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In the summer of 2013, National Public Radio star Scott Simon tweeted to the world: "Mother called: 'I can't talk. I'm surrounded by handsome men.' Emergency surgery. If you can hold a thought for her now." From there, he kept up a very public social media conversation about his mother's illness and ultimate death from lung cancer that stirred passionate conversations about grief, sadness, and privacy.
In his book Unforgettable: A Son, a Mother, and the Lessons of a Lifetime, Simon relates his decision to make his grief public in real time, and his response to critics who thought his mother deserved a more private death. Simon's memories of his life with his mother are laced with her humor and strength. Giving voice to the experience we all have of confronting our parents' deaths, Unforgettable is one man's tribute to his mother's colorful life and graceful death, but it is also a powerful portrait of the universal bond between mother and child.
In one real-time message, he summarizes their relationship and their current circumstances: "I am getting a life's lesson about grace from my mother in the ICU. We never stop learning from our mothers, do we?"
During that summer, Simon became a public voice for people who wanted more public acknowledgement of death, dying, and grief. He began to advocate for honesty and openness during the process, the ability to recognize and honor grief, and importance of friends and family to say farewell to the dying rather than denial. He pushed back against those questioning whether he was violating his mother's privacy or dignity, explaining that they both knew how public their journey was, and that neither had any regrets.
After she died, Simon sent his final messages. "My mother died and I mourned. That's as much a part of life as love and taxes. Why be quiet about it?"
The tweets Simon sent from his mother's bedside as she lay dying in a Chicago hospital room garnered media attention from The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Today Show, and more. Simon's mother was a glamorous woman of the Mad Men era who worked in nightclubs, modeled, dated mobsters and movie stars, and was a brave single parent. Unforgettable relates her life and death with eyes wide open, and shows how real death is for everyone, regardless of our attempts to ignore it.
Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters, having reported from all over the world and from many wars. He is now the award-winning host of Weekend Edition Saturday. With over 4 million listeners it is the most-listened to news program on NPR. Simon has won a Peabody and an Emmy for his reporting and also has over 1.2 million followers on Twitter.
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