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“No more I love yous. The language is leaving me in silence. Changes are
shifting outside the world.”

? Annie Lennox

Editor’s note: “In Final Destination,” published on Christmas Day 2000, readers learned that the mother of
WorldNetDaily international correspondent, Anthony C. LoBaido, had
just been diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. But what no one knew then was
that Mrs. LoBaido would defy the odds and turn into what her doctor’s called
“A walking miracle” and live more than 18 months.

LONG ISLAND, N.Y. – When I called my mother from Cape Town, South Africa,
in late April, she immediately told me, “Anthony, you have to come home
now. Don’t worry, I won’t die until you get here.”

I got the first flight I could and flew 22 hours to New York. The sands in the hourglass had become precious and few. I felt like Forrest Gump diving into the water when he learned, “Momma got the cancer.”

On that flight home, SA 201, I reflected on my most recent journalism
adventures, which had taken me completely around the world in 117 days. I had
completely circled the globe and then some, traveling from New York to
Thailand, on to Nepal’s Himalayas, into the jungles of Cambodia and through
the Kalahari Desert in Namibia. Moreover, I reflected on all that my mother
had meant to me during the course of my life.

In our old neighborhood, many of the women often told me that my mother, Viola,
was “the most beautiful woman they had ever seen.” Many people said my
mother looked like Mary Tyler Moore on the old black and white Dick Van Dyke
show. They were right. However, what they could not see was the true measure
of just how genuinely good and decent and wonderful my mother was on the
inside.

Explaining my mother’s goodness is perhaps my greatest challenge and honor as
a writer. I could tell you the idiosyncrasies. My mother made use of old
rags, washed the floor with a Brillo pad on her hands and knees and made the
world’s best cranberry sauce and spaghetti and clams. I can tell you my mother
grew up sleeping three in a bed in a home under the train tracks in Queens with no heat. I can tell you my mother never had a single toy in her youth and made dolls from a rag and a clothespin. I can tell you my mother took a boat all alone across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe at age 18, where she joined my father in the Army during the Korean War. But those are just small details. Life is more mortar than bricks. This is a woman who
possessed the kindness of Mother Teresa and the toughness of an SAS special-forces soldier.

It was my mother who adopted me when I was only six months old from the New
York Foundling. It was my mother who changed my name to Anthony from the one
the nuns at the Foundling had given me. My mother who taught me to cook eggplant parmegiana and how to iron and clean. My mother who taught me how
to manage money and escape the 1997 Asian Financial Meltdown without a scratch, while others lost everything.

It was my mother who taught me to love animals, through her love for our cat
“Mittens,” bird “Enza” and dogs “Pecan” and “Lulu.” My mother who taught me
to care for animals no matter what the cost, for this was the way of St.
Francis of Assisi and certainly is what God requires of us. My mother who
never permitted any alcohol in her spotlessly clean house. My mother, the
devoted wife, who never once commented on another man. (She did like Victor
Mature, who played the Greek slave Demetrius in the epic film, “The Robe.”)

It was my mother who combed my hair with Dippity Doo when I was in
kindergarten and walked me to class where I sat between two blonde twins,
Kathy and Kelly. It was my mother who dressed me like a devil for Halloween,
because she said I was “such an angel.” (I stabbed Kathy and Kelly in the
backside with my pitchfork though).

It was my mother who would come to my Little League games and cheer when I
pitched our team to the championship. My mother who would comfort me when I
had nightmares at night. I would often sleep in the bed with her, terrified
that the globe in my room was the head of one of the creatures in the old
“Planet of the Apes” movies, or perhaps a monster from “Abbott and Costello Meet
Frankenstein.” It was my mother who would console me through my fears and
remind me of her own mother’s words (my grandmother went to church every day
and died on her way home from Mass in 1978): “Be afraid of the living, not the
dead. Ghosts can’t hurt you.” It was my mother who home-schooled me for a
year to work on my photographic memory, and it was my mother who taught me,
“Always pray, pray, pray to Jesus on your hands and knees.”

It was my mother who would wash my mouth out with soap when I first said the
f-word. This was a woman who would slap you, and I mean hard, if you dared as a
stupid teen-ager to say the n-word or drink beer on Good Friday in her house.

It was my mother who tried for years – unsuccessfully – to get me to finish the
service project for my Eagle Scout badge, something I will always regret. It
was my mother who taught me a man’s own worst enemies can be his closest
“friends,” even in his own household. It was she who taught me to overlook
the bitterness, anger, jealousy and envy of others. “There will always be
those greater and less,” she would say. “Therefore avoid comparison, lest ye
become vain or bitter.” She would tell me, “God has given you so many
talents, Anthony, you must use every single one of them.” She would also say
things like, “Never quit,” “make hay while the sun is shining” and “a bird in
the hand is worth two in the bush.”

It was my mother’s face that I saw in the crowd when I caught a pass in the
end zone during the homecoming game my senior year at St. John the Baptist
High School, when our football team won the state championship.

It was my mother who correctly analyzed the character of every single one of
my girlfriends.

It was my mother who came to visit me when I was a student at Arizona State
and said, “Look at these spoiled brats.” It was my mother who cheered me
when I broke my ankle during baseball season and couldn’t get into Stanford
because of my grades in Spanish and geometry. “You have to work harder,” she
would often say. “You can’t get ahead sitting on your behind. Go learn more
languages and study harder.” And so I followed my mother’s advice and did
learn Spanish, Korean and even Afrikaans. I did finally study harder and
earned a full scholarship to Baylor University in Texas for a Master’s of
International Journalism. I mention this because my mother had wanted to
become a journalist, and she lived out her aspirations through my adventures.

It was my mother who cheered me up despite the hardships, sickness, injuries,
broken bones, lice and concussions I endured during my travels
through Cambodia, Laos, Korea and Nepal. My mother who was always
there, both in times of abundance and times of poverty. It was my mother who
showed the most joy when I became a television actor overseas and appeared on
national media with Sen. John McCain and even on Pat Robertson’s “700
Club.” It was my mother who read everyone one of my stories, novels and film
scripts.

It was my mother who taught me to be optimistic. “Always expect the best
result, and that will unleash a tremendous power in you,” she would often say.
It was my mother who taught me the Gospel story in Matthew 7 about
the faith displayed by the Roman soldier in Capernaum – the faith and humility
Jesus called, “the greatest faith in all of Israel.” My mother would say,
“Always be kind. Always be humble. Always have faith in Jesus.”

I will always remember a few singular moments during my mother’s illness. The
first was when she had to fast for 21 days to get a colon cancer operation,
and the hospital had her on a waiting list for several more weeks. She cried
on my bed and said, “Anthony, I can’t take it any longer.” And I prayed on my
hands and knees after that, just as my mother taught me. The hospital
called 10 minutes later and said they had an opening in two day’s time for
her procedure. I will also remember my mother telling me, concerning her
death, “You have to be the strong one.” Mostly, I will remember her lying on
my bed last Christmas saying, “I don’t want to die and leave you,
daddy and your sister.”

And so, now that I’ve come home again, to be with my mother one last time, I
can tell you that I did manage to cook her favorite meal one last time,
change her sheets and vacuum the house, just the way she likes it.

I can tell you that the moment I walked in the door, having not slept for
three days since I left South Africa, my mother hugged me and said, smiling,
“How’s Gizmo?” She was referring to the abandoned little African wild kitten
I found and adopted last month in the Kalahari.
I told her that Gizmo has become quite cheeky and is now busy eating salami
and olives and climbing trees. And she said, “You couldn’t just leave him
there to die in the sand dunes in Namibia, could you? The veterinarian
visits, the shots, the quarantine, cleaning up after him; it’s not so easy to
do the right thing all the time, is it, Anthony?” And I said, “No, mother; how
could I have left Gizmo behind after all you have taught me?”

Leave it to my mother to make others comfortable when she is dying. I would say, “I know you are dying to get out of the house, but this is extreme.” And she would laugh so hard. One of our neighbors would want to visit and I would say, “No, this woman’s husband died, her dog just died, if she comes here, you might die.” My mother would laugh and say, “Yes, this woman is like the Bermuda Triangle. She’s killed off more entities than small pox.” Then just yesterday I said, “I want you to promise me you’ll live till Mother’s Day – but not beyond, it will be convenient to remember you dying on that day.” My mother said, “OK, I will try, but I’ve never died before. Will 3
p.m. on Mother’s Day work for you?”

I can only face my mother’s death, because of God’s grace. That night in late
April, I had a dream of heaven opening, with a fiery red sky and angels
coming down to prepare my mother’s trip to heaven to be with the Lord and see
her own mother again. I also had several visits from my own guardian angel,
our former neighbor Loretta Archer, a beautiful woman and friend of my
mother who looks like actress Minnie Driver. I would be sitting at the
doctor’s office in Cape Town and I would see a magazine with Minnie Driver on
the cover, or go to the movie and find myself standing in front of a Minnie
Driver poster. I would be walking through a vineyard in Cape Town, or sitting
on top of the world’s largest sand dunes at sunset in Sossusvlei, Namibia, and
my guardian angel would say to me, “Anthony, your mother is getting worse,
you must go home now.” And so I did, and upon arriving bought her the
grandest set of flowers your eyes ever saw.

My mother is resting now as I write this. She has her devoted husband, my
father, her childhood sweetheart at her side. My father who still dotes on
her, walking around with his cane between kidney dialysis visits. My
father who loved and treasured only her, who never, ever spent a single
night “out with the boys.” My father, who never once commented on another
woman (we’ll have to overlook the Susan Anton incident).

I want to thank all the people who have supported me and our family during
this difficult time. I want to thank my bosses, Joseph Farah and David
Kupelian, who have done everything imaginable to help me these past 18 months.
I would walk through fire for these men. The phone calls and cards and e-mails
we have received have helped tremendously. They have come from far-away
places like Cyprus, South Africa, Denmark, Norway, England, Germany. They
have also arrived from Montana, California and here in New York. You know who
you are. I am blessed, not only to have had the best mother and father in the
world, but also the very best friends on Earth.

I always thought when my parents died, I would travel to places like the
Himalayas and the Kalahari to find peace – but I have already done that in the
past few months. And now that I have returned home again for the final time,
I realize that because of my mother and father, I have always had everything
I ever needed right here.

I recall a scene in the film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It
is the scene when the bank panic of 1929 threatens the Building and Loan run
by George Bailey, played by actor Jimmy Stewart. In the middle of the
greatest crisis of his life, George Bailey looks at a picture of his parents
and straightens his tie. It is the singular moment which defines his
character as a new husband and as a man. For in that moment, George Bailey
finds the courage and resolve to go out into that chaos, do what is right,
continue his father’s work and make his parents proud of him.

I love you, Mommy, and I will miss you. My heart is breaking. I will be strong
as you need me to be for the sake of Father and Sister. And I will always
love you, truly and deeply. Please watch over me and my children in the
future, if I have any. I will always try to live my life in a way that will
make you proud of me, for that is all I ever wanted to do.


Related stories:

Final destination: A Christmas nightmare offers hope

Living, writing and traveling overseas as a journalist

LoBaido: Capturing the world on film

More of LoBaido’s favorite photographs

A yank in the British army: LoBaido trains in jungles of Belize

Learning the lessons of life, love

Life’s greatest and worst moments all worth remembering

How I survived the 1997 Asian financial meltdown while living in South Korea

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