My Dearest WIMA Members, Family and Friends,
Many of you know right before Labor Day, we found out my mother's cancer had returned. My sisters, her sisters and our family have been with her during the past few weeks. We thought we would have more time when the doctor told us the news. It wasn't the case. At least we were able to be together for her to say good-bye. She was ready to go and she went in peace. For this we are all grateful. One thing is for sure. Mom knew. Ever since she was diagnosed two years ago, she said, "I'm ready. I have had a great life. If God wants me. I'm ready to go."
She did go to UCLA to get a tumor removed from the right lower lung and after the surgery, the doctor said they got it all. She didn't want to follow up with chemo and radiation and the doctor advised her to come in for regular check-ups so that in if the cancer came back she could decide at that time what course of action to take.
Well...Mom told me she was getting her check-ups. She did go in for blood work and nothing showed up, or so she told me. What she wasn't doing was going in to get the x-rays every few months and when I asked, she just told me what I wanted to hear. That's what mothers do some times, right? Tell us what we want to hear.
It was her life and her choice as to how she lived it. I accept that. It's not easy in a way, because I have always felt it was my responsibility to take care of Mom. And I have. Whenever she would let me, that is! Especially, in times when she really wanted me to. It's still not easy.
As one of the nurses, Dan, told us in the hospital when it was apparent my mom was in the final stages and letting go. "Dying is a part of Life."
My half-brother, Steve, came to visit while Linda and I were staying in Hospice with Mom. He said that someone told him this a long time ago, when he lost his mother.
"When a ship goes to sea there are people standing on the shore waving good-bye and crying because they are going to miss the people leaving. Then as the boat leaves port and gets further and further away it finally disappears. What people don't see is that there are people waiting on the other shore to greet them as they arrive at their new distination."
Each one of us has our own belief system about what lies ahead when we leave this world. I know Mom always felt a personal connection to God. In these past few weeks Mom and my family have laughed and cried, looked at photos, shared stories, played the piano, played a game of Yatzee, made some discoveries, healed wounds, and recorded interviews that will live on in our hearts and through the scholarship fund we are creating in honor of our mother at WIMA Women in Music and Arts.
Here is a little excerpt from one of my interviews with Mom:
SK: "What advice do you have for aspiring artists as they are starting out? What would you tell them?"
WK: "Don't let anybody ever discourage you from doing your art, even if it doesn't look good to you or them. Keep doing it. Don't let anybody put you down. If they put you down, walk away. You don't need them. They are not your friend. They are not your friend and it ruins... it hurts your own life. Follow your own dream, because you've got to realize they are only human and subject to error. Forgive them for what they said." She breaks down and cries, "Let it go."
I guess I really am "my mother's daughter." And Mom's a funny woman. She kidded around a lot and really never acted like she was "giving advice" in a serious way. Her's was a more subtle teaching. So to hear her give voice to the feelings I've always known in my heart is a little surprising, very profound and really amazing!
Her "advice to aspiring artists" mirrors the very feelings that inspired the lyrics for one of my songs:
Don't Tell Me I Can't
Lyrics by Sandy Kastel
Music by Jimmy Haslip & Jeff Lorber
Don't Tell Me I Can't
Don't Tell Me I Won't
Don't Tell Me I Never Will
'Cause You'll Be Sorry When I'm Gone
Don't Tell Me It's Way Too Late
Don't Tell Me I'm Past My Prime
Don't Tell Me I Don't Fit the Bill
'Cause You'll Only Waste My Time
How lucky am I? Very! Is it any wonder I've been so driven and passionate about creating this new organization to honor the women who've inspired me? Women like my mother, my aunts and my grandmother? They are all Women in Music and Arts!
Thank you all so much for being supportive of my family during this time.
Your friend and fellow artist...Sandy Kastel
Here is the information for my mother's service:
Visitation will be from 12 – 2 p.m., followed by Services at 2 p.m., Saturday, October 1st, at Palm Mortuary, 7600 S. Eastern Ave., Las Vegas
Donations may be made in Wands’s name to:
WIMA-Women in Music and Arts
Fund Designation: Wanda Kastel Scholarship Fund
9101 W. Sahara Ave., Suite 105-129
Las Vegas, NV 89117