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TESTIMONIAL: How my mother’s death led me to Sac State

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TESTIMONIAL: How my mother’s death led me to Sac State

Me and my mom at Lisa's Coffee Shop in Covina, California. I would later use this photo to announce to my friends on social media of her passing.

Me and my mom at Lisa's Coffee Shop in Covina, California. I would later use this photo to announce to my friends on social media of her passing.

Photo courtesy of Cory Jaynes

Me and my mom at Lisa's Coffee Shop in Covina, California. I would later use this photo to announce to my friends on social media of her passing.

Photo courtesy of Cory Jaynes

Photo courtesy of Cory Jaynes

Me and my mom at Lisa's Coffee Shop in Covina, California. I would later use this photo to announce to my friends on social media of her passing.

After my mom’s death, I didn’t let myself truly cry, ugly cry, until the band started to play at the end of her memorial.

I was home alone with my mom when she collapsed in the kitchen. Believing that it was another fainting spell due to low blood sugar, I helped her onto the living room couch and, at her request, poured a glass of orange juice. She had just grasped the cup in her hand when my mom’s body went limp.

Immediately I knew what was happening and made calls to 911 and my dad. I felt helpless, unsure what to do as I listened to my mom’s last breaths. The paramedics arrived first and began their multiple attempts to resuscitate my mom.

The paramedics were almost immediately followed by a family friend, Sister Karen Carnes, a nurse and visiting teacher from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who would be the one to help me through the day. By the time my dad arrived the paramedics were preparing to take my mom to the hospital. He left with them, on his own.

As my mom was taken away, we were joined by Bo Beatty, a former co-worker of my mom’s who worked at the elementary school across the street and rushed over, much like Sister Carnes, to the site of the ambulances.

I was with Sister Carnes, Coach Beatty and my second-oldest brother, Jeremy, when my dad called Sister Carnes to ask her to deliver the news to us and have us come to the hospital.

In truth, the call and the trip to the hospital had only been formalities. It had been obvious that my mom was dead when she was loaded up into the ambulance. Still, hearing the words overwhelmed me with emotions before their sheer abundance left nothing but the single thought to go to the hospital.

With that, my mom’s 58 years of life ended, her cause of death was ruled as a heart attack. I never got to say goodbye.

That was April 27, 2017.

A few weeks later, family and friends gathered in a banquet hall overlooking Covina District Field for my mom’s memorial. My dad opened the ceremony by sharing what he could of my mom’s story.


My mom was born Catherine Anne Cantero on April 7, 1959. The daughter to a 16-year-old mother and a father who would go on to serve in Vietnam and eventually leave his family, taking any cultural influence his Spanish heritage would have had on my mom with him.

When my mom was five years old she spent six months in the Shriners Children Hospital in Los Angeles from Legg-Perthes disease, a hip disorder caused by a lack of blood flow leading to the femur which stops the bone from growing correctly.

I likely never would have never known about my mom’s childhood health issue if not for two things. The first being a photo of my mom wheelchair-bound in front of the Disneyland train station on a trip with her grandparents. Second, her hospital roommate’s love for scary movies and nightly viewings of them would lead to my mom’s life-long aversion to them.

Photo courtesy of Cory Jaynes
From left, my mom, grandmother, great grandmother and great great grandmother pose for a family photo. Currently all but my grandmother are buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Covina, California.

By the time my parents met, my mom was known as Cathy Herbert, taking the last name of her sister’s father.

Their relationship started with a conversation at the West Covina mall. My mom’s mother, Anne Herbert, and my dad’s aunt Betty worked in neighboring stores and would stand out front and talk when they could.

Photo courtesy of Cory Jaynes
My mom and dad before attending Northview High School’s winter formal. My parent’s would stay together for 40 years before my mom’s death.

One day, the topic of their discussion turned to my mom not having a date for her senior winter formal dance after a recent breakup. The conversation between the two eventually led my dad, Garry Jaynes, to ask my mom to the dance, as well as a date beforehand to get to know each other better.

My parents often told me the story of their first date. They went to the movies to see “Young Frankenstein,” but my mom was so nervous she didn’t laugh once during the movie.

However, despite initial nerves, that date was the start of a lifelong relationship.

Photo courtesy of Cory Jaynes
My dad and mom on their wedding day. My mom’s ashes would be entombed on the same day in 2017.

My mom’s memorial filled the banquet hall at district field. The room was wide rather than deep, with the chairs arranged to face the center of the room where the podium stood in front of the eastern wall, a floor-to-ceiling window that looked over the football field.

As I sat among a room full of friends and family mourning my mom’s death, I was overcome with a sense of failure.

Though I had heard the voice in the back of my head that claimed I had failed that day, a voice I still hear from time to time, it was my own personal failures that haunted me.

I felt that I had failed by not going straight to a four-year university out of high school and then staying at the local community college for over two years. I felt like a failure for never having held a job before my mom passed, for never getting a driver’s license, for never introducing her to a first girlfriend.

All the things in life that you’re supposed to do with your parents — to show them that you’ll be OK without them — I felt like I had never done.

It was the person I was the most horrified to see walk up to the podium to speak that helped me overcome those feelings.

Brigette was a friend of mine that had never met my mother. We knew each other from serving as editors together for Mt. San Antonio College’s student media publication.

I don’t remember the exact words anymore, but I remember Brigette standing up in front of everyone and explaining how, in a way, she knew my mother. Though she had never personally met her, Brigette knew the caliber of woman my mom was because of our friendship. Because the type of person I am reflects how my mom raised me.

While her words were simple, Brigette helped me accept not only my mom’s death, but that I wasn’t a failure. Her words had empowered me with the knowledge that no matter my path forward, my mom would be watching over me.

It was this feeling that inspired me to move out when I transferred to a four-year university.

My family home was filled with memories of the day my mom passed and among the sad and happy memories, it was obvious the house was changing. My eldest brother, Geoffrey, started dating a long-term girlfriend and eventually moved in with her. My dad started to date as well. I felt like it was time for me to move on.

Having the need to move, but not wanting to go too far, I eventually found my top two transfer choices: Sacramento State and San Francisco State. Of those two, I immediately had my heart set on the latter.

Despite my preference for San Francisco, I still planned campus tours for both locations. Doing so led to my decision in coming to Sac State.

I was able to meet face to face with The State Hornet’s adviser Stu VanAirsdale and editor-in-chief Claire Morgan. While making that personal connection helped in my decision, so did the connection my parents had to the region.

After my parents were married my father was inspired by one of his relatives to move up to Stockton and live on a houseboat. While they only lived in the Delta region for three years, it was that part of their history that I could connect with the most thanks to visits to the area every summer.

The area had been a place for my parents to set out on their own. The delta became where they grew into themselves. When I came to Sacramento, I realized that it was already a home away from home and would provide the space I needed to grow into my own person.

I moved to Sacramento not to run away from the changes that occurred after my mom’s death, but rather to accept them and continue her legacy.

Starting out on my own in Sacramento and being the kind soul she raised me to be is how I honor her and her memory.

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2 Comments

2 Responses to “TESTIMONIAL: How my mother’s death led me to Sac State”

  1. Sebastian Machorro on April 27th, 2019 6:32 pm

    It was a good article about your mother Cory and I felt identified with you. I lost my grandfather five months ago, and he died a week before I went to Sac State to study English in the American culture and language program.

    For me was painful leaving my family in such episode that they needed my support for the loss of my grandfather, even I was going to cancel the trip to Sac State because of that, but my mother talked with me to don’t leave the opportunity to study English in Sacramento, because my grandfather was proud of me for going to another country to study and it would be more painful for him and my family to cancel the program because of his death.

    My grandfather was like my second father that raised me when my parents got divorced and he received my mother and me in his house when we leaved ours. He was a good person that took me to school all the days because my mother was working all the day and I saw her only at night.

    For him, I was like his second son and he loved me too much, and when I gave him the notice that I was accepted to go to the USA to study, he was full of joy and felt proud of me.

    During my stay in Sacramento, I grew in a personal way, because I had to be independent and do my personal stuff on my own. Being in another country was difficult for me, because I had to see how to get from the house where I stayed to Sac State, I had to ask the route with the few knowledge I had about English; but I found that I can do many things on my own and I have to move on, because my mother is not eternal to be with me and helping me to do my stuff, so it was a way to be more independent and pursue my own goals and interests.

    When I came back to my home, everything in my home changed, my mother got a date with his boyfriend, my grandmother waa depressed and a house full of memories. For me it was painful to see all that after leaving Sacramento, but at the sametime it made more strong and supportive for my family.

    Don’t feel guilty about your mother’s death, you did the best to help her and if she were alive now, she would be proud of you. And keep doing your best in your for yourself and your mom. 😉

  2. Danielle Alvarez on April 28th, 2019 2:07 pm

    Cory your story is so relatable and I am thankful that you were able to share with your readers. More people may have the courage to tell what their personal journey has been like as a way to reflect and overcome greif.

    3 months before I applied to transfer to Sacramento State my father passed away with a terminal illness called Lou Gehrig’s disease. I knew that school wasn’t going to be easy but it was something I had to do for myself.

    In my second year at school it began to become difficult I missed him more than words can explain. I was trying to decide if coming to SacState was worth it. Right before I was thinking of giving up school and heading home I met the most amazing couple, they were kind and enthusiastic about The State Hornet. I met Jordyn Dollarhide and Thomas Frey which are two editors on The State Hornet. They spoke to me about all the benefits on joining the team, I wasn’t at first sold but decided to sign up anyway. I’m now in my second semester as a member of The State Hornet and I can’t imagine my school career without it.

    Continuing my education was one of the hardest choices I made but now having less than a month left before graduation I’m so thankful I decided to come to SacState. Cory I understand the difficulties of losing a parent. It is one of the most difficult obstacles one must go through but I’m thankful to hear about your success and hard work. Your mother and family must be so proud of the work you have done. Keep up the hard work and never give up, your not alone.

    Sincerely,

    A State Hornet Staff member

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