Monday, February 14, 2011

Goodbye to my mom

It’s 4:30 am and I am sitting next to my mom, as she slowly slips away from this life and into possibly yet another one. Normally my blog is focused solely on photographs, but this entry is dedicated to my mother. On Monday, she went in for a routine operation, although not trivial, but due to complications, she had some major setbacks. After a failed attempt to repair the damage with a second more invasive surgery, and with yet another major surgery and a long grueling recovery ahead of her, she decided that she had enough. With tubes protruding from all different places in her body, including multiple tubes from her nose and mouth, we explained the situation to her. When told about the potential surgery she shook her head to say no and she used her hand, tracing letters on my hand to spell “I want to die” and later she repeatedly wrote the word “Now”. She was a very strong woman with conviction. She knew what she wanted and there was no other way.

The graduation picture of my mother, Betty Cable

My mother was a hell of a woman. She had the gift of gab and bestowed that upon me. My mom would talk to just about anyone, sometimes embarrassing us all. But her outgoing attitude drew people together.

She loved all things that were, as she called it, “culture”. In her life, there was nothing better than fine food, fine wine and the fine arts. She had an unwavering passion for the opera. When we were younger, we would often come back into the house on Saturday mornings to hear the opera of the week blaring on the radio. Us teenagers would roll our eyes and crack jokes about the fat opera singers screaming at the top of their lungs, all while covering our ears. But we all enjoyed the music coming from the CD player in the hospital room, as mom listened to her favorite opera during her last hours.

My proud mother with her 3 kids. Suzanne on the left, David in the middle, and me on the right.

In her younger days, she spent just about every day on the tennis courts. I think she taught me how to swing a racket just about the same time that I learned to walk, and for many many years we would walk down to the local courts and play. I still remember the first time that I legitimately beat her. Was she upset? Nope. She was so proud that her son had excelled at the game and was surpassing her. And she was happy to have me as a doubles partner.

Now, so many years have passed. I haven’t picked up a tennis racket in a long time and she was forced to stop playing due to a bad back. But mom missed her tennis too much and, while wearing her back brace, she took up ping pong. But mom’s passion for fine food, playing bridge and the arts never wavered, Although we enjoyed very different kinds of arts, with mom favoring opera, ballet, and museum visits, and me preferring rock concerts and ice hockey, it was my mom who taught me the passion for music and the arts.

My mother with her 4 grandchildren

My mom was thrifty. Most people who knew her would try to get her to spend her money, but she was the person who insisted on taking the bus when everyone else was hailing a cab. I remember one time when she wanted to take my kids to ice cream in San Francisco, and she pushed for us to get the ice cream cones at Rite Aid because it was a better deal than Ghirardelli Square. The grandkids had another idea. But, at the same time, mom could be unbelievably generous and take the entire family to Club Med or on cruises to Alaska and Mexico. That was her way to get the whole family together and have meals with us each day. Great plan mom!

The whole family (before my sister was married) before a formal dinner on our Alaskan cruise in 2006.

Mom was a latecomer to the Internet and the computer world, but, surprising many of her family and friends, she learned how to use her Mac and loved emailing people. My grandfather used to love mailing us jokes that he typed on his old typewriter, and mom followed her father’s love of joke telling, using email to forward her favorites. She was also one of my most avid readers of my blog and would call me many times to comment on the latest post or ask when the next one would be written.

Here are the 4 grandchildren showing how much taller they had gotten and how short my mother had become (due to her osteoporosis).

For as many years as I can remember, mom would always say “There is nothing that makes me happier than having my whole family together”, and as we all watch her slip away from us, we are all here together, together for her.

Mom, we will miss you more than you know. I hope that you have Internet access wherever you are. I look forward to your comments about this entry.

My mother never liked herself in any of her pictures, but once in a while I would capture one that she really liked. This is one of those images. I took this only 3 months ago while on board our cruise to Mexico. She looks so beautiful and so happy. This image is the way that I want to remember my mom. 

(As a photographer, I sometimes forget the power of the images that I am taking, and the fact that I am capturing history with my cameras. This single image will always remind me of that fact.)

My mother passed away at 6:35am on Sunday morning and we already miss her too much!


-april said...

I'm so sorry for your loss.

Unknown said...

Wonderful tribute!

Unknown said...

Jeff, I am sorry for your grief and send my condolences. She indeed sounds like she was a strong woman. All the love to ya. Joe N.

Glenn Tokunaga said...

This is a very touching tribute, Jeff. I'm very glad to have had the privilege of knowing your mother all these years and I will miss her greatly.

Craig B said...

Very beautiful tribute! She sounds like a wonderful person. I am very sorry for your loss.

Roger said...

Jeff, This is a truly heart-felt tribute. I offer my sincerest condolences to you and your family.

I'm glad your Mom provided you with such rich and joyful memories. As you mourn her loss, continue to celebrate all that she stood for and gave to you and your family. God Bless you all.


Bigfreezer said...


I am sorry to read of your loss. This was a beautiful prose that will stand as a wonderful way for those who didn't know your mother to be introduced to such an important person your life.

Michael Battat said...


Your mom was amazing in so many ways. She was strong, adventuresome, and very much in love with all of you. She was proud of all of you.

Aunt Betty was always interested in our family as well as yours, and was always finding out what was new with us and sharing the latest about you.

I know how close our moms were, and I know how much mine misses her friend. Betty was always ready to be on the go. I'm sorry that this is her last trip, and I am sorry for your loss.

Much love to you, your siblings, and your families.

--Michael Battat

Unknown said...

Very sorry to read this, but what a great tribute to your mom. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.
-Mike Nyland

Bob Ray said...

There are no words to console, no manner to express the infinity of loss that surrounds you at this moment.

I know this moment all too well and wish there was some way to direct some of your pain and sorrow to my shoulders.

It's important to realize that you have moments with your mom, not only in your memory but also those captured by your camera. As you've realized, your photography is another gift from your mom: your artistic talents which trace back to her introducing you to the arts in your childhood.

We come into this life with nothing and hope, while we're here, to leave an imprint for remembrance beyond our time. You are part of her imprint, Jeff, and with every image you capture - each time you raise your camera to look through its viewfinder - know that your Mom is at your side, smiling at the bloom on her rose that she brought forth and nurtured along your way.

We are who we are from those in our lives that create, mold and protect us as we make our way along the path. And along our way, we lose the company of those who set us on our path, though they leave us confident that we are headed in the right direction.

Still your presence, your talents, your memories are confirmations that you mom is always with you, beyond your view but still at your side; now just along for the ride.

Do take these thoughts into today and the tomorrows to come. They have given me comfort for many years as I hope sharing them now does for you ...

bob ray

Unknown said...

Jeff, I am extremely sorry for your loss and send my condolenses as well to you and your family. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. - Jerry

Jeff Cable Photography Blog said...

To all of you who have written to me (here and on email), thank you so much for your sympathy and kind words. It really does help to have so much support from friends, family and even those who I don't know very well. Thank you again from myself and the rest of the Cable family.

Deb said...

Dear Jeff (& your family),
the phone just rang 10:15 EST and my mom, Ethel Moore, just told me of your mom's passing and wanted me to look up your blog. Unlike your mom, my mom's not very computer savvy so I'm am surprised she got it right, but she wanted to get the details on her dear friend. It is nice to find such a wonderful blog to honor Betty. Your mom was one remarkable woman and lives on in your memories and your existence. Our deepest symmpathies go out to you and your family.
Fondly, Debbie Moore Goldfarb

Unknown said...


My thoughts have been with you and Dave and Sue as you move through this trying time. While my time was spent more around your mother Betty's children than herself, I know that Betty and Sheldon raised incredibly caring children for whom I've had the pleasure to have known for many years. My thoughts are with you all during this trying time. Through photos and words you've done a great thing in sharing your thoughts about one of the most loved members of your family.

Rick Mau and Family

Anonymous said...

Jeff, I'm very sorry for your loss and send my deepest sympathies to you and your family.

Your mom must be happy to have all of you around her during her final moments.

As a photographer, you absolutely got the talent on arts from your mom.

My prayers are with you.

- Joyce Wang

Wes said...

I am so very sorry for your loss Jeff. You are fortunate to have been by her side in her final hours. The memories that she has given you--that you now pass on to others is a testament to her spirit. My thoughts are with you and your family.

hillarah said...

jeff, what a lovely tribute to your mom. i am so sorry for your loss. she was one of my mom's dearest friends. and now your sweet sister sue and i are such dear friends, how lucky are we?
i loved the comment from your photographer friend bob ray, and will remember his words as i point my camera, as well.
here's my tribute to your mom, in case you'd like to see it:
sending you love and blessings, hillary

Craig Scibetta said...

That's a wonderful tribute to your mom. She was always very kind to me. I'm very sorry for your loss. Please extend my condolences to David and Suzy.

krob said...

What a wonderful tribute to your Mom. May your good memories never fade.

Unknown said...

Jeff: Your tribute was very touching about your mom. I know it is a very hard time, and this was not expected. It was good that you, Dave and Sue were present in her final hours.
Bonnie and I have known your mom for the last 15 years, and every time she visited Dave and Kathleen, she would come over to our house and visit. We loved to talk travel and cruises, which was her speciality.
We had the pleasure to visit her in San Francisco on new years eve, along with our son, who was on an overnight in the city. We had a good visit, and never would have thought her surgery would lead to this conclusion.
Our family cared for Betty very much, and will miss her.
Our prayers are with you and your entire family.
Bonnie and Carroll

McKell Prater said...

What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful lady. I'm sorry for your loss, but hope you & your family are doing well.

Jennifer Winch said...


You were our neighbors on San Andreas. I am so sorry to hear about your mother. Betty was such a vibrant personality, and a good friend of may parents.

My heart goes out to your and your family. I'm in shock.

Jennifer Winch

Eric Barth said...

Jeff, I'm so sorry for your loss. What a moving tribute you've crafted. My own mom is slowly losing her life to Alzheimer's and I take inspiration from the way you've told the story your mom's life and your relationship with her. It is very touching.

I'll look forward to seeing you in Las Vegas.

Your friend - Eric

Unknown said...


What an amazing and touching message. As a parent yourself, I'm sure you know how proud your mother must be of your talent, humor, caring, strength, and integrity. Nothing makes the passing of a parent easier, but what a beautiful thing that you and yours helped to make her going a thing of togetherness and solace -- exactly as I'm sure she would have wanted it. You are the living tribute to her greatness.

My condolences and best wishes,

William Van Winkle

Greg Lynn said...

Here we are some 35 years later and Jeff I still remember the Town School days and your Mom, putting up with all of us hyper energized kids and the golden retriever, and she was always a positive force keeping us out of trouble. So sorry to hear of her passing and sincere condolences to you and your entire family.
Greg Lynn