How the Sudden Death of My Biological Mother Radically Changed My Stance on Life & Parenthood

Paul Marsh
7 min readJul 10


Now that she’s gone, I understand the importance of one’s impact, legacy & generational success.

Funeral Flyer for My Mother. Image Supplied by Author.

I grew up surrounded by death.

Philadelphia, the city I’m from, ranked 16th amongst major cities with the highest murder rates in 2019.

Philly also ranked 4th among cities that saw increases in homicides during Covid, setting a city record with 562 deaths in 2021.

As grisly as those stats are — and as desensitized to death I became, none of that prepared me for finding out that my mother had passed.

All We Had Was a Decade

The realization that hit me the hardest was how unfair it was that my mom, frequently referred to as “Rose” because of her immense kindness and vibrant personality, only got about a decade with me.

Eleven meager years is the sum total of the time I spent living with her as her son.

Most parents get AT LEAST 18 years with their child(ren) before sending them out into the real world. Even after taking that monumental step, those kids still have a direct lifeline to their parents, reaching out when they need help, guidance, a home-cooked meal, or a few loads of laundry done.

I didn’t get any of that.

I didn’t even get to say goodbye. I spent a great deal of time stewing over the fact that her death occurred in a different country, thousands of miles away from my homebase in the Chicagoland.

When I initially got the news that she died, I was beyond disconsolate, questioning the meaning of life, heartbroken that we weren’t able to reconnect beforehand.

A few “divine encounters (I elaborate later on)” and a radically shifted perspective later, I found myself awe-struck by what she was able to accomplish, reframing how I view our time together.

It’s true that most parents get a minimum of 18 years with their offspring. Despite that fact, not all of those kids turn out to be quality people. I’ve seen many a sign on vehicles proclaiming a parent’s offspring as “future assholes in the making.”

That isn’t the case here. In a little over ten years, she was able to impart enough knowledge to guide me to this day.

As I approach my 29th birthday, I find it beautiful to still unearth teachings and wisdom from various memories with her, memories I now hold near and dear to my heart.

I Shunned Parenthood

I’m the byproduct of a lovely woman who, in spite of her best efforts, struggled with her mental health — especially after my siblings and I were abruptly taken away and placed into foster care. As a result, I’ve inherited some mental health disorders.

That, combined with a few serious relationships with lukewarm Christian girls in the south, led me to completely shun the idea of marriage.

What I thought were genuine relationships turned out to be attempts by the females I dated to manipulate me into marrying them, aware of the fact that I’m considered a catch.

I struggled to find a woman who appreciated my urban background AND my emphasis on what I call “holistic education” without looking at me as if I was a brainiac, overly intellectual, or nerdy.

As a result, marriage became an afterthought.

That changed in the aftermath of my mother’s passing. Her death made me think long and hard about what I’m leaving behind.

Being ambitious is amazing. Having tangible goals to work toward makes life enjoyable. But none of that truly matters in the grand scheme of things. Leaving a legacy as a talented writer is something I want, but it isn’t the optimal way to leave a lasting legacy.

I truly believe the most important thing a parent can do is leave a legacy that’ll impact their children throughout their lives. It’s something I want to do now. I’m no longer worried about what disorders they might inherit from me.

If I do my job the way my mother did (or hopefully better), the love I show will far surpass any symptoms or offshoots of mental health woes.

The Importance of Generational Success

Her passing made me think hard about generational success. I define this as imparting skills, teachings, and wisdom that enables your offspring to control 100 percent of their time.

She gave me the intangibles to work toward my goal of becoming a fully independent, multi-faceted professional writer. I’m not wealthy by any standards, nor am I famous. But I’m in control of my time — and that matters so much more.

I want to instill this understanding of generational success in my kids. We live in a world where what you have and who you know seems to matter more than anything else, especially here in America.

All too often, we work toward obtaining “status,” the most explicit sign of one’s socioeconomic and social standing. Instead of teaching them to pursue accolades, money, or status, I want my kids to work toward being in control of their time.

Whether that’s through academics, athletics, or a creative outlet, I want them to believe they’ve “made it” the moment they have full autonomy of their time.

From that point, how big they want to become in their chosen field and how much money they want to make is entirely up to them.

The most important thing is to work hard, take holistic education seriously, remain resilient, and treat people kindly.

The Motivation to Take the Leap

I can’t get the images from her homegoing service in Nigeria out of my head. Because of distance, my siblings and I attended via Google Meets.

Seeing the turnout was one of a handful of silver linings. There were relatives I knew and those I’ve never met, but what struck me was how many lifelong friends of hers showed up.

As the interment service drew to a close, I perused the comments section absentmindedly. It was incredibly touching to see what her friends had to say about her — from lamenting her passing, to reminiscing about studying French together, to talking about their days as kids growing up in Surulere, a subsection of Lagos.

I’ve always been the type to thoroughly vet friends before building relationships. While I’m grateful for the friendships that’ve spanned years, I don’t have any childhood friends in my life.

She had friends from all corners of the world turn out to see her lain to rest, irrespective of the time difference. Some took off work to attend. That got me thinking about one’s impact, wondering what mine will ultimately be.

I inherited my penchant for writing from my mother. While I’m grateful for that, I never got to show her what I’ve become or how far writing has taken me in about three decades.

I want to honor her with this craft, making it my primary source of income. Hopefully, I can leave behind a trail of comedy skits, screenplays, stories, and other forms of written communication in the process, exhibiting how skilled I was at this craft.

Losing her was all the motivation I needed to finally “take the leap.”

She’s Forever with Me

So, I decided to pursue writing full-time instead of working somewhere on a part-time basis while also writing. I’m devoting my pursuit of mastery as a multi-faceted writer to her, ensuring she’s on my mind and in my heart every day.

I’m still incredibly saddened that she passed so suddenly. I’m morose over the fact that it happened in another country. I’m heartbroken that we didn’t get to video chat, talk on the phone, or even correspond via letter before she died.

Being honest, I initially planned to succumb to depression, starving myself to death until I died. Life felt meaningless losing the only person to unconditionally love me.

Then, the weekend after her funeral, I had a vivid dream where she appeared to me, telling me “You can end our families’ suffering if you chose to. Pick faith over fear.”

When I woke up, I checked my email haphazardly until I came across a message from a company I wrote for on a “per word basis.” The editorial director, combined with the company’s president, wanted to offer me a VERY generous hourly rate to continue writing for them.

It was enough for me to call myself a full-time, independent writer. I gratefully accepted, looking up to the sky and thanking my mother for her premonition and divine timing.

Though losing my mom isn’t — and never will be — easy, I’m truly grateful for all she taught me, both directly and indirectly. She gave me the drive and gumption to finally take control of my life and charge of my time.

I appreciate the qualities I inherited from her — like a big heart, my penchant for education and writing, rare levels of emotional intelligence, and genuine kindness toward all people.

I hope I’m as skilled with my future offspring as she was with me. After all, you never know when your number is up.

The goal is to teach them as many intangible life skills as possible while also showing them how to become self-sufficient — all while ensuring they know I love them unconditionally.

That would make her proud.

Mo nífẹ̀ẹ́ ìyá rẹ. O wà lọ́kàn mi títí láéláé, títí láéláé nínú ọkàn mi.

Translation: I love you Mom. You’re forever on my mind, forever in my heart.

Mother’s Glorious Casket Carried by Relatives. Image Supplied by Author

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Paul Marsh

Native of Philly now living in the Midwest. Writing has been part of my life for 26 years. Avid reader. Fitness nut. Hopeful romantic. Superb cook. Word nerd.