The Circle of Life

It’s been a crazy 2 months.  In that period if time, my first child was born and my only mother passed away.  Jake O’Neill Bouton was born on February 21, 2013.  Susan Marie Bouton passed away last night, April 22, 2013.  Such is the Circle of Life.

My mom has been seriously ill for years and had been getting worse the past couple of months.  In my head, I knew that it was only a matter of time, but it was still hard to accept.  In my heart, I didn’t think she was ready to go, and I wasn’t ready for her to go.  Mostly because she had not yet seen her only grandchild in person.

Though I know that my mom was extremely proud of all of the things I’ve accomplished in life, the one thing she wanted me to do more than anything was become a father.  She was elated when, after 42 years, I broke the good news sometime back in 2012.  During the last few months of my beautiful bride’s pregnancy, all she could ever talk about was her grandson-to-be.  On April 21, 2013 at 12:21am, she got her wish…a beautiful grandson.

Unfortunately since our little one was born, my mom has spent the majority of her time in and out of the hospital, usually in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).  As a result, we were not able to introduce her to baby Jake in person during that time.  In addition to our concerns for the health of our newborn, and our paranoia of what could be lurking in hospitals, my mom’s doctors suggested that for the health and safety of everyone involved, we could not bring a baby into the ICU.  We agreed then and still think this was a wise decision.

That said, we did make many day trips to the Bay Area, where my mom lived, with baby in tow.  This gave me opportunities to visit with my mom in person and gave her opportunities to “see” her grandson.  During Jake’s first day-trips away from home, Mommy and Jake would spend time exploring the nearby downtown while Daddy visited with his mom in the hospital.  Mommy and Daddy would keep in constant text communication until we could find a good time for both baby and my mom to “communicate” via Skype.   When the moment was right we would connect.

You should have seen my mom’s face light up when she saw her grandson for the first time (outside of the pictures I had been sending via text – thank God for technology).  Even with her pain and extreme discomfort, she could muster a huge smile and laugh a hearty chuckle at the littlest things Jake would do, like sleep, wake up, cry….  It didn’t matter what he did, he was the cutest thing in the world for her.  We had a few Skype sessions over the past few weeks and these were some of the happiest moments I have seen my mom experience in years.

As I spent time with her in between these sessions, I often thought how similar adults are to infants as adults near the end of their lives.  I was probably hyper sensitive at the time because I was only a few weeks in with a newborn and my daily daddy tasks had been consuming my thoughts and time.  However, the parallels were almost frightening.  They both needed someone to help them exist – to eat, to bathe, to soothe them when they were fussy, and to clean them up after they went potty.   It was sort of scary.

During those times with my mom, I did realize one significant difference – our baby could not use words to communicate what was wrong, or when he was in pain, but once we learned to read his cues, we could do things to help him directly.   However, even though my mom could explain to me in words what was wrong, or when she was in pain, I was virtually powerless to help her as she lay there in her hospital bed.   This was heartbreaking and hard to accept.  I’ve never felt so helpless in my life.

Knowing that we would not have my mom for long, over the past couple of weeks we worked to move her to Sacramento so she could have a better opportunity to see her grandson and so we could visit her more frequently.  After much work, a lot of patience, and a little luck, we were able to secure a transfer for my mom to a nursing and rehab center in Sacramento.  She arrived on April 17.  We were all excited and filled with hope for the weeks, maybe months to come.

Less than a week after she arrived, on the same day that we learned Jake’s updated vital statistics (e.g., height, weight, the circumference of his skull), I got a late-night call telling me that she was critical and “it was time.”  Last night, she passed away in the same hospital where her grandson was born.

After saying goodbye to my mom, I left the hospital this morning at about the same time that Jake was born nearly 2 months ago, and I could not help but think about the Circle of Life.  Technically, it goes something like this….  All life begins.  That moment at which living things become “alive” marks the first point on the circle of life.  Eventually, all living things conclude their natural life cycle and death marks the last point on the circle of life.

It’s different for everybody, but in my case, one life ended, another began, and that is the Circle of Life.

In homage to my mom, I can’t help but include a few lines from “The Circle of Life” by Elton John (he was one of her favorite artists).  Here goes….

From the day we arrive on the planet,

And blinking, step into the sun,

There’s more to see than can ever be seen

More to do than can ever be done.

There’s far too much to take in here,

More to find than can ever be found.

But the sun rolling high

Through the sapphire sky

Keeps great and small on the endless round.

From the day we arrive on the planet,

And blinking, step into the sun,

There’s more to be seen than can ever be seen,

More to do than can ever be done.

Some say, eat or be eaten,

Some say, live and let live,

But, all are agreed as they join the stampede

You should never take more than you give.

It’s the Circle of Life

And it moves us all

Through despair and hope

Through faith and love

Till we find our place

On the path unwinding,

In the Circle,

The Circle of Life.


Mom, rest in peace.  Jake lives on….

I Love Sleeping on Daddy



  1. Darren,

    I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your mom. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  2. Hazel Howle says:

    What a simply beautiful tribute to life you have written to your mom and legacy to your son. Moving on through the circle of life brings such special meaning and sensitivity to the passing of a loved one. As we grieve their loss, we are filled with the comfort of knowing that life is a beautiful circle and journey– one we shall all take as we continue our path. I too would be proud of you.

  3. Janet Cassie says:

    Bless you. This must have been such a difficult time. Rest assured that your mom has been released from her pain.

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