God Bless


It was on July 4, 2006 that my mom passed away, and so I've had a year to think about it, accept it, and sometimes forget that she's not around.  Just a week ago my wife was showing me some handbags for sale at a charity event and I said "My mom would like that one."  It was a kind of wild African pattern and she probably would have liked it.  But it was still a weird feeling to think of her in the present when she has already passed.

I still get occasional emails and postings on this site.  I hope it can be a valuable resource for others, either people who knew my mother or those who have cancer in their family.  I've written about as much as I ever want to write about cancer for a while, so for new visitors I have marked a set of posts below as highlights.  These are the items that I think may be most useful for anyone trying to understand the process or sort out their own feelings.  I encourage you also to leave your comments on the blog by clicking on the comments link below any posting.

God bless everyone.  Think of my mom today.  And God bless Mary.

Note: I inadvertently let the domain name TuesdaysWithMary expire, breaking many of the links to photos and posts.  I have fixed these now. 

You can view the site using the navigation at the top and on the left hand side, or by using www.zurlocker.typepad.com/mary


External Resources

Final Thoughts


Note: This posting is something I worked on several times shortly after my mother died as a kind of conclusion, but I was never able to complete it.  I never liked the idea of having a final post, so I suppose that's why I had so much trouble with it. As we are approaching the anniversary of her death, I am now posting it as is, along with one of my favorite pictures of my mom from September 2005, before she restarted chemotherapy. 

July 23, 2006

This may be my final posting on TuesdaysWithMary. At least, that's the plan. My mother passed away two and a half weeks ago and I've been stalling writing some kind of conclusion. There have been some tough days in the last couple of weeks. More than I would have expected. I know that there is a normal "grieving process" that you have to go through but knowing it and experiencing it are quite different.

I've had dreams where my mother was still alive, in her late stages of fighting cancer. That's quite haunting. And then there's just the normal thoughts that occur when I think about things she would like or something I would have told her. And sometimes there's emotional ups and downs that come out, seemingly for no reason.

Despite all the difficulties we've gone through in the last nine months, it has made us closer as a family. That can't be a bad thing. I'm glad I was able to spend time with my mother and grateful that I had flexibility in my job to be able to get to Florida so many times in the last year.

About a week before my mother passed away, I asked her if she had any regrets. She answered simply: "Sure." But she wasn't one to elaborate on negative thoughts. I have some regrets also, but they are pretty minor. I wish we had all gotten together at Christmas last year. But I don't think my mother minded, so I guess I shouldn't either. There will always be things I will miss about her. What would my mother think about this or that.

My father told me that if he had to do it all over again he might not have had my mother go through all the chemotherapy she did in recent months. Once the chemo stopped working, all she got out of it was the side-effects that weakened her and made her ill. But you always want to give something like that a chance, just in case. And there's no doubt that the chemo she had in earlier on extended her life by several years. So I don't know if anyone could decide differently under the same circumstances. Still, it's something for families to think about.

Fade Into You


I had a business trip that took me to Orlando for a few days recently, so I was able to spend some more time with my father.  For the most part, he has settled into his life as a single man, though I would not consider him to be the swinging bachelor type.  (Or maybe he has a secret life that he keeps well hidden!)   He's got a couple of regular golf games each week, a small faith group and he goes to the gym regularly. 

Surprisingly, my father has become a very good cook. We had a nice pork loin one evening and a pan fried fish with Bernaise sauce the next.  Both were accomanied by vegetables, potatoes or rice and a fancy spinach salad with walnuts and mandarin orange slices.  Sure beats my typical bachelor meal: chilli from a can and diet root beer. 

I bought my father a digital photo frame for Christmas, so I provided the onsite technical support necessary to install  photos.  I selected family photos from last couple of years including pictures of kids, grand kids, and the last couple of Christmases.  We went through the photos together to make sure he'd be comfortable with them.  I didn't want to trigger painful memories with reminders of my mother's decline in health. 

The evenings get a bit quiet for my father and I know he misses my mother greatly.  Most of the time he is pretty even-keeled, but he gets peeved once in a while dealing with some of the paper work and bureacracy around my mom's death.  Apparently it's much easier to combine brokerage accounts or cancel routine services when you're alive than when you're dead.  Who knew?  He gets pretty broken up at mass once in a while.  It's easy for emotions to get bottled up and then they just leak out at unexpected times.

I can usually keep things together pretty well myself, but everything caught up with me on the drive to Orlando airport for my flight back home.  I got up before sunrise to make coffee and hit the road early.  I've driven the road to the airport a dozen times in the last year alone.  Somehow driving the road by myself at that early hour reminded me of the finality of things.  This was the first time I'd been to Orlando and not talked with my mom.  She was gone and there was nothing I could tell her or share with her.  And then a song came on the radio called "Fade Into You" by Mazzy Star from a few years back and I totally lost it. Next thing you know, I've missed my exit and I'm driving miles out of my way, tears in my eyes as the sun comes up.

The song has a haunting, love-torn sound to it.  Hope Sandoval's longing voice coupled with a lonesome slide guitar creates a sound as bleak as a dustbowl.  Or at least, that's how it felt to me.

I want to hold the hand inside you
I want to take the breath that's true
I look to you and I see nothing
I look to you to see the truth
You live your life you go in shadows
You'll come apart and you'll go black
Some kind of night into your darkness
Colours your eyes with what's not there

Fade into you
Strange you never knew...

You can use the links below to hear the song or watch the video. 

Cancer - The Job You Got


The Washington Cancer Institute has a new seminar program on living well with cancer for cancer survivors, family, friends and caregivers.  It's called "Cancer - The Job You Got  - But Didn't Apply For".  The program is all about managing the nurses, doctors, caregivers, family and friends.

The program takes place January 27 (Mitchelville, MD), March 3 (College Park, MD) and May 9 (DC).  The program is free, but space is limited.  You can contact them at the link below or by calling (202) 877-DOCS (3627).

Christmas Without Mary


This was our first Christmas without my mom.  Gregg and I flew to my younger brother Tim's family in Phoenix and we were joined by my brother Mike, his family and my father.  It was not the entire family, but there were nephews and nieces to ensure that things were lively.  But there were times when it was very noticeable that my mom was really gone.  It was the thing that was on everyone's mind even if we did not speak about it much.

I was sad on Christmas day, but I realized that the things my mother appreciated, the festivity, the kids running around, she would have greatly enjoyed.  I'm sure she would have been playing Guitar Hero with the boys and laughing right along with them.   That image of her laughing and having fun let me relax and enjoy the day. That's what my mother would have wanted. 

Tim said a prayer at dinner and got everyone choked up.  He was very close with my mom and I think he is still taking the loss quite hard.  There's a tension there that I have not seen before with him; he's usually the most easy going and social guy, but there were times on this trip when he seemed distant and preoccupied. 

It's freaky, because it just catches up with you once in a while.  There have been many times over the last six months where I've woken up and thought "I should call my mom to --" and then the realization hits me that my mother's not around any more.   But I still think of her often.  I hope that she's proud of what's going on in her children's lives and that we are all living up to the potential she saw for us.

Tell Someone About Cervical Cancer


Merck launched an awareness campaign recently to encourage women to tell someone about how the HPV virus can lead to cervical cancer, one of the leading forms of cancer among women.  Merck has developed several different web sites (maketheconnection.org, hpv.com, tell-someone.com etc),  as "public service announcements." 

However, there has been some criticism of Merck's approach since the campaign was launched just before Merck's introduction of an anti-HPV drug called Gardasil. 

In My Mother's Words

Just after my mother died, we discovered a sprial bound journal in which she had written a diary of some of her feelings when she was first diagnosed with cancer and started chemotherapy.  She was not a consistent writer and she never mentioned it to us; perhaps she had forgotten about it. 

The writing is raw and personal, covering her thoughts on cancer, her hysterectomy and chemotherapy.  It is weird to read it because it shows a more vulnerable and emotional side than my mother would normally demonstrate.  I've had the diaries sitting on my desk for several weeks and I've just not been able to face them.  But as I read them today, I felt a closer connection to my mother andthe overwhelming feelings she was going through.

Here are a few excerpts:

April 29, 1999 - Hysterectomy
This is my journal, so Ibelieve I can swear all I want to.  Today we saw Dr. Manus (chemo) -- overwhelming-- 3 hrs there -- I feel that I had no control over what is happening.  Would like to run away & hide.  Linda called -- we both cried.  Somehow I have to get this together and just think of today. 
I'm sorry for Bob.  I know all this brings back memories of his mom. 

May 25, 1999
I think that I will soon wake up & have had a bad dream!  This would have been so much easier if it had been beningn.  Walking 2x around the block -- not a lot of energy.  Tomorrrow I begin chemo w/ some fear & yet anxious to get on w/ it. 

Bob has been so good -- we decided this AM that we would just pretend we got back from Paris & no phone calls from Dr Bowles!  Right!! 

Patti wanted me to come to last day of Orlando Women's Golf today, but I am not too good w/ a lot of people.   I would probably start blubbering.  Last time I played at TMC I had an 80!  Next year I'll beat that.  I can practive my putting in the hall & I know it will pay off!  Tim told me I should get more strokes because I have cancer.

Cameron (night hawk) is being crazy baby again.  Cries 4 a while then "bombs away" in his diapers... Gets in rocker w/ light on & reads book -- Kelly rocks him again at 10pm & off he goes.  He is trying, but funny.  When he gets on the phone he sings "Happy BD" -- there isn't a word you would recognize unless you heard it a few times -- but he repeats same each time.

June 2, 1999
Had first chemo on Weds May 26.  Put in port on Thurs 27th.  At first I thought I was home free, re reaction as wed night just tummy ache for a  few hrs... Friday am the abdominals searing pains started.  Worse on Sat. & Sunday -- exhausted -- tylox didn't touch it.  Nausea was not helped w/ pill.  Sunday pulse started racing 120.  Called Dr on call Mon for same thing -- he was more concerned w/ the sharp pain (by this time pain had stopped).  It was anxiety or this poor old bod trying to recover.  I could not do this again unless we could control pain.  I feel like one thing gets functioning a little better, something else goes!

June 3, 1999
First day of normalcy.  No muscle aches, no nausea.  I even vacuumed a bit and felt good. 

June 8, 1999
A good past few days.  Sometimes I even forget I have cancer.  Bob and I played 9 holes yesterday.  Felt a little sore last night.   Orland Womens played a pro-am tournament here today -- felt some resentment that I couldn't be there.  Also a little sad --my hair has started!  Patti, Linda, Joan came over after playing -- good to see them. 

June 9, 1999
A C- day.  Hair falling out -- tried on wigs.  Short w/ Bob!

June 14, 1999
Yesterday boys' BD.  Feeling low -- probably the hair loss.  Will look 4 wig today.  Doris gave me a cute short one.  They are still hot and uncomfortable.

June 15, 1999
Feeling tense about chemo tomorrow (fear).

June 17, 1999
Long day at chemo yesterday.  Feel great.  No side effects.  I feel more acceptance for my cancer.  At the beginning I thought mostly about dying & where else the cancer would show up.  Now I mostly feel that we will get thru this ok.  It's fun to wash your hair w/ a washcloth!

June 19, 1999
Feeling wiped.  Guess the chemo is doing its job.  Hate looking at my bald head.  Have a rash on head. Energy gone!

July 1, 1999
Dr. Malmus says I have "garden variety" cancer.  Blood good.  2 wks on -- 2 weeks off.  Sometimes I have tremendous fear re future (cancer).  Other times -- very calm -- I know I have no control over this and that is frightening.  Wish I had more energy. 

July 8, 1999 Chemo
Shorter time, but seemed longer.  I didn't know any of the patients, so I missed out connecting.  Some days up some days down-- try to live in the moment. 

July 10, 1999
Chemo has been easy this time -- lots of energy. I feel strongly that everything will be ok.  Que sera, sera. 

July 12, 1999
Feel strange today -- tough to stay positive.  I feel afraid at times that this may spread.  I need to stay focused on the "now."  Had a beautiful card from Kelly today.  Very supportive & made me cry.

July 16, 1999
Yesterday chemo.  Whole digestive system messed up.  Hope tomorrow will be better.

July 26, 1999
2 bad days -- upset w/ appearance -- moon face & cone head.  Most days it doesn't bother me.  Last 2 days it has me crying, listless & pissed. 

August 26, 1999
Chemo side effects have been minimal.  I fluctuate between accceptance & fear.  The fear is to get so sick that someone helps you move etc.  Sometimes happens when I see very sick patients at MD Anderson. 

September 9, 1999
Feeling really down.  Keep thinking this has been a bad dream & I'll wake up & be fine.  Will have chemo tomorrow. 

September 13, 2000
Well it has been a long time since I have been here!  Last 6 wks have been shitty.  CA 125 -- will find out Sept 20 what this one was (208).  Not even a year since I finished chemo!  Don't feel any "why me" just am angry -- weepy.  Won't see my grand kids graduate or get married.  Had scary feelings.  So mixed up.  God doesn't feel very close. 

October 14, 2000
I hate coming here just to write feelings of hopelessness.  Because most days I feel like me and have good laughs. 

We have just finished a Women Playing for T.I.M.E tournament for MD Anderson.  It was extremely sad at times.  There were stirring comments on Sheila -- all of us were in tears.  Elaine was so strong & Sheila's husband & daughter read some of Sheila's notes.  Her thoughts & feelings were so positive and she seemed so much at peace with herself.   She had told her grandson that whenever he saw a dragonfly it would remind him of her.  We received one in our "goody bag."  So I have it in my bedroom so I can see it all the time & think of Sheila and her strength and hope that some will rub off on me. 

We raised $500,000 this year for T.I.M.E.   I really think the cure is close & I want them to work on Ovarian cancer now!!  Looking forward to Xmas w/ Karen & Mark, Brianna & Faith, Mark & Gregg may get here as well. 

I keep hoping that this cancer will make me a better person.  I seeem to be a slow learner re attitudes, people that I don't like etc.  I should be able to let them be as they are & drop it.  Easier to say!



After the funeral and the reception we had family over to the house.  I was still in a fog for an hour or two after the reception, but as guests came to the house the mood changed.  The kids were playing together in the pool, neighbors brought food, we drank beer, watched the Tour De France, caught up with cousins.  We heard stories about my mother, mostly of the "off the record" variety.  We reminisced about camping trips when we were young and road trips to Allentown and Kingston to visit family.  It was a really nice time.

As my brother Mike remarked the night before, my mother was always the bright light at a party. Her spirit was there and you could see my mother in her brother Ted's eyes and in her sister Carmel's smile. 

Sometime around 10:30 after everyone had left or gone to bed, I went for a run.  The heat and humidity had broken and there was a gentle rain.  I was relaxed and ran for nearly an hour as I've done countless times in the last six months.   But I felt better than I have in a long time.  I realized my mother would have really enjoyed the day.   And I guess she did. 



Today we had the funeral mass at the Church of the Annunciation that my parents belong to.  Many of my mother's golf friends and neighbors were there as well as my mother's sister Carmel and her son Bob, her brother Ted and his wife Joan, our cousins Kevin, Gary, Michelle and Colleen.  I'm sure my mother was pleased to be remembered by so many.  There were more than 200 people there.

My wife Gregg and Tim's wife Kelly did the readings from the Book of Wisdom and from Corinthians.  Father Bill did a nice homily about my mother and taking something from how she lived and incorporating it into our lives. 

Later there was a reception at my parents' golf club.  Gregg and Kelly had set up a nice table of photos of my mother and our families along with my parents wedding album from 1957.  Gregg had also ordered crystal Christmas ornaments of a golf bag with a shamrock on it from Galway Ireland to give to all the families so that they would have a way of remembering my mother. 

I got up to say a brief memorial.  I didn't think I would be able to do it extemporaniously, so I wrote it up yesterday.  Afterwards, many people got up and told stories about my mother, some light hearted, some serious, all of them touching.  Many people said that they had read the web site, which was nice.  I got to thank many people who had posted comments to my mother and I let them know that I had read them to my mother in the final days.

Here's what I said:

I'd like to thank everyone for coming, especially those who traveled far.  Also thanks to those who could not make it, but wrote, called, sent email or posted comments to the web site.  You all meant a lot to my mother.

Especially her grand kids: Austin and Cameron, Brianna and Faith, Ruby and Agnes, Lauren and Brendan who are here today.  She loved you guys and she appreciated that she didn't have to discipline you.

My mother was sometimes strict with us growing up, but I had great respect for the values she had.  I owe a debt of grattitude to both my parents for helping to make me who I am today.  She shaped all of us and she touched our lives.

The last six months, I got to see another side of my mother.  She knew she would not live the year, but she still had kindness, humor and strength.

She accepted what was happening.  But she went with a fight at the end to make sure that we finished saying the rosary before she died. 

Thank you to my father, my brothers, my sister and my wife for helping out in the final days.  They were tough times but they will make us stronger.  That's what my mother would have wanted. 

Please raise a toast to my mother.  Mom, I miss you.



There's still a few last minute preparations for the funeral and reception that we've been working on today.  We had a head start early in the week, but now time is running out and some things are still not finalized.  It will all come together, but it's the kind of last minute stress that puts you over the edge given the circumstances.  I was cursing in the car on the way to the funeral home today after 30 minutes in heavy traffic, but it was just the stress getting to me. 

The rest of the family has arrived now.  My brother Mike returned yesterday with his wife and two girls.  Karen's husband and her two girls came in yesterday.  And today My brother Shawn arrived today with his wife and two of his kids.  With Tim's two boys we now have a house full of kids and they are enjoying playing together by the pool.  When we were kids, visiting with our cousins was always tremendous fun.  It's nice to see that happening with the next generation.  But we don't get together as much as we should and that's a shame.  As my brother Mike put it "weddings and funerals."

My wife ordered some  plastic bracelets for the kids to remember my mother.  They are teal colored, to signify ovarian cancer, and they can add small buttons you can add representing different aspects of my mother's life, a golf ball, a shamrock, a maple leaf, a nurse's cross etc.  It was a nice project for the kids.

Mary Urlocker - Rest in Peace


From the Orlando Sentinel

Mary L. Urlocker died July 4, 2006 after a seven year struggle with ovarian cancer.  She was born in Deseronto, Ontario.  She is survived by husband Bob of 50 years and five loving children: Karen, Shawn, Michael, Mark and Tim as well as a sister Carmel Troxell of Allentown, PA and brothers Raymond and Ted of Toronto.  She was also blessed with eleven grandchildren. She was a Registered Nurse from St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.

Mary's funeral mass will be celebrated at Annunciation Catholic Church, Altamonte Springs, Florida on Friday July 7 at 10:00 am where she received much comfort and inspiration in her fight against cancer.  She was a member of Errol Estate Country Club, the Orlando Women's Golf Association and Women Playing for T.I.M.E, a charity for MD Anderson Cancer Center in Orlando where she received loving care.  She enjoyed competitive golf and developed many close friends who will remember her bright smile.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks for your prayers and for donations to be made to:

Women Playing for T.I.M.E
In memory of Mary Urlocker
3160 South Gate Commerce Blvd, Suite 50,
Orlando, Florida 32806

The Last Breath


My mother was no longer conscious this morning.  Each of us were in with her in the final hours, holding her hand, speaking softly.  I put on some Jimmy Cliff music that she liked and sang quietly to her the song "Many Rivers to Cross."

Many rivers to cross
But I can't seem to find my way over
Wandering I am lost
As I travel along the white cliffs of dover

Many rivers to cross
And it's only my will that keeps me alive

A few hours later, her color was fading.  Her breathing was still erratic with pauses of ten to fifteen seconds between breaths.  All of us gathered by her side.  My sister Karen said the rosary along with my father and my wife.  Two nights ago she had called for Karen and whispered "hail, hail" asking for the rosary.  Tim and I held her hands.  Kids were outside playing.  After one decade of the rosary, that is, ten Hail Mary's, she stopped breathing.  The nurse checked and there was no pulse.  I left her side and I held my wife.  Everyone cried. And then after another two minutes that seemed like an hour, my mother gasped for air.  She was always a fighter and she would not let go. 

She began breathing again, still erratic, still noisy.  We waited.  And then Karen resumed the rosary.  When she completed all five decades of the rosary about ten minutes later, my mother finally let go.  We waited a couple of minutes to be sure.  We said our final goodbyes.  My father kissed her for the last time.  And then the nurse turned off the oxygen pump and everything was quiet.