on, she requests Wanda to join us. We had to call her and get her out of bed. It was really important for her cause she keeps saying, “I don’t know how much longer I have.

So we’re all here now. Basically, we give her permission to leave whenever she’s ready and that everything has been taken care of. It’s a sad but wonderful moment of peace. Karen Iverson prays with Ana. Mom always cared about Ana and her healing. And I know to see that in front of her eyes really warmed her heart.

“You can feel the love can’t you?” I ask.



Karen Iverson asks mom what she would like to tell us to be more ready for times like this.

“Be ready,” she says. “And love people.”

We finally get her to lie back when she sleeps so her neck doesn’t ache. I hug her another time – it could be the last but it might not. We’ll know tomorrow.


Friday January 3 2020

Waking up at 10:45 a.m.


Oatmeal with Cinnamon, Blueberries, Maple Syrup, and Almond Milk. Irish Breakfast Tea.


Dad meets me at the house. We hop in mom’s truck and run some errands – grabbing water from Whole Foods and a few things at Trader Joe’s (saying hi to Ana). Mom’s been having a busy morning of visitors so we decide to take our time getting there. Stopping by the Sandler Center where the DEJA peeps are setting up for the big Wall show tomorrow. I need to transfer some movie files from Anne’s computer. Then, we grab a quick bite at Shake Shack.


At the hospice visiting mom. Ken, Austin, and Cindy are here. Ken plays The Beatles song, “In My Life”, and it just moves me. I’ve noticed certain lyrics or things people say trigger an emotional response that can’t be ignored. At some point Addy shows up with the violin. And of course we start playing beautiful music for mom, filling the room up with an energy that cannot be described. Pastor Rick and Diana show up and help guide us in a few hymns like “I’ll Fly Away” and “How Great Thou Art”. In between the nurses and other people show up. Ken points out it’s like a sitcom. I’m so grateful she gets the opportunity to feel all this love and support from people before she leaves us.


Mom tries to explain after a song or two that Wayne fell in love with her cause of her voice.

Dad laughs and responds, “Not just for that.”

“Oh it was the cookin’!” I add.


Pastor Rick, dad, and I go into the chapel room and discuss things regarding the memorial service. It’s important we take care of these things now before we have to concern ourselves with it during the grieving process. Pastor is always so comforting and assures me I have nothing to worry about and that the church will handle everything. He explains how he lost his mother back in 2003 – how it made him feel like a little boy again during that whole process but in the years to come afterwards he felt a sudden surge of strength and it made him a better man and a better pastor.


Back in mom’s hospice room. Aunt Pansy and Peter show up and mom’s longtime friend, Lynn. Then, Josiah and Bianca appear. Josiah is prepared to play a song for her, a hymn that George Harrison wrote. He even passes out lyric sheets to everyone to sing along. At the end mom raises her hands up as if she were in church surrendering.


At some point everyone departs. Lynn decides to spend the night and stay with her. Before I leave I give mom one last embrace (for the night). I can’t help but start weeping again in her arms. She immediately responds with the kind of crying only a mother can do.


Back home. Having some leftovers for dinner with Ana.


Figuring some slideshow problems for the show tomorrow.


Playing piano at the studio. It’s been a long day.


Thursday January 2 2020


Waking up at 10:30 a.m.


Bowl of Granola Cereal with Almond Milk. English Breakfast Tea.


We head over to visit mom at the hospice center. Once again she’s got a crowd of people surrounding her. It’s like a party in here. Kevin and Stacy show up again. This time Kevin and I play a few duets on violin and guitar. I play one of the original songs we came up with many years ago. Filling the whole room up with beautiful music as she closes her eyes and shows a smile of peace.




Ana’s mom brought her shrimp and crawfish. She really wanted crab legs but this was our best bet. Lately, mom’s been eating whatever and anything she wants. I’m really glad she’s able to enjoy flavors and taste.



At some point I create a private moment between my dad, mom, and I. We sit on either side of the bed. I just wanted to have a conversation with the three of us.

“I’m just so grateful…” I start to say but before I can even finish I start crying.

“It’s okay,” my dad says. “It’s okay to cry.”

He walks over and comforts me while I keep my head leaned into my mom’s arms.

Dad asks mom for forgiveness for things. It’s a beautiful moment of love and acceptance. We talk about the first time they met back in 1980, a monumental moment that was the first step to my existence. They met at a club inside a Holiday Inn off Military Highway in Portsmouth. They witnessed some guy walk right into the double glass doors and that sparked a conversation between the two of them. Wow, I think. What if this guy was careful and watched where he was going or maybe didn’t drink too much that night. My parents would’ve never met.


My dad and I leave around 4 and grab something to eat at No Frill Grill. I order the Fish n’ Chips. We talk a lot about everything and what he had to go through when Grandma Smith died many years ago.


At Music Makers for a few lessons. I felt the need to be here despite all that’s going on. Sometimes it’s good to stay busy a little and get a bit of a distraction. After everybody leaves I start closing up. Of course I start feeling a little empty cause of mom. Her mark of love is all over this place. She was a huge part of what made Music Makers warm and inviting and feeling like another home. I start contacting a few people I needed to tell about her. When I start texting Jimmy, my stepdad who’s in Florida, I can’t even finish the text before I start weeping. I have to keep pulling myself together cause the whole day I’ve stayed on the verge of crying.


I’m summoned back to the hospice upon mom’s request. She has a few other people around visiting. Melanie and her son Luke and Sam. Karen Iverson and her daughter Madelaine (a cancer survivor who knows all too well about this situation). I sit on the piano and pluck the keys again. A friend of Madelaine’s comes in who sits with mom speaking all kinds of inspiration and praying with her. It feels like we’re in church as I continue the soft keyboard music in the background.



Back home. Sleep early at 2 a.m.

Wednesday January 1 2020

Waking up at 10:45 a.m.


Oatmeal with Cinnamon, Strawberries, Maple Syrup, and Almond Milk. English Breakfast Tea.


Ana and I gear up to see mom at the hospice, her first day there really. As soon as we walk in there’s a gathering of people – Ana’s mom, husband, Jeremy, and my dad (he drove all the way up from Goldsboro to see her). There’s so much more life in her face today it’s crazy different. Her voice is audible and she’s being herself with all her humor intact. Also, she’s been eating a lot of real food and not having an issue swallowing as much.



We experience a lot of heartfelt moments of crying, laughter, and reminiscing. I brought some old photos to share and bring up memories.

Sometimes I sit here and think of all the beautiful memories I have,” she says in slow increments.


Dad, Ana, and I go to Panera Bread to use up one these gift cards I have and bring back a late lunch: Tuna Salad Sandwich with Tomato Soup and Baguette. We brought mom something too. We continue spending time with her and many other people pop in to visit. I set up one of the pianos and serenade mom while she rests.


Back home with Ana. We settle in and take care of ourselves. Eating some leftovers for dinner.



My mind continues to be burdened with heavy thoughts about mom.


Sleep early on around 2:30 a.m.

Tuesday December 31 2019


Waking up at 10:40 a.m. I tried sleeping more but my heart is heavy.


Steel Cut Oatmeal with Cinnamon, Blueberries, Maple Syrup, and Almond Milk. English Breakfast Tea.


Composing a public Facebook post to update everyone on what’s happening with my mom. She has 72 hours to a week, at least that’s what the nurses and doctors are saying. It hits me hard but I try to stay strong.


I head over to the hospital to speak with Janet from Hospice Care. We sit in a waiting room discussing the plan to get her over to hospice tonight so she can be comfortable. Even though the nurses and everyone are taking care of her at the hospital it will be a much better situation for her to be at hospice.


I stay by her side as much as possible. We exchange about a thousand I love you’s back and forth. I can’t hold back the tears anymore. I break down a few times in her arms. She can barely speak audibly without gurgling. Even though I’ve said everything I wanted to say to her in the Christmas card and in person I still feel like there is more I want her to know. I gotta leave at some point and let the transport team arrive to do their thing.


Back home. Trying to eat lunch: Bagel, Scrambled Egg, Salt n Vinegar Chips, and Coffee.


I’ve got other things I need to take care of but it’s hard to keep my mind off this. At some point amidst roaming about the house I kneel down at the steps and can’t stop whimpering and crying. Elvis happens to be near and notices the strange sounds I’m making. He’s probably never seen me cry before.


After Ana gets off work we eat a quick dinner and head to the hospice center off Rosemont to see mom. She’s sound asleep. We organize all the things in her bags from where they moved her – setting up decorations on the table with pictures of my late sister Dana, me, Ana, Christmas cards, and flowers. When she wakes up she puts on a big smile and admires it. It’s still really hard for her to speak but we help tend to her needs and get familiar with the nurses there. It’s not much different than the hospital except it’s not noisy and there’s a lot more space in the room for guests.


I brought more homemade Jello for her. For some reason she really craves this – I think it’s cause she hasn’t eaten all day. We wish her a happy new year and let her rest for the night.


Ana and I then head off to Toast in Norfolk to socialize and celebrate the big 2020 moment over sweet Toast plates and champagne. It’s actually kind of nice to be around this atmosphere for a change and help distract from the looming things in my head.



Sleep 2:30 a.m.

Monday December 30 2019


Waking up off and on throughout the morning but officially at 11:37 a.m.


Oatmeal with Cinnamon, Blueberries, Maple Syrup, and Almond Milk. English Breakfast Tea.


Catching up on business.


It’s 67 degrees out! So Ana and I grab a few basketballs and shoot around at the courts next to Lynnhaven Middle School.


Scrambled Eggs. Blueberry Bagel with Vegan Cream Cheese. Corn Tortilla Chips with Guac. Spinach. Coffee.


Teaching lessons at Music Makers. We had quite a few cancelations today so I hold it down at the front desk.


Immediately after I get off work I head over to the hospital to see mom. Pastor Rick, Wanda, Lisa, and Bobby Sturgis are there all in those throw away gowns. Pastor prays over my mom – they must’ve been here for some time beforehand.


After they leave I talk with mom. She’s had a few moments over the weekend where she felt really sick and in a lot of pain, so much that she felt it was time for her to go.

“I’m not gonna make it. I don’t think I’m gonna make it,” she says to me as I lean over the railing and look at the sadness in her face.  

Over the past few months I’ve had moments where it hits me like a ton of bricks, just the thought. I hate to hear her say that now. But we’re probably gonna be transferring her to hospice care tomorrow. I hope to God some miracle might happen and the mass in her adrenal gland might go away. But also I don’t want her to suffer anymore. This is so hard for me and I know for all the people close to her.


Picking up some dinner from Aloha Snacks: a Chicken Sandwich with Fries. I don’t really have much of an appetite but I need to eat.


At home – doing chores – dishes – laundry.



Making mom some homemade Jell-O. She kept talking about wanting some. So I buy some gelatin and some fruit juices and whip it up. Delivering it to her later on in the night. She’s thrilled!


Sleep 4 a.m.

Sunday December 29 2019

Waking up around noon.


Ana and I do our Sunday tradition and enjoy Biscuits, Pastries, and Coffee at Three Ships. We run into Dariel and Zack.


Helping Ana change a brake light bulb and replace her windshield wiper blades. 


Catching up on business.


Scrambled Eggs. Spinach. Toast with Vegan Cream Cheese. English Breakfast Tea.

Watching The Informer (2019).


It’s the final rehearsal for The Wall. The room is packed to the brim with the core band and guest superstar musicians – there’s almost 13 people in this room at once.


Back home. Warming up dinner: leftover Vegetable Soup with Rice and Bread.


At the studio organizing things and playing piano. It’s nice to just play music without any responsibility looming over my head.



Sleep 4:00 a.m. next to Ana.

Saturday December 28 2019


Waking up at 11:37 a.m.


Oatmeal with Cinnamon, Strawberries, Maple Syrup, and Almond Milk. English Breakfast Tea.


I’ve got the whole day off and I’m gonna do whatever I want.


Playing a couple rounds of DOOM on my computer.


Running errands.


Scrambled Eggs. Toast with Vegan Cream Cheese and Jam. Salt n Vinegar Chips. Coffee. Spinach.

Watching The Informer (2019).


Doing chores around the house.




Taking apart my laptop so I can clean out the dust and troubleshoot why my audio jack only produces right speaker sound. Learned a lot about how to unscrew everything and take off the back panel.


Cooking dinner for Ana and I: Brown Rice Quinoa Spaghetti Noodles with Mushrooms, Peppers, Onions, Broccoli, and Sourdough Baguette.


Visiting mom at the hospital.



Hanging with Ana. Not doing much for a change. No pressure to practice for shows or be responsible for anything.


Sleep 4:30 a.m.

Friday December 27 2019


Waking up at 11 a.m.


Oatmeal with Cinnamon, Strawberries, Maple Syrup, and Almond Milk. English Breakfast Tea.


At the Princess Anne Rec. They got only one court running full games. I’m on the wait list but I manage to get in a few 4-on-4 games on the other side.


Scrambled Eggs. Toast with Butter and Jam. Salt n Vinegar Chips with Avocado. Spinach. Coffee.

Watching iBoy (2017).


Catching up on business.


Running errands. They got the recycling center area blocked off with cones, I guess because they thought there would be an overload of stuff from Christmas. I did haul all my recycle bins for no reason. So I park on the side of the ride and walk a ways to make it happen.


Visiting mom at the hospital. She seems to be in ten times better today – her voice much more audible – her familiar humor is back – she’s even eating. She tells me how early this morning she heard something in her ear like death was calling or the word “fear”. She refused it. It’s hard to explain how she explained it. My mom is always experiencing the supernatural.


I leave early enough to pick up Ana from the house and for us to go out to dinner. We hit up Gringo’s, our favorite taco spot then Lolly’s drive thru for ice cream. It’s a great bonding time for us.


Back home. Vacuuming and doing chores. Meanwhile, Ana experiments with her new magic rainbow guitar pedal I got her for Christmas.



Sleep 3:30 a.m.

Thursday December 26 2019

Waking up at 11:07 a.m.


Granola Cereal with Almond Milk and Strawberries.


At the Great Neck Rec stretching out and shooting the basketball around. It feels good to move my legs around.


Scrambled Eggs. Kale and Spinach. Toast with Butter and Jam. Coffee.

Watching iBoy (2017).


Teaching lessons at Music Makers.


Enjoying leftover Soup with Ana for dinner.


Visiting mom at the hospital. Her left arm/hand/leg/foot has been swelling more and more lately. They think it has something to do with her kidney levels from the antibiotics. Things seem to be okay other than that but it’s always a big question mark every day for her. She says she gets scared at night when no one she knows is there. I tell her she’s in good hands.


Back home. Ana’s cleaning out her room. I do some dishes and other chores.


We decide to bond over some old video games on my computer.



Sleep 3 a.m.

Wednesday December 25 2019


Waking up after noon.


Oatmeal with Cinnamon, Strawberries, Maple Syrup, and Almond Milk. English Breakfast Tea.


Helping Ana do things in the kitchen. She’s baking banana bread and cooking soup. I put on some gloves and take on the dishwasher role.


Piling up the car with Trader Joe’s bags and crates filled with gifts. Driving to Norfolk to her mom’s house. They’re having a little family get-together. Enjoying plates of Thanksgiving style food along with Ana’s homemade soup, banana bread, and chocolate chip cookies. A Christmas Story (1983) playing on the big screen. At some point we’re all in the karaoke room singing with her brothers. Exchanging gifts. I got a few appropriate gifts like a piano floor mat, a pair of socks with Elvis’s face on it, and slippers. I got Ana that rainbow guitar pedal she wanted for so long now.



Now, at the hospital visiting with mom. She’s got a little mini Christmas tree sitting over on a table with a few small gifts and cards for Ana and I. She seems to be doing a lot better today.



We decide to hit the bed early after 2 a.m.

Tuesday December 24 2019


Waking up around noon. I had some pretty stressful dreams involving technical difficulties on stage. Woke up with sweaty legs.


Leftover Blueberry Pancake. English Breakfast Tea.


Catching up on business and chores.


Scrambled Eggs. Bagel with Vegan Cream Cheese. Potato Chips. Coffee.

Watching Don’t F**k With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer (2019).


Wrapping presents and composing Christmas cards. The ones for my mom and Ana take the longest time cause they have to be extra special. I find a few postcards with painted flowers on them to use as the card covers then draw special designs.



After Ana gets off work we have dinner together: Black Beans with Mushrooms, Onions, Kale, Carrots, and Rice.


Then, visiting mom at the hospital. There’s always so much going on amongst the nurses and us in order to take care of all these small things for her. She doesn’t seem very comfortable tonight. But eventually we’re able to share cards with each other.


Back home. We do things in the kitchen. Enjoying our hot cocoa, which involves melting a snowman in our mugs. Snacking on Popcorn and enjoying a movie together. Finally getting to see Joker (2019). Meanwhile, Elvis cuddles amongst our laps.



Sleep past 4 a.m.

Monday December 23 2019

Waking up at 11 a.m.


Oatmeal with Cinnamon, Blueberries, Maple Syrup, and Almond Milk. English Breakfast Tea.


Early in the morning mom was struggling in pain at the hospital. She texted me. I get ready and visit with her. I brought a few Christmas cards for her that came in the mail. Her voice seems to be better and more audible today. This whole thing is a question mark as to whether or not she will live on. It’s understood that the cancer has really become metastatic, meaning it keeps appearing in many places, mainly in her neck and the adrenal gland. Now they’re saying it might be entering her lungs. She’s still in good spirits and has an overall sense of readiness to leave this earth. For me it just feels like a shock. We already knew to plan on it happening but we always keep hope alive. I just wish a miracle would manifest itself.


I drive on home after picking up a few bagels. Dealing with Christmas traffic in Hilltop as this heaviness of everything stays with me.


Catching up on business.


Scrambled Eggs. Bagel with Vegan Cream Cheese. Potato Chips with Avocado. Coffee.


Teaching lessons at Music Makers. It’s almost just a normal Monday here at the studio but a little shorter lesson schedule.


Black Beans with Carrots, Onions, Mushrooms, Broccoli, and Rice.


Back at the hospital spending some quality time with mom – helping her organize the room – sharing some more Christmas cards – talking. I feel much better after this session with her.


Back home. Orange Juice.



Sleep 4 a.m.

Sunday December 22 2019


Waking up at 11:41 a.m. from heavy dreams.


Ana and I make Blueberry Pancakes together with Coffee for breakfast.


I get ready for the day. Heading out to the storage unit in Norfolk meeting up with Josiah and Bobby to practice our acoustic Ladada set.


At The Good Theater at ODU sound checking and hanging out with Starcoast and Mae backstage. Bobby, Bianca, and I pick up some pizzas from Del Vecchios down the street.


It is definitely a special kind of show tonight. Now we, Ladada, can check off “acoustic set” on our list. At least we know we can make this happen anytime we want. Later on, hanging with Aaron, Chris, Tristan, and whoever watching Mae’s acoustic set making me feel all nostalgic and bringing back memories.




Later on, back at the house. Recuperating with Ana about the day’s activities. She vents to me about the woes of her job getting really upset about it. It’s really hard on her sometimes.


Sleep 4 a.m.

[i] Some Photos by Joe Justice.