Remembering My Mother: Celebrating Every Human Life

Opinion   |   Maria Vitale   |   Dec 2, 2011   |   11:27AM   |   Harrisburg, PA

The call came on September 19th. It was true that I had been expecting “the call” for some time.

Anyone who has ever been witness to the serious illness of a loved one knows about “the call.” It’s the call you receive from the hospice nurse or from the hospital worker, signaling that the end has come.

My mother had been transported to a local hospital via ambulance in July, after her car ran out of gas in a suburb near her home. She was dehydrated, weak, and disoriented, and the guardian angels who had stopped to help determined that she needed medical assistance. I was far away in another state—the initial call had come from a police officer, giving me the name of the hospital.

My mother, a baby of the Great Depression, seemed to rally in the hospital, but more problems lay ahead. The doctors suspected that a tumor was growing inside her bladder. She was too weak at that point to undergo further testing, and so she was sent to a nursing home to help regain her strength. At 79 pounds, she faced a steep uphill climb.

The nursing home turned out to be an unexpectedly hopeful place, and she courageously underwent physical therapy with the feistiness she was known for. Perhaps she could recover, I thought as I left her bedside.

Then came a trip to the hospital emergency room and intensive care unit, when her bleeding had become profuse. She did not want a biopsy or an ultrasound—she knew instinctively that the end was near. A new group of guardian angels were sent in under the umbrella of hospice care, after a nurse practitioner at the nursing home told me my mother would die within the year.

Intellectually, I understood the gravity of the situation, and made preparations. I instructed hospice to call in a priest to offer the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. A hospice nurse told me in a few days she expected my mother to be on her way to heaven.

So I should have been prepared when I received “the call.” But the fact is, the arrow of pain that shot through my heart upon learning of my mother’s death was excruciating. I will never forget the moment, knowing that I had lost her.

Which only proves the point that I try to make everyday in my work at the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation: life is precious—every single life. Much of my mother’s work was hidden from the world, as it dealt with the drudgeries of feeding, clothing, and raising her girls and maintaining the office at the carpet store where she worked for 20 years. No Grammys or Academy Awards for my mother, yet she certainly was the star of the show in our home.

When my father was in ICU, my mother received “the call.” I couldn’t quite understand her sense of dread, but I had her around to cushion the blow of my father’s death. When “the call” came for my mother, I could no longer rely on her comforting words for sustenance.

My faith gives me the profound and enduring hope that my mother is now in a better place, and I am relieved that her earthly suffering is over. But there is now a hole in my heart that cannot be filled in this life.

Every life should be a celebration, and every death marked as a tragedy. Each man or woman, no matter what age or stage of life, has an inherent God-given dignity that can never be taken away. This is why abortion is so utterly wrong—it strikes at the heart of our humanity.

In honor of my mother, I will continue to work to rid the world of this horrible wrong—until my own “call” comes and God calls me to my true home. Note: Maria Vitale is an opinion columnist for She is the Public Relations Director for the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation and Vitale has written and reported for various broadcast and print media outlets, including National Public Radio, CBS Radio, and AP Radio.