When Justin’s mother passed away in 2014, he was left heartbroken and confused.
After a desperate battle with Huntington’s disease, his mom was finally at peace, but Justin was left picking up the pieces of her life, discovering sweet reminders of their time together. It was during this time that Justin discovered treasures from his mother’s past. These items would soon reveal a side to his mother he never knew existed, shedding light on a woman that was so much more than people knew.
Justin remembered his mother being one of his strongest allies. She always cheered him on in school and supported all of his endeavors.
She was also his best friend. For most adult children, it’s impossible to know how important a mother is until they are no longer around.
Many times, as children search through their parent’s belongings, they can find something completely unexpected.
It’s a gateway into the hidden life of a person, a side to them that many times the family didn’t even know existed. For Justin, he would soon realize his mother was so much more.
Posting on social media, Justin revealed he had always known his mother to be fighting against her illness.
However, she never let her disease get the best of her. Although Justin never thought of her as being physically fit, she never showed signs of weakness.
“My mom started developing symptoms from Huntington’s disease around the time I was born.
So I never really knew the person she was when she was healthy, ” Justin revealed. This made Justin wonder what his mother could have been like before he was born.
Huntington’s Disease is a form of genetic mutation that is passed between family members. It can kill off brain cells and directly impacts the nervous system.
As a result, movement and personality can suffer. The symptoms only get worse as time goes on.
Huntington’s Disease had always been a part of Justin’s life.
Not only did his mother have it, but his aunt and grandfather had it too. This left Justin wondering if he would end up showing signs of the genetic mutation.
Thankfully, after being tested at the age of 18, Justin showed absolutely no signs of the genetic mutation.
He felt like he had dodged a bullet, but it didn’t make things easier. He hated seeing his mother in so much pain.
In the weeks following his mother’s death, just began the process of going through her belongings.
He had avoided it because he didn’t want to admit she was actually gone but knew it was time. Therefore, he dedicated a weekend to cataloging her things, something that proved to be more emotional than he could have expected.
During this time, Justin found a mysterious package among her belongings.
The package was something he had never seen before and inside Justin would find a treasure trove of secrets that shed new light on his mother’s past.
Someone had written “Cheryl’s Keepsakes” on the outside of a large, brown envelope. For Justin, his hands shook with anticipation.
And what he found inside left him with a sense of wonder. “It was like getting to know my mother for the first time,” he revealed on social media.
Inside the envelope, Justin found sentimental items his mother had collected. They ranged from a series of photographs to letters from her sister’s travels.
He even found old school reports. It was a treasure trove of special items and Justin couldn’t help but hold back the tears.
One item that Justin was surprised to find was an old photograph of his mother when she was young.
It appeared to be from a school dance, and she looked so vibrant and happy. Justin had never seen the picture before and was happy to share it with his family and friends.
According to Justin, the young man in the prom photo was a boy his mother had dated during high school. He was the only Asian young man at the school, but she didn’t care.
“She took a lot of crap for dating him,” he wrote. “He was Japanese, and there was still anti-Japanese sentiment from my grandparents’ generation.”.
Even though her parents and fellow classmates didn’t approve, Justin’s mother Cheryl refused to bend to peer pressure. “She kept dating him, though,” Justin revealed.
“Who could blame her. That guy can rock a suit.”.
Justin’s mother’s senior photos were also among the items in the envelope.
Looking healthy and completely beautiful, Justin was so happy to see his mother looking physically better than he had ever seen her. He found himself wishing he had known her back then.
Justin also found a gorgeous black and white photograph of his grandmother.
He had never seen the photograph before and it was such a special thing to see his grandmother looking so young. He could tell his mother got her looks from her.
As Justin continued to go through the contents of the envelope, he stumbled upon a story his mother had written in third grade, called “My Favorite Pet.” The story was a funny little tale about an adopted puppy named Skipper.
The story described how much she loved her precious pooch.
“In spring, he would jump over baby trees and turn somersaults. In winter, he would run and dive nose first into the snow.” Unfortunately, Skipper would meet a tragic end.
Cheryl explained in her story that her dog, unfortunately, broke his leg. “The fog was so thick that you could only see a few feet. Skipper was lying in the road.
A car came and ran over his leg and broke it. He couldn’t get up. Just then another car came and ran over his head. We had to shoot him to put him out of his miseries.” What a “happy” ending.
Justin also found an old school report that revealed his mother was a pretty good student. However, one thing he found interesting was a note from one of her teachers.
“Cheryl’s attitude is not as good as it was. She has slipped in the past four-to-six weeks. She seems emotionally upset over something.”.
After looking at the date on the school report, Justin realized it was at the same time his grandfather was diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease.
This resulted in a very upsetting time in his mother’s life. Therefore, it made sense his mother wasn’t performing well in school.
According to Justin, his grandfather couldn’t handle his diagnosis or the pain that came with the disease.
“He self-medicated his anger at losing his mind by drinking every day,” Justin wrote. “He got more violent and angry as his disease progressed… It looks like it started to show in school.”.
Also within the envelope was a note from one of his mother’s best friends in high school. It appeared that Sandy had gone to a different school and was not very happy with the population of boys available to date. “I’m stuck with Kevin,” she complained.
“But I don’t mind it. I really like him. He’s really nice and cute too. Nothing serious.”.
Justin also discovered old handmade birthday cards for his mother.
It seemed that she had three very good friends during her school days: Sandy, Kay, and Tina. They also had great art skills!
The rest of the contents of the envelope were from Cheryl’s sister Karen, detailing her travels across Europe during the 1970s.
A mix of letters and postcards revealed Karen’s struggles with the language barrier and learning the train schedules.
Another find within his mother’s belongings was a “Class of 1973 Book of Memories.” In this document, it was revealed that Cheryl desired to travel and had spent time in Hawaii, the Rockies and the Sierras.
She also loved to ski. The book also revealed his mom had worked in construction after high school.
Justin admired his mother and how hard she worked despite her disease.
“My mom worked as a drafter for large scale construction and was one of the first women in the drafters’ union in Indiana. She quit and moved to California because the men there were very hostile toward her.”.
The final item in the envelope was a gift he had given his mother as a child.
A colorful paper bouquet he had made in kindergarten, the gift came with a note asking “Now, where’s my bike?” To say Justin was overcome with emotion would be an understatement. Finding these items had been exactly what he needed to achieve closure.
To summarize the experience of going through his mother’s belongings, Justin revealed that while he was happy he had found closure, he wished he had known his mother better.
“I really wish I had gotten to know her before she started getting sick,” he said. “But seeing this part of her life has at least let me see a bit of the person she was.” At least Justin was able to work through the pain and find some peace.