Mom, thank you for seeing me, the real me.
My mom, Toni Renee, was one of a kind. Her infectious energy lit up the room, and her uncanny ability to make every person she met feel “seen” was her greatest gift. Mom had a very special knack for seeing people just as they were. She didn’t care about degrees, 401Ks or the size of your house. She wanted to connect with the real person. Like a super power, her piercing, big brown eyes could penetrate armor and masks, revealing the truth beneath the surface.
She expressed love in action in her own way. When I was a child, she worked as a waitress at a local truck stop. At night, Mom would spend hours upon hours drawing happy faces and writing “Have a Great Day” on the backs of her tickets.
During holidays, she would go door-to-door asking for donations for families in need. She had such a huge heart for anyone who was struggling and often took in friends who were trying to get back on their feet.
Mom would be so proud of her namesake top. It’s bold, unique and a little wild, just like her! I’m pretty sure she would never take it off.
Mom was so proud of me. She kept every single memento from her visit to our home in Los Angeles or our trips back home to visit her. And I mean every memento… even the paper parking pass we gave her to park on the LA streets. She thought it was so cool that her son lived in Hollywood. Every person who came to her house probably heard a story about that parking pass.
Mom passed away in 2014. In her last days, she’d lost her ability to speak and was unresponsive for several days. But then suddenly her eyes began to flutter and those big brown eyes came back to life.
Me: Mom, if you can hear me, blink your eyes.
Me: Mom, if you know I love you a million barns full, blink your eyes. (We always measured things in barns. Must have been the farm I grew up on!)
Me: Mom, I see you! And I know you see me. If we’re setting each other free, blink your eyes.
She blinked, and less than a day later she was gone.
But I can still close my eyes and see her brown eyes staring deep into my soul, laughing with me, prodding me to be my best self.
In my life and through evolve I carry on her legacy. I promise to see and love people for exactly who they are.
Mom, I know you’re here with me, every step of the way. Thank you for seeing me, the real me. I love you.