ReasonForOurHope

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sunday Best: Ranking the DCEU Movies

I know that this listing overlaps a bit with my current ongoing countdown of greatest superhero movies of all time, but with the release of Justice League, I figured it would be a good time to see where we stand with the DC Extended Universe.

I think DC tried to kickstart the DCEU in 2011 with Green Lantern, which was supposed to be their Iron Man.  However, the official kick start of the DCEU is with Man of Steel in 2013.  Since then we have accumulated a total of 5 films in this shared universe. 

They are ranked here below.


5.  Suicide Squad

This was a bold choice for this franchise.  And the risk almost pays off.  The premise is unlike anything in the mainstream of super hero movies.  You had charismatic performances by Will Smith and Margot Robbie.  Heck, even the perennially unwatchable Jai Courtney was amazingly fun to watch.  But the movie suffers from three things:
a. a Joker performance that, while not terrible, suffers in comparison to Nicholson and Ledger
b. a incredibly uncompelling villain
c. a moral black hole in the middle of the movie from which the film never recovers.

This series could still come back, so I will be there for the sequel.

4. Wonder Woman

As super hero origin stories, this is one that was done right.  While it has familiar story beats to other films that have come before it, it feels epic and iconic.  I have seen so many comic book movies, but the No Man's Land scene might be one of my favorites of all time.  Wonder Woman is a fantastic hero whose strength and femininity, courage and innocence, are all wrapped together to make a great movie.

3.  Justice League
Justice League film poster.jpg
I will give my full review on this later.  But this film is the one that most mimics Marvel movies in tone and style.  This isn't a negative, but it also isn't necessarily a positive since I tend to like the DCEU over the MCU.  And this film suffers from another very uninteresting villain.  But the pure joy of watching my childhood super friends come together for the first time on screen... pure magic.


2.  Man of Steel

There are so many moments in this movie that still give me chills.  People knock on the movie for Superman not being the pillar of optimism and hope that he normally is.  But that was one of the things I loved about the movie.  Superman has to rise above the cynicism of the age that he was also raised in.  He is called to be more, to rise above.  And he does.  Even though he stumbles, he rises.

1.  Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

My love for this movie only grows and grows.  Zack Snyder fully committed to make a movie that used these iconic characters to explore deeper questions about life while still being focused on that iconography.  The movie, to my mind, is unappreciated genius.  I would have loved to have seen the full Snyder vision realized in Justice League, but I can still go back and watch the amazing second film in his DCEU trilogy and lose myself in it.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Film Flash: Justice League



15 words or less film review (full review to follow soon)

Marvel movie fans rejoice! DC finally made it's first Marvel movie



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image by Etoy Aqui




Thursday, November 16, 2017

Film Flash: Murder on the Orient Express



15 words or less film review (full review to follow soon)

Classic, old Hollywood style murder mystery. Branagh great director/Star
image by Yasir72.multan 




Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Film Flash: Thor - Ragnarok



15 words or less film review (full review to follow soon)

Full-out Marvel comedy with occasional action. Like a fortune cookie: irresistible as it is empty


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image by Yasir72.multan


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sunday Best: Super-Hero Movies of All Time #7 - Captain America: The Winter Soldier



I know it has been a few months since I visited this list, so here is a quick recap:


25.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
24.  Deadpool
23.  Avengers: Age of Ultron
22. Thor
21.  The Incredible Hulk
20.  The Crow
19.  Dredd
18.  Batman Begins
17. Batman
16. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
15. Spider-Man 2
14. The Dark Knight Rises
13. The Wolverine
12. X-Men: Days of Future Past
11.  Captain America: Civil War
10. Superman II
9.  The Incredibles
8.  Iron Man


Now, as this list began a number of months ago, it does not reflect the inclusion of:
Logan
Wonder Woman
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Spider-Man: Homecoming
Thor: Ragnarok
Justice League



So now we are at #7:



CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER



Now, some may object to this movie going in front of the original Iron Man on this list.  But I stand by my choice.  If we were ranking these movies by importance to the overall genre, Iron Man would trump Winter Soldier.  But just in terms of film quality, this Captain America movie is better.

It is important to remember at this point what a strange risk this film was in the series.  Captain America: The First Avenger was an enjoyable movie but didn't break through the way other comic films had.  Screen Junkies even joked in their Avengers honest trailer that of all of the heroes on the team, Steve Rogers was nobody's favorite.

But Winter Soldier changed all of that.

The departure in tone, story, and style from the first one is akin to Christopher Nolan's evolution from Batman Begins to The Dark Knight.  The original story was a nostalgic look at the past.  This second film was a fish-out-of-water story.  But whereas Steve's old-fashioned ways were more of a punchline in Avengers, they served as a moral compass to The Winter Soldier.

What amazed me about the story was how relevant it felt without feeling preachy.  We instictively feel that there has been erosion of values in our country, but it is hard to pinpoint where.  And what was more amazing was that Steve's insight did not come off as simplistic in the style of Pollyanna or Forrest Gump.  The solutions to the problems presented were bold, radical, and costly.  I was shocked at how this movie attempted to change the Marvel status quo by not compromising with corruption. 

From my original movie review:

I was not expecting this movie to be as good as it is.

The story takes place after the events of The Avengers.  Our title hero Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a leading operative for the uber-national defense agency SHIELD.  Having been displaced from his own era, he throws himself into his missions.  But when he begins to question the ethics of his assignments, tension mounts between SHIELD director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and his mission partner Natasha Romanov (Scarlett Johannson). 

Fury pushes Steve on his old fashioned ideas of freedom, by introducing him to Project Insight, an operation designed to analyze and neutralize threats around the world with brutal efficiency.  This sets off a chain of events that pulls Steve into a world of tension and intrigue where he does not know who to trust, whether it is Natasha, Fury's superior Secretary Alexander Pierce (a weathered, but potent Robert Redford, or even Fury himself.  This forces Captain America to go on the run from nefarious forces that send the mysterious assassin known as the Winter Soldier.

Directors Joe and Anthony Russo, who are probably most famous for their work on the show Community, knock this film out of the park.  They have a tight, taught thriller dressed up like a superhero film.  Once the first act takes off, the movie really doesn't let up.  Even when there isn't any visceral action, the Russos ratchet up the tension.   The movie is visually dynamic and is just a joy to watch.  The only major criticism I have is that, like most modern action directors, they are addicted to shakey-cam.  This shows a lack of confidence in the power of their action set pieces, which is unfortunate because those sequences are fantastic.

...

 Captain America is often dismissed as a slightly strong guy in a Star Spangled suit.  And to be sure the directors do an excellent job of making Cap's fighting prowess a fun visual spectacle.  But the movie wisely goes out of its way to point out how smart Steve Rogers is.  He isn't just a fighter, he is a leader and a strategist.  Evans does a great job of playing him as sincere but not naive.  He is an honest, earnest man who is not blind to the subterfuge of others.  Some of my favorite moments in the movie are when get into Steve's head and see what he sees.  This was especially fun right before one of my favorite sequences in the film, a knockdown elevator fight between Cap and 10 killers.

Evans embodies the character perfectly.  He has the physicality of a warrior, but he has the easily likable personality that people immediately become his friends, like veteran Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie).  He has a much larger and deeper character arc than in his previous films.  But Evans wisely plays Steve as a man of the Greatest Generation and holds his pain in with quiet dignity.

...

The Winters Soldier departs from the other Marvel films in its serious tone.  There are some good comic relief moments, like Natasha constantly haranguing Steve to ask a girl out.  But the other films have their tongues often firmly planted in their cheeks, as we saw with Trevor Slatery (Ben Kingsley) in Iron Man 3 or intern Darcy (Kat Dennings) in the Thor movies.  You don't have any of that in the new Captain America movie.  It is much more in tune with the recent DC movies like The Dark Knight and Man of Steel.

The themes are also more ambitious than anything we've seen from Marvel.  Political thrillers are difficult because you don't want to date yourself by staking your theme to a particular time and place.  You also want to avoid strong allegory to a particular political party or ideology or you could alienate your audience.  Wisely, the story deals with universal ideas of freedom vs. safety.  When the main enemy is revealed, there is actually an understandable perspective espoused that is diabolic in its pragmatism. 

And it works so well because the filmmakers don't betray Captain America's essential character.  Even as he becomes disenchanted with his government, he never once puts that view on his country.  He is a character who not only embodies American exceptionalism, but he believes that believes that Americans are exceptional.  He knows that we are capable of great evil, but he also inspires good.


---

Briefly I want to return to that elevator scene.  Whenever this movie is on TV, I wait for this scene and re-watched several times if I can.  It might be my favorite action sequence in any Marvel film.  That scene is the embodiment of the entire film: smart, tense, action-packed, and immensely satisfying.  And that more serious tone makes it stand apart from modern Marvel films even more. 

And while I am a romantic at heart, I found it very refreshing to see a man/woman onscreen couple that had chemistry but were not entangled in romance.  Captain America's relationship with Black Widow as well as Nick Fury was so interesting.  Despite their cynicism, you could see that they looked up to him and deep down wanted his approval.  He is the embodiment of the Greatest Generation and we still live in their shadow, hoping we have been good stewards of the freedom for which they paid.


Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the best Captain America  movie and has earned its place as the #7 Greatest Super Hero Movie of All Time

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Sunday Best: Fall/Winter Movie Season 2017-2018

Thank you all for your patience with me these last few months.  I hope to be back to a regular blogging schedule within the next to week.  

Now it is time to turn to the upcoming Fall-Winter movies.  This is the time usually when the "important" movies come out.  The reason being that studios want Academy and other awards groups to have their movies fresh in voters minds.

However, some studios realized that this is a good time to release a big blockbuster because there is less competition, even though more people are home watching television. 

Here is a list, with a few brief thoughts of my own, including on a scale of 1-5 stars my likelihood of seeing it in theaters (1 being “Not at all” 5 being “Cannot wait!”).

So here are some of the movies that are coming out along with my level of excitement.  My ability to get out to the theater may be limited this time around.  But I will try to get to the ones that really excite me.

NOV 3
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Thor: Ragnarok
I am still a sucker for Marvel movies, even though the last Thor film wasn't the most exciting.  It seems like they are taking a cue from Guardians of the Galaxy and amping up the fun-quotient. (****)


The Killing of a Sacred Deer
It looks like pretentious Kubrik-esque drivel.  I mean, just look at the title! (*)

My Friend Dahmer
This could be interesting, but disturbing.  Not interested (**)



NOV 10
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Daddy's Home 2
I was lukewarm on the first one, but the previews made me laugh, especially with the juxtaposition between Mel Gibson and Jon Lithgow.  I might check it out (***)


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Murder on the Orient Express
I love me some Kenneth Brannagh especially when he is starring and directing.  Love the cast, love the trailer.  This is high on my list (****)

NOV 17

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Justice League
I am in the minority who LOVED Batman v. Superman and Wonder Woman was awesome.  I have high expectations for this film and I hope it does really well.  I can't wait to see it (*****)


 I Love You, Daddy
This looks like a Woody Allen movie, which I hate.  But it almost seems like Louis CK's parody of Woody Allen.  Still, it seems icky.  (**)


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The Star
Most Christian movies are of pretty poor quality.  But if they can get this movie right, I would love there to be a PIXAR quality film centered around Jesus.


NOV 22

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Coco
This seems incredibly creative and could be a fun adventure.  PIXAR hasn't been as good as it has in the past.  Maybe this will bring them back to their roots (****)

The Man Who Invented Christmas
I like the idea of this story, but the directing seems odd, like a strange BBC made for TV film.  (**)

Darkest Hour
I would see this just for Gary Oldman's performance, but the story doesn't seem to break out of other movies about the subject.  (**)




DEC

DEC 1
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The Disaster Artist
I have watched The Room many, many times.  It is a fascinating train-wreck of a film.  I'm sorry but I desperately want to see this movie (****)



DEC 8


The Shape of Water
This has been getting rave reviews, but all I see is overblown European preachiness wrapped in a sci-fi coating. (*)

 I, Tonya
This looks oddly fascinating, but I might just wait for Netflix (**)



DEC 15
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Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Already have my tickets and will be going to the first showing.  But if they ruin Luke Skywalker, I will be start a riot (*****)


DEC 20
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Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
A lot of people have been knocking the previews, mainly because this seems to lack the heart of the original.  I agree, but this looks like it could be a fun take on the story.  (***)

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The Greatest Showman
The trailer got me.  Something about the music and the dancing got its hooks into my brain and now I have to see it.  (****)

DEC 22
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Pitch Perfect 3
The first one was an unexpected delight.  The second was mostly derivative drivel.  I'm not expecting much from this, but I think I'll see it just to finish out the series.  (***)


Father Figures
This looks like unfunny raunch.  I didn't laugh once in the trailer.  This is sad because I like Owen Wilson and Ed Helms (*)


Downsizing
This is actually an incredibly intriguing premise and I would be much more excited to see this movie if it wasn't for a director who specializes in making depressing films that look like comedies and for the unlikeable Matt Damon.

All the Money in the World
This looks like a fascinating and tense drama.  I am unfamiliar with the real life kidnapping upon which it is based, but Ridley Scott is usually dependable to tell a good story. (***)

Hostiles
This looks one of those "We were the real monsters all along" set in the old west.  A two-hour historical lecture.  Pass. (*)


DEC 25


Molly's Game
This should be interesting, but the trailers failed to get me even a little interested in the main character's troubles running an illegal, high-end gambling racket (**)

Phantom Thread
The only reason to see this is that this is supposedly Daniel Day-Lewis' final film performance.  But it looks BORING!  (*)

DEC 27


In The Fade
Again, another lecture from our European betters who are letting us about the true source of hate and violence in the world.  (*)



JANUARY 2018


JAN 12

The Commuter
What happened to the Liam Neeson from Taken?  Now he's seems to be scraping the bottom of the barrel (*)



JAN 26

Maze Runner: The Death Cure
Saw the first one, but wasn't interested in the second.  Less so by the third (**)

FEB

Fifty Shades Freed
No, no, no.  (*)


FEB 16
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Black Panther
I love him in Captain America: Civil War, and the cast looks great.  (****)



MAR 2

Image result for death wish 2018
Death Wish
Not a fan of the original series, but I have to admit I love when the drug dealer asks who Bruce Willis is, he responds, "Your last customer!" (***)


Alpha
Sorry, but a Cave Boy and His Dog is not that interesting a premise. (*)

Red Sparrow 
This could be really interesting and a good comeback for Jennifer Lawrence if they don't go the Atomic Blonde route.  (***)


MAR 9


A Wrinkle in Time 
I was very skeptical about adapting this story that I have read several times into a movie.  But the trailer sold me.  I'm seeing it in the theaters (****)


MAR 16


Tomb Raider 
I think Alicia Vikander is talented, but this franchise has no appeal to me. (**)

MAR 23
Pacific Rim: Uprising 
Didn't see the first, though I heard good things.  Probably won't see the second (**)



MAR 30
Ready Player One 
I loved the book, but it was way too cynical.  But with Steven Spielberg directing, he can give it the heart it needs to be a truly great film.  And the trailer was pretty sweet!  I am there on the first night!  (*****)

Monday, October 23, 2017

Two Blessed Mothers

Mother.

Mom.

Mama.

Sometimes I think of the billions of people in the history of the planet who tried to memorialize their mothers in words.  Each one, I'm sure, wanted what they said to be as unique and special as the woman herself was to them.  Against such a deposit of sentimental words, how could anything I say compare.

And yet it is my horrible privilege to try.

Most eulogies I've encountered extol the virtues of the deceased almost to the point of hagiography.  Even when a bit over-the-top, this seems proper and decent.  I think all of us would prefer that our bad deeds be buried with us and our good deeds live on in the memory of the living.  Yet, my mother was not a saint. Even writing that last sentence seems almost a sacrilege to honor and good manners.  But she was a human being like all of us, struggling to make it in this often unfair world.

And all I can be is unfair, every time I tried to think of what to write it kept circling away from the objective delineation of her life's history and virtues and towards my own subjective feelings and experiences.  This isn't fair to her because it will leave out so many things.  And it isn't fair to my brother and sisters who experienced her from a slightly different angle and so my words won't fully capture what it was like to have her as our mother.

"Mother" is a big word.  It is vivid and comprehensive.  It covers the complete totality and enormity of what it contains.  When I say it to you, the word magically conjures up that special relationship that one person has in your life.  It takes a strong back and broad shoulders to carry the mantle of "mother."  "Mother" is the title of the one who gives you life, feeds you, raises you, nurses you through sickness, takes you to school, shelters you, reads to you, clothes you, and spends every single waking second somehow involved in making your life a little better.  There is no break from being "mother."  There is no vacation.  There is no retirement.  As the children grow up, the relationship does change, but it never stops.  Along with all the joy and pride that go along with it, being "mother" also means having a perpetual knot in your stomach worrying over your kids.

"Mom" is different.  It isn't a title.  It's a name.

Being a mother isn't just the role you play in life.  It is so intimately interwoven with who you are as a person, it becomes who you are.  A mother becomes "mom."

That is the name to which we call out when we address that special lady.

We have a home video of one Christmas morning where mom was trying to talk with some of our relatives and I stood by a few feet away saying "Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom..." for minutes on end.  I wouldn't stop because I knew that eventually she would hear me and give me the attention I was so desperately seeking at that moment.  I knew I could always call on her name and she would be there.  "Mother" is who she was to the outside word.  But to my world she was "mom."

But even "Mom" has too much distance in it.  When we are even younger and more vulnerable, we call out to the one who comforts and protects us as "Mama."

I remember when I was in kindergarten, we had to sing two Christmas songs for a pageant.  When I got on stage I looked out at the crowd and saw that my mama wasn't there.  So I began to cry.  But the show must go on so I kept singing.  And then the parents in the crowd began laughing.  It was very clear that they were laughing and pointing at me.  This made me cry even harder as I sang along "What shall we put on the Christmas tree, the Christmas tree, the Christmas tree..."  After the song was over, I looked to the back of the hall and saw my mom coming down the steps.  When the teacher pulled me aside after the the song and asked me if I was okay I said, "I'm okay now.  My mama is here."

"Mama" is that special intimacy that we have as children to which we try to distance ourselves as an adult.  By the time we hit middle school, we would be embarrassed if our friends heard us call our mother's "mama."  And as we get even older, "mom" gets cemented in our vocabulary.  There is nothing wrong with this, and it is a natural part of growing up and becoming independent.  But once we can stand on our own too feet, "mama" can take on a whole new meaning.

My wife speaks with her mother every day.  And every day she greets her with "Hi, my beautiful mama."  My wife is a strong woman who has built up a career and a life of her own.  And yet she chooses to enter into a deep filial intimacy with her mother every day.

When Jesus told us to call God our Father, the word He used for "Father" is "Abba," which is much closer translated in English as "Poppa or Daddy."  It is an intimate term that removes the adult distance between parent and child.  Jesus wants us to use this because we are called to more intimacy, not less, with those that we love.

Inspired by my wife, I began calling my mother "mama."  I tried as best as I could to continue to reach out let her know that even though I had grown up into the old man in front of her, she would always be my first special lady.

I don't have the words I need to fully encapsulate her.  Here are a few snippets about her.

-born in 1950 in West Virginia.  Her father was away at a job interview and had to get a telegram announcing her birth.

-though my parents divorced in the mid 1980's we children were blessed in that their relationship was always amicable.  We lived with Dad, but she was constantly a daily part of our lives, taking us to school, taking us shopping, coming over to the house, being a part of all major life events.  We all feel particularly blessed by this in a way that most children of divorce do not.  In fact, many of my friends were surprised to find out that they were divorced, because they got along so well and were always at school events together.

-she LOVED I "I Love Lucy."  And I mean she  LOVED that show.  All of the kids are deeply connected to that show because of her.  2 years ago we got to visit the Lucy Museum where Lucille Ball was born and she had the greatest time.

-When we were kids she used to threaten us with a wooden spoon if we were bad.  And if we had a drink she would say, "If you spill that, I'll spill you!"  To this day, we do not know what that means.

-When she was a little girl she went swimming in a pool that was integrated with black and white children.  Later, she was horribly punished by someone for it.  She always took that lesson, remembering the irrational immorality of racism.  She always helped us kids to be racially and culturally aware, exposing us at a young age to injustices of things like the holocaust and slavery.  This wasn't done to scare us, but it helped us develop a strong sense of empathy for all peoples of any background.

-She was bad with technology.  One time she asked me to turn off her cell phone because she didn't know how to do it and we needed to turn them off before entering the Vatican Splendors exhibit downtown.  After I did, she asked me how to turn in back on.  I looked at her, straight-faced, and said, "You can't.  These phones are designed to turn off.  You have to get a whole new phone."  The shock and anger on her face were priceless.  We never stopped teasing her for years after because she thought she couldn't turn her phone back on.

-She was fiercely political.  If you prompted her, she would go off on a wild rant about this or that politician or issue.  Sometimes it was fun to get her going just to see how worked up she would get.

-She had a late miscarriage a few years after I was born.  My sister's name would have been Victoria.  Mom is now in heaven with her daughter and her mom.

-We watched The Big Bang Theory together.  But whenever I sang "Soft Kitty" (a song from the show that Sheldon had sung to him when sick), she would look at me angrily and shout "Stop it!"

-She loved Dancing with the Stars and Mama Mia!  She once said something along the lines of, "With all of the badness and violence, and general horribleness in the world, it's nice to watch something that is just nice!"

-When my brother injured himself in college in Iowa, she went out and stayed with him.  When I was in the ICU for a week in high school, she slept in a chair by my bed the entire time.

-Never fall asleep in the car when she is driving.  If you do that, then she would get it in her head to take a wild detour and you could end up 2 hours out of town in some backroads Amish community or even downtown Boston (both of which happened) when you wake up.  

-Her favorite movie was Somewhere in Time

-Her favorite song was "Through the Eyes of Love" from the movie "Ice Castles."

-She was devoutly Catholic, but had trouble getting to Church

-She LOVED Coffee.  Black Coffee


I feel like I could write a whole book about here and it still wouldn't be enough.  But it I think it's important to write about her last days.

Back in March we moved her into an apartment much closer to my own home.  It wouldn't be uncommon during the school year to get a text or voicemail asking me to run to the store for her after work.  This past summer, because of the closeness, I was able to spend more time with her than any summer since I had started working.  Those days consisted in simple things like going out to lunch or having her come over and binge-watch shows like "Broadchurch" or "This is Us."  

Her health had never been the greatest and she refused to go to the doctor for regular checkups.  About two months ago she started getting weaker and weaker.  She had developed a skin infection that caused her great pain and I thought this was the cause of all of her fatigue.

I remember one day she called me and simply said, "Get me out of here."  She had been so sick that she hadn't left the apartment in days.  I picked her up and we drove to a park by the lake.  The fresh air seemed to rejuvenate her.  I held her hand as she looked out over the water and listened to music that was popular when she was a teenager.  We then started driving along the lake.  When we got about twenty miles away from home, I asked here if she had a destination in mind.  I will never forget what she said: "Just keep driving."  

That was the last time I spent with her that wasn't in a medical facility.

A few days later the pain from her infection was so bad she called an ambulance.  This started the long road that brought us to today.  She would have good days and bad days.  Finally, they did a biopsy and a few days after her 67th birthday we found out that she had stage 4 ovarian cancer.  When the doctor laid out all the options to her, she said, "Bring on the chemo!"  She then talked with my sister about all the different types of glamour wigs they would buy when she lost her hair.

We never got to that point.

Her body had so much organ damage that one round of chemo threw her for a loop.  Within a few days the doctors informed us that she was in the process of dying.  She had dialysis several times a week.  Her heart would often go into a-fib.  And her breathing became more and more labored.  They eventually had to put her on a bi-pap mask, which is a horribly uncomfortable and claustrophobic device.  One of our last verbal exchanges occurred when she began clawing at the mask trying to remove it.  When I removed her hand she began to moan.  I said, "I know, mom.  I know."  She looked at me and said, "No you don't."

And there is a terrible truth here.  As much as we take on the pain of those that we love, we can never really take it on ourselves.  Even though my sister and my wife and I were with her for hours on end, we could always make our escape at the end of the evening while she was still imprisoned in her dying flesh.  It is amazing how powerless you feel in moments like these.  Even if it isn't factually the case, you can't help but feel like you failed the person you love.

But my mom was a fighter until the end.  When we told her that the treatments were no longer going to work we asked her if she wanted to stay on these painful machines and treatments or to go to hospice and be comfortable in her last days.  She chose to fight.  Those last days were a struggle to watch but even a more of a struggle for her to live through.  Towards the end, she had stopped speaking and her mouth was always agape trying to gasp down as much air as possible while terrible nerve pain burned her legs and back.

On the 100th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima, my mother received last rites.  Even though she barely spoke at that point, when the priest finished his prayers, she mouthed "Amen."

In the time that we had, I was able to tell her how much she meant to me.  If I have ever brought anyone to Christ it was because she set me on the path.  So much of the good that I have in me as a person comes from her.  I asked her forgiveness for all the times I failed her as a son, and she kindly gave me that forgiveness.  I told her that she was the best mama in the world and that if I got to choose any woman to be my mother from all of human history, I would choose her every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

On that evening after she had last rites, I took her by the hand and said, "I love you, mama."

One of the last words my mama ever said was "I love you too."

She died soon after.

In the end that is the only legacy that matters: love.

And not just love in words.  In the countless hours I spent with her, I could do nothing but helplessly sit there and hold her hand as she slept.  In those last few days I don't know if she even knew I was there.  Watching her slowly die was the hardest thing I have ever had to do in this whole world.

Yet I wouldn't trade a single second of it.

I don't know if I loved her well, but I loved her.  Time is life and the time you give is life that you give.  And giving life is love.  Love is giving your life away.  I am so happy to have given as much of my life to her.  I wish I had given her more.  Because each second that passes is one that you never get back.

The tears have been flowing freely since.  They haven't been for her, but for me and how much I miss her.  She is in the hands of the Lord.  Please keep her in your prayers and pray for the repose of her soul.  I never do this, but the day she died I asked God for a sign that she was with Him.  He gave me one that day that I cannot share.  But on the day that we buried her as we drove to funeral home, my wife and I saw the strangest thing: a bright rainbow directly in front of us, heading up to heaven like a colorful staircase.  God is good in his signs.

And even so the tears came.  But they are not tears of despair.  They are tears of a child who looks around this whole world knowing that he will not see his mama anywhere in there.  But the tears dry because I know I will see her again.

I entrust her now to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  God gave me an earthly mother and a heavenly mother to guide all of my ways.

And now that my mama has gone home to heaven, I know looking down on me I now have two blessed mothers.