That moment when my mom died

I will be shooting with Soul Pancake tomorrow, a series called "That Moment." Below is the text version of what I'll be sharing.

It always bothers me when people apologize for getting emotional. You see it in awards shows, you see it all of the time. Someone wipes a tear from their eye and they say, “Sorry.”

It bothers me cuz I feel like I now understand what that is. What emotions are and why we shouldn’t run from them. And when you feel something so deeply that it causes you to cry, it means that you’re that much closer to what it means to be alive. And I did not mean for that to rhyme but it did.

I grew up in Chicago, the northwest side, 2745 N. Mango. Your typical brick bungalow. Pretty modest upbringing. But what my parents did give me was A LOT of unconditional love and support. My mom, from day one, would tell me that I was special. She would often say, “Mi’jo (my son), you are meant to do great things in this world. The world will know your name.” And that lit a fire under my ass. From a very early age, I was a very serious kid. I got straight A’s, I was the class president, the lead in the school plays. I remember being at my twelfth birthday party and an adult came up to me and said, “It’s your birthday, why aren’t you playing outside?” And I told him, “I’m saving my childhood for when I get older.” I did not have time to mess around. I had too much to do. I was going to be a famous actor, then the first Polish-Mexican-American President of the United States and then end racism.

And this drive stayed with me through high school, college, into the real world. And that’s when, like most people, the realities of life hit me hard. But I never doubted myself cuz my mom, my biggest cheerleader, was there to support me. And I had too much to prove to her so I kept driving harder and faster and somehow felt nowhere closer to my destination.

And then, seven years ago, she calls me and says, “There seems to be some type of cancer but they say it’ll be easily removed.” This is in September, she gets operated on in December. I come home early for the holidays, I figure I’ll help take care of her and when things go back to normal, I’ll head back to LA. Before I know it, her bladder is removed and I’m helping her urinate by inserting a tube into her stomach. And before I know it, we hear the word metastacized, and for anyone who has dealt with cancer, you know this word means everything, it means, this shit isn’t going away and it’s spreading. And, before I know it, it’s February, we’re in the hospital room, the lights are dim, everyone has left to give us some privacy, all you hear is her heart monitor and her shallow breath and I’m holding my mom’s hand, and I’m telling her, “It’s okay, we’re gonna be fine. I love you. Goodbye.”

I truly believe that this is what life is about. These moments. The pain that we feel, we don’t run from it, it’s what we do with it, it either cripples us or it propels us forward.

Now, when people share with me the difficulties that they’re facing in their life, I’m almost too happy about it cuz I’m like, “Yeah, this is it. This is the good shit. This is when you learn who you really are.”

Ever since my mom died, my emotions live just beneath the surface at all times. I now know that type of pain never goes away. You grow from it, you hopefully become a better version of yourself, and you learn how to put it away.

But you should never be embarrassed by it. You should never apologize for feeling something so deeply. Men should never be criticized for showing emotion and women should not be categorized, often deemed as "TOO emotional."

I don’t run from my emotions anymore, I am still driven but I’m not as wrapped up in my achievements as I used to be. I am concerned with connecting with people now more than I ever. And I love to see and hear what my friends are really going through. I love to see the veil stripped away.

What is bad, what is good, that’s up to us. It’s how we choose to view it. What it is, is real. And although I can’t bring my mom back, I can do my best to share who she was with others. And I think I do that everyday simply by being who I am.