FontillaCollageUnless you follow me on social media or are on my e-list, you may not have heard: my beloved mother, Fontilla A. Timmons, died peacefully on Monday, August 4th.

I miss my mother terribly and am still mad at cancer for what it did to her body, for taking her away, way too soon. In the world according to me, she had so much still to give; she had more years of singing ahead of her; she had more years of volunteering ahead of her; she had more years of playing xbox (something I don’t even know how to do!); she had more years of fussing at her cat, Ella, or giving the Yankees a talking to when they played poorly; she and I were to simply have more years together; she was to walk me down the aisle should I ever get married.

In case you can’t tell, I love my mother tremendously. I was very, very fortunate to have been born to and raised by her – to have been loved so deeply and unconditionally by her. She was an awesome woman and a great mother, and that isn’t a blessing I take for granted.

A petite woman (5’2″) with a BIG personality, my mother was a pioneer in many ways – not at all concerned about trying to fit in. A necessary trait for a woman whom for many years was the only female softball umpire in Western New York!

Her mantra was “love and accept yourself.” Do this, and you can love and accept others just as they are; do this, and you won’t need to seek other people’s approval to live your life.  This is how she rolled; this is what she exposed me to as a young child; but it is only as an adult did I recognize her example as such AND as an invaluable lesson and life-skill to have.

To say that my heart remains heavy is an understatement. I may be back in NYC and I may have resumed my work schedule as of this week, but I am walking around in a bit of a daze, still trying to adjust to my new reality.

My mother had been sick for several years, and every day she fought cancer valiantly. I marveled at her grace and gratitude every step of the way – especially the last two weeks of her life, which were a particularly sweet time for us. And, I am forever grateful that when she took her last breath, it was just as when I took my first — we were together.

The celebration of my mother’s life was held on Friday, August 8th. It was precisely how I wanted it to be…how I wanted to honor her.

Every decision I made about her day was filtered through these three words: meaningful, beautiful, and intimate.

  • It’s why her services were held at St. Bonaventure’s University Chapel.
  • It’s why we opened her celebration with one of her songs, her rendition of “You and I.” (Mommy’s first career was as a professional singer.)
  • It’s why the processional was Father Francis walking me down the aisle with me carrying my mother’s urn, with African drumming in the background.
  • It’s why one of my dearest friends, Toni Booker, sang my mother and I’s favorite song “His Eye Is On the Sparrow” and “Precious Lord.”
  • It’s why every speaker preceded their comments by reading a verse from my mother’s favorite scriptures.
  • It’s why “Ave Maria” came after Father Francis’ sermonic reflection but before I read the poem, “A Child Loaned” and shared my “Loving Memories.”
  • It’s why all who gathered held hands and prayed “Our Father Who Art in Heaven” in unison.
  • It’s why the closing prayer was ecumenical.
  • It’s why the recessional music was “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.
  • It’s why the repast was a fish-fry dinner…at the Elks Club.


During a moment of quiet reflection, I would realize that the same three words that guided how I designed my mother’s celebration also described the relationship my mother had with me and her/our countless friends. These words also exemplified how my mother handled her affairs.

Talk about having it together…

  • Mommy died without a mortgage  – her house may be modest but it is paid in full.
  • Her consumer debt is negligible.
  • I am a single child, yet she still made certain all her legal paperwork was in order: Will, Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, Insurance. Likewise, we held certain accounts in joint-name so that I could easily pay her bills when such a time as this came to fruition.

In other words, my mother made certain that my grieving wouldn’t be interrupted by unresolved financial concerns or unaddressed financial matters. Unlike some who fall prey to poor planning, short-sightedness, and fear, my mother had the foresight, discipline, and desire to plan ahead.

Even in death, she continues to nurture me. Even in death, she continues to shape how I show up in the world and provide an example of how to live…how to rock it out! For this and soooo many other things, my gratitude is beyond measure.

Mommy, I miss you and love you!! And, just as you refused to let cancer steal your spirit and love and joy for life and living, I promise not to let grief steal mine.


p.s. to learn more about my mother – aka the woman who means the world to me – click here to read what I wrote the day of her death (you don’t need Facebook) and click here for her obituary.

p.p.s. It also means the world to me that you read my tribute to my mother. Now, I hope you’ll take action! Please make sure your financial affairs are in order – get your documents together; have the awkward conversations with family members and close friends; schedule the uncomfortable but necessary meetings. Grieving unencumbered is a truly a wonderful gift to get and to give. And if you’re not sure where to begin, start with my interview of Lori Anne Douglass, Esq. Click here to download the mp3.

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