My mother died yesterday. This is her in the mid 1970s, with our beloved collie-retriever mix, Sunshine, who was there for most of my childhood. She frequently sang her own favorite song to him, off-key: “You are my sunshine…. my only sunshine….”
My mother was a reporter, working for sixteen years with the Grand Forks Herald, and was part of a team that won the Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of the floods that ravaged the area in 1997. She was an early reporter on environmental issues, and many of her articles were picked up nationally in the early 1990s. Those were the proudest moments of her career.
I can’t underestimate how much pure will and determination she had to have to make that a reality. In her early 20s she was a divorced single mom with three kids and no college degree. Somehow, twenty years later, in a profession still dominated by men, she was a respected reporter with an impressive collection of clippings and a number of awards.
Her career fizzled with her health, but she was a passionate follower of the news until the end. My mother passed on her love for animals, her strong political opinions, her love for spicy food (we were both born in Louisiana, so it’s in our blood), her inability to sing in tune, and her love for books and writing. It is because of her that I never imagined any greater aspiration than being a writer. I’m glad she’s at peace now, and hope that Sunshine has found her and is keeping her good company. I hope my next book makes its way to her, because I think she would have liked it.