Tuesday, November 4, 2008

In honor of my dearly beloved mother

Dear friends and colleagues,

As many of you know, and have so advised, I did something I had never done before, and that is to cut short a tour, which I did to my 6th Compassion for Animals Road Expedition. CARE-6, the first phase of Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)'s Global Emergency Operation (GEO) regarding climate change, runaway global heating and mass extinction, started in July 1, 2008, and was scheduled to last until November 20. In late September, however, I received news that my mother, 89, had suffered a serious health decline. In drug induced delirium, she was heard to call my name. I could not stand the thought of her life-story ending on that note. After some deliberation, more like agonizing, and discussions with trusted friends and HOPE-GEO team members, I canceled all speaking engagements after October 7. After my last presentation in Brooklyn NY, I pointed my car due west, and drove into the sunset.

The first thing I did upon my arrival back in Vancouver was to see my mother. She had visibly shrunken, but her joy upon seeing me was radiant. Thus underestimating her condition, I took her out to lunch, as I usually did before the tour, inviting also my brother Matthew. The result was that I had to carry her from the restaurant back to my car, and even so, she was breathing so desperately I had to drive my car like an ambulance to get her back to her oxygen. That was the last time she would ever ride in my car. Since then, I had been visiting her, each time bringing some of her favorite snacks.

In one of the visits, I brought my laptop, and showed her some of the pictures and videos of my tour, including those taken at the Animal Rights National Conference in DC (www.ARConference.org). She looked at them for awhile, then said to me, "I am very proud to be the mother of the one Chinese man in the world, out of the hundreds of millions, who spoke at this conference." In turn, I told her that many of my American and Canadian friends were asking about her, one of whom even saying, "Thank her for giving birth to you." But, I told myself, she would from then on be house-bound, room-bound, even bed-bound, and that the Lakeview Care Centre, excellent professionally as it is, would be her prison until the day she died. Ultimately, says my soul, she prison was her aging and ailing body.

Well, today, November 3, 2008, is the day. I received a phone call this morning from the care home about her passing - her flight - in the night. Now, she is free.

Before leaving for the care hone, I called Judy and Lori, because they were the two of my friends who have met my mother, and have developed love for her, and have visited her with me as well as in my absence. Lori and her son Clay had visited while I was gone, and last week, and mom had spoken fondly of them. Lori offered for me to come to her place after the care home if I needed company. When I arrived at the care home around 10:40, Judy, whom my mother had adopted as her one and only "honorary daughter", was already there, alone with my mother, in my mother's room. Her eyes were puffy and red. This was my first time seeing Judy since my return. The last time she saw my mom was the day before my return. In contrast, my mom looked serene, as if she was sleeping. I went to her bedside and stroked her hair, as I often do, and her forehead seemed still warm, as if she would wake up any moment. I wanted to take a last picture of her, with her, but had not brought my camera. At once, this became very important to me, so I drove back home to get the camera, 20 minutes away. Sadly, by the time I returned, her bed was empty. The funeral home people had whisked her away. Judy had asked them to wait for me, but they had refused. I was furious. I'd never had much respect for funeral homes anyway. All they left me was the message that I should be at the funeral home tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. for a meeting. Judy tried to comfort me by saying that I could still take a picture of mom in the open casket during the funeral. "No!" I responded almost automatically, "I wanted the picture of her in her bed, not the casket! With you, Matthew and me by her bedside!"

The afternoon was spent tying up loose ends at the care home, while Matthew took care of the funeral arrangements. There was a stack of photo albums, which were the main items. Most of the other things we donated to the care center, including most of her clothing, decorations, National Geographic magazines, a Chinese-to-English dictionary, an English-to-Chinese dictionary, a small encyclopedia in Chinese and all her Chinese movies and music.
I had a hard time choosing one memento, so I took several, something soft - a pillow case, two of her favorite blouses, and of course all the photo albums, which I will share with Matthew later.

I want to thank those among my friends who gave me their counsel and support through this difficult time. To a person they advised me to cut short my tour to be with my mom. Good thing I listened. If not, I'd still be somewhere back east, while my mother called for me with her last breath. I cannot stand the thought. Since my return, these and other friends have been asking about her health, some religiously, and giving me their ongoing support. I do love you all.

Before I left on CARE-6, on Mother's Day, I wrote a piece titled simply "Thoughts on Mother's day 2008", which eventually became Chapter 24 of "Homo Sapiens! SAVE YOUR EARTH" (published July 2008, co-authored with Dr. Peter Carter and Taina Ketola - see www.myspace.com/AnthonyMarr), which I reproduce here in honor of my dearly beloved mother.

Anthony Marr, founder and president
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)


Date: Sun, 11 May 2008 13:41:20 -0700 (PDT)
From: Anthony Marr
Subject: Mother's Day tribute

Thoughts on Mother’s Day 2008

I’m within two months of my departure on my 6th Compassion for Animals Road Expedition (CARE-6), which will cover 6 Canadian provinces and 24 U.S. states in 4 months as of June 30, 2008. I’m beginning to feel anxious, not particularly because of the 30,000 km of highway ahead, nor the arduous schedule to maintain, nor the enemies I’ll surely be making at the Alberta tar sands, but that I’ll have to again leave my mother behind.
My mother was born in 1919, so she’s 89. She’s very feeble. She used to be 5’3”, now she’s barely 4’6”, and hunchbacked, and so fragile that I’m sure one small fall and she’d disintegrate like a delicate Chinese porcelain vase. She has no life-threatening disease, but is on 6 or 7 different drugs administered at the Lakeview Care Centre where she is being cared for by a competent and compassionate staff. Just last week, I asked the nurse, “Just out of curiosity, what would happen if the drugs are suddenly withdrawn?” She said, “Her body would probably stop functioning.” And her memory is dimming. She could still tell me about her childhood in great detail, but just last month, she called me asking me why I hadn’t seen her for so long, on the same day I had taken her out to lunch.

Up to now I’ve taken five of these long tours, the longest one covering 42 states in 7 months, with Brenda Davis and her son Cory Davis back in 2003-2004. Every time when I drove away from Vancouver , the thought would cross my mind that I might have seen my mother for the last time in my life. Yet, every time, she was always there to welcome me back. And again, I’m beginning to wonder about the same ting. I hate the feeling, but am haunted by it.

When I go on the road, I try to call her once every day or two, from city to city. And I send her some of the photos I’ve taken along the way, and pictures from the Animal Rights Conference. When I come back to Vancouver and visit her at Lakeview, I would see the pictures displayed proudly all over her room.

The staff at the care centre loves her, because she is easy going and always smiling at them, and would share some of the goodies my brother Matthew would bring her upon his visits. But she has her moods, and has the propensity to need to worry about something or in fear of something just to be sane. And I’m the person she chooses to unload her woes on to. This is one of the toughest things I have to deal with. As an activist I’ve spend my life getting rid of my own fears, until some have called me “fearless”, but then she unloads her fears on to me, and I’m obligated to bear them. I hate this feeling too, especially if I have to do something I consider totally unnecessary just so that I could restore her serenity, but again, am haunted by it. I’m not sure that she realizes what effect this has on me, and from my point of view at lease, sometimes she seems profoundly selfish.
On the other hand, she could be very considerate of my feelings, especially on the conscious level (versus the subconscious "selfishness"). Back in 1999, for example, when I went to India for the third time to help save the Bengal tiger from extinction, my sister had a terrible traffic accident which resulted in severe brain injury. This happened within the first week of my 10-week stay at the Kanha and Bandhavgarh tiger reserves (see my book Omni-Science and the Human Destiny – www.HOPE-CARE.org). When I called my mother during my resupply trips to town, she never say a word about it. Afterwards, I asked her why and she said, “I didn’t want to burden you with something you can’t do anything about.”

Although I know she would love to keep me by her side all the time, she never once tried to deter me from going on tour, nor even to just guilt-trip me. She always says that she would pray for my safety and success. But the way she asks me how long I would be away for, and the way she looks at me when she says it, breaks my heart every time.

On June 30, I’ll be driving from Vancouver , British Columbia , to Fort McMurray , Alberta , the town where the tar sands workers live. The last thing I’ll do in Vancouver will be to say goodbye to my mother. I look forward to the amazingly scenic drive, but I dread the departure because of this good bye. And the inevitable question: “Will I see hmy mother again?”

She was born the only child of my maternal grand parents in a small town in the Guang Dong province of China , but had over a dozen cousins. They all lived in the same extended family complex walled with dragon-back tiles. They had an inland aquaculture business, a river-barge transportation system, and my maternal great grand father was the founder and president of a local bank. They were supposed to be the top-wealth family in town. My mom was also considered very beautiful, and was therefore the target of many an amorou$ young man's attention.

Deep-Tsui (Butterfly Green) was free spirited and loved to laugh, and well loved by all, men and women and old and young alike, and the apple of her grandparents' and parents' eyes. So, when the Japanese invaded China in 1937, when she was 18, and she was uprooted, her world crashed into chaos and danger. Village after village was raided, leveled, and villagers tortured and slaughtered. The Great Nanking Massacre continued for days, the Yangtze River running red with the blood of 100,000 civilians. One of the first things the invaders wanted were “comfort women” (sex slaves). My mother almost became one, and if she did become one, I wouldn’t be here to write about it.

In 1945, the Japanese were defeated, and life returned to normal for the next several years, until 1949 came around, when the Communists swept China . My father was an official in the old government, so we packed up and escaped by moonlight down the Pearl River to Hong Kong as refugees. Since my family’s wealth was tied up in real estate, and since we couldn’t take it with us, the prince (me) became a pauper overnight.

Due to the torrents of refugees pouring from China into the postage-stamped sized British colony, accommodation as at a premium. Our family of ten (my parents, my two siblings, my four aunts and uncles, my paternal grandmother and me) had to be cramped into 3-bedroom apartment on decrepit Temple Street .
Jobs too were at a premium, and, with his university education, but without any knowledge of English – the official language – all my father could find was a sales and bookkeeper’s position in a textile factory. He was paid peanuts, and had only two-days off per year: Chinese New Year’s Day, and Christmas Day – the bloodsucking proprietor being a Christian. As for the other 363 days, he worked easily 12 hours a day. I hardly got to see him, except early in the morning when he was on his way to work and I was on my way to school. I was usually already asleep by the time he finally arrived home from work.

Even working as he did, he still couldn’t bring in enough to keep us fed and educated, so my mother also went to work at the factory, as a sewing machine operator, though she would not work in the evening due to her children being home. I've heard my parents talk, more like fantasize, about starting a textile factory of their own, but they had always stayed with that small piece of security at the sweat shop. It was first and foremost for their three children. They have sacrificed their own career ambitions for their children’s education and future.

The proof of their sacrifice is definite. As soon as my youngest sibling had gone on to university, my parents quit their jobs without delay, and started their own factory, which was absolutely not a sweat shop. A side twist. As soon as my parents began to get their one factory up to speed, the bloodsucker contacted all his clients and asked them to boycott my parents’ products. And a bit of karma. His business eventually went into bankruptcy.

When my parents were finally ready to retire, they sold their factory and immigrated to Vancouver to join me and my brother. In 1999, my father was 86, and he said he might not live to see the new millennium. He did see it, but for only 7 months. My mother used to say that she dreaded my father dying more than herself dying, which was a great weight on my shoulders at that time, but she survived his passing in surprising good spirit, and showed an independence surpassing my expectations. Unfortunately, but inevitably, her own condition has since declined. Today, she can hardly walk without assistance, and can't walk 100' without stopping. I see her about twice a week usually taking her out to lunch or dinner, and for both her and me, it was a chore. But we always enjoyed the dinner with a smile.

But now, I'm within two months of yet another long departure. Would it be our final farewell this time? I’ll say that goodbye when I come to it. Meanwhile, I have another mother to serve - Mother Earth, who will survive me, I hope.

She has given birth to our species Homo sapiens, and nurtured us through the toughest of times, but not only have we milked her dry, we are desecrating her with every move we make, and choking the life out of her with our own extravagance, and destroying her future with our myopia, and robbing her beauty with our greed.

When I was saying goodbye to my mother while departing only CARE-5 last year, she asked me, “Why you?” I asked her back, “To be your son? Or to serve Mother Earth?” And she said, “I’ll pray for your safety and your success.” She will say the same to me on June 30 this year, fully knowing that she may not see me again.

Through my work I’ve met many mothers whose love for their children could not be less. On this Mother’s Day, I express my admiration for all the wonderful mothers I’ve had the privilege to know – Amy Burns (WI), Barbara Metzler (NJ), Betty Burns (WI), Brenda Davis (BC), Carol Barnett (NY), Cheryl Baker (PA), Coby Siegenthaler (CA), Doris Lin (NJ), Janice Pennington (MB), Jennifer Grill (MD), Jerry Taylor (MT), Lane Ferrante (OH), Laura Yudelson (NC), Linda Hone (NM), Mia Narcissa (OR), Sharon Christman (VA), Sinikka Crosland (BC), Taina Ketola (BC), Tracy Zuber (BC) and several others who may want to be honored anonymously.

Truth be told, were I a woman, I would probably choose to not have a child, and I share deep concerns about human overpopulation with many colleagues, but these are exceptional women who bring forth exceptional children who will be the best future leaders of humanity.

As an animal rights activist, can I bypass the mother seal whose pup is clubbed before her eyes, and the mother deer whose fawn is caught in a trap, and the mother whale whose baby has just been harpooned?

Finally, back to our common Mother Earth, whose is now being ravaged by the Six Planetary Diseases (see www.HOPE-CARE.org), all of human origin I might add, I ask all to do this one thing, if you haven’t yet. Please
  • sign the following petition urging the U.N. Secretary General to orchestrate the creation and administration of a $120 billion/year Global Green Fund by a corresponding reduction of 10% of the $1.2 trillion world military expenditure
  • add a strong comment worth a thousand signatures and
  • pass it on far and wide
Now I have to get ready to take my mother out to dinner. Happy Mother’s Day!

Anthony Marr, founder and president
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)
Compassion for Animals Road Expeditions (CARE)
Global Emergency Operation (GEO)


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