Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge

Today, April 21st, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge.

On this Tuesday, exactly three years after the passing of my dear mother, allow me to tell a story of one of her final hours…

“I don’t think I can go to work tonight,” she said.  I stared at my mom in disbelief, as she lay stretched out on her flowered couch.  It was Thursday, and this had been an unusually difficult day.  Mom had begun to struggle to breathe properly and spent her hours gripped by severe nausea.  The mere mention of her teaching her Early Childhood Education class tonight seemed so out of the question, it almost shocked me.

“Mom, of course you can’t go to work,” I said.  “You’re too sick.”

A beat passed, and I could tell mom was thinking about something.  “Then you’re going to have to go down there.  Tell them.  Tell my students I am sorry I can’t be there for them tonight.  Tell them they deserve better.  Would you do that, please?”  Her eyes seemed to plead with me.

“Of course, Mom.  I’ll go.  But I won’t tell them they deserve better because you already are the best.”

Fifteen minutes later, I entered the Maywood Park Educational Center.  After asking at the front desk, I located my mom’s classroom and opened the door.  Immediately, around fifteen Latina women turned to stare at me.  Expressions of worry and surprise blanketed their faces.  Do they know? I wondered.  I introduced myself and several of them rose to greet me.  One carried a large bouquet of flowers.  “She wanted me to tell you she is sorry she cannot be here tonight, and she will be back as soon as she can,” I announced with as much confidence as I could muster.  Another woman handed me a card, a card that appeared to have been signed by the entire class.  Her eyes met mine.

“Tell her we love her,” said the woman.


My mom never returned to teach her students.  Unbeknownst to all of us, the cancer had mercilessly advanced to a point beyond treatment. She passed away three years ago today.  The story of this final errand I did for my mother has always served as a poignant reminder to me of who she really was:  Dedicated.  Loving.  Generous.  Courageous.  Always thinking of others.  A truly special and amazing woman: Donna Rae Callaway Ball, 1942-2017.

Author: Lanny Ball

For more than 29 years, Lanny has taught, coached, presented, staff developed, and consulted within the exciting and enigmatic world of literacy. With unyielding passion and belief in the possibility of workshop teaching, Lanny has worked to support students, teachers, and school administrators around the country in outgrowing themselves as both writers and readers. Working first as a classroom teacher, then as a coach and TCRWP Staff Developer, Lanny is now a literacy specialist, working and living in the great state of Connecticut. Outside of literacy, he enjoys raising his three ambitious young daughters with his wife, and playing the piano. Find him on this blog, as well as on Twitter @LannyBall. Lanny is also a former co-author of a blog dedicated to supporting writing teachers and coaches that maintain classroom writing workshops, twowritingteachers.org.

9 thoughts on “Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge”

  1. This is beyond beautiful. I suppose you were the lucky one -the one who could deliver the message your mom wanted to send, to her class and maybe to the world. And that you could bring back to your mom the message of love that was waiting for her. I’m sorry she is gone,but you were clearly lucky to call this woman your mom.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Death and grief can be unbearable for us. Your mom, though, with her giving and loving nature, has given you a gift. As you commemorate this date, your memories of your mom’s courage and caring sustain you. I will be thinking of you today. Stay well.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is so beautiful, Lanny. It captures who your mother was – quite incredible and such a dedicated educator. I love how you closed with words that described her. This little story was so moving – her students with flowers and a card for her shows how important she was to them. A heartwarming tribute to your mom. You were blessed. I believe she was, too. Thanks for sharing this piece to carry into today and tomorrow.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. oh, Lanny. I am so happy that you were able to make that final errand for your mom. Her dedication to those students reminds me so much of you. I can picture all of it, your conversation, the trip to the school, the students reaction, and then the shock of finality. Those anniversaries stay with us, their silent call never silenced. Today, I wish you good memories of laughing and hugging.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Miss her every day and keep her picture to talk to in the kitchen…Smartest person and most talented..she never missed an opportunity to tell me she proud of her baby sister… I have one of her last letters I take out and read…..what a talent…what a sister and what a Mom.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a touching tribute to your Mother. She sounds like she was amazing and it sounds like she raised an incredible son. She will always live on in your heart.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Lanny … of course I could not know your mom but through this post I almost feel as if I do … those women, sending their love … your mother, determined to her last to pour herself out for others … I cannot help but love her, too.

    What amazing strength she had – I imagine she’s imparted it to her son, who misses her so. -Her gift.

    Hope your family is valiantly healing after Melon and in marking this anniversary – such beautiful remembrances.

    Liked by 1 person

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