An open letter to my Mom, Evelyn Hartman Park -

When we first met, I was an awkward and shy nine-year-old still reeling from the unexpected death of my mother. You offered me compassion and kindness when I really needed it. I was pleased when my father and you decided to be married. Thus began an incredible forty-four year journey, a remarkable long-term relationship that had an enormous impact on both our lives, where our bond has continued to grow over the years to a special closeness. We have a long history between us now, enough to fill several volumes, and our whole family has been enriched by your presence. We went through rocky times and joyous times together and we have shared many moments of happiness and sorrow. Especially since reaching adulthood I have come to recognize what an exceptional person you were, what an unusual combination of qualities you brought to our family and the world in general. Your valuable career with the Minneapolis Health Department served as a great example for me, demonstrating what a person with vision, dedication, perseverance and brilliance could accomplish. Your contribution to the field of public health will never be forgotten; the benefits you brought about for those many thousands of people who were helped through the public health clinics will continue for many years to come. The thousands of babies and children who received their first essential vaccinations because of you will never know who their benefactor was, but the value of your gifts to them is permanent. The innovations and reforms you engineered during those years will have a lasting impact, and your fine example will continue to be emulated.

As I came to recognize your skills and assets, these exceptional qualities of yours, my respect and admiration for you continued to grow. I hope you realized how proud I was of you. Especially since our relationship blossomed during the last few years, an honest co-equal adult-to-adult relationship of mutual trust and love, I have found a real attachment, a genuine connection between us that I will cherish forever. I hope I was able to convey to you strongly enough the appreciation I felt for your presence in my life. I will always value what you have done for me and I will never forget your gifts of wisdom, guidance, enlightenment and love you so freely bestowed over the years. The positive impact you have had on me I feel could last the rest of my days. I feel lucky to have been one of the major beneficiaries of your natural goodness.

The memories I especially hold dear include the support and concern you provided during the times of stress and grief and the expressions of shared happiness during our greatest joys. You were present in spirit during every landmark event of my life, age nine on, and I hope I was present in the same useful way for you for those crucial peaks and valleys in yours. I was glad to be able to share even those small victories in these last few months where being able to regain some mobility with the use of your walker filled you with optimism. I will always admire your courage, determination, perseverance and ability to cope with adversity that you demonstrated this past year. And I will try to live up to your wonderful example, when my time comes, of how to face death fearlessly, with emotional and spiritual balance, calm acceptance and little regret, as you showed the world during your last week. I feel honored to have been in your presence.

Thank you for everything you have meant to me; I feel privileged to have been your son. Rest in peace, Mom, for you have lived a wonderful life, done an amazing amount of good, and touched the lives of countless people. Your memory will live on in the rest of us forever.

Love, Warren