Kathleen M. Pike, PhD

Mary T. Johnson

On January 18, 2023, my mom, Mary T. Johnson, took her leave of this world. She died peacefully at home surrounded by family.

My greatest champion in life, my mom inspired the following Five on Friday posts over the years.

1. This one’s for you, Mom! From 2016, this Five on Friday was prompted by the time I spent with my mom around Mother’s Day and feeling grateful to have a thriving 84-year-old mother at that time. The post is about perinatal depression and the implications of a mother’s depression on her children. My mom had a serious episode of depression when I was young. Fortunately for her and for us, she received the care she needed.

2. My Five Moms. I have had several influential women in my life who have played roles as stepmother, host-mom in Italy and South Africa, and mother-in-law. They have each played a unique role in my life and taught me about various aspects of caring for my mental health. Of course, my mom was my first and foremost teacher.

3. Women on my mind. I wrote this post for Mother’s Day 2020. My mom was living with me during the intense, initial wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. We spent time together tending to my apiary, which inspired me to write about the particular burdens the pandemic placed on women around the globe and the creative ways that women build communities to support each other’s mental health during difficult times.  

4. Girlfriends. This past year my mom lost her lifelong friend, Pat Munz. She and Pat had known each other for over sixty years. They raised their kids together. They called each other when there was a two-for-one sale at the Entenmann’s Day Old Store. They coordinated car-pools and watched each other’s kids when an emergency run to the pediatrician arose. They supported each other in mourning the loss of their husbands and had martinis every Saturday evening together. They laughed, cried, and grew old together. She attended Pat’s memorial service the same week that I was with girlfriends I have known for twenty years. This Five on Friday is about the mental health benefits of good girlfriends.

5. Have you had The Conversation? How we want to live the last days of our lives and how we want to die is the costliest conversation – emotionally and financially – that we are not having as a nation. My siblings and I were fortunate to have had these conversations with my mom over the course of many years. We talked about how she wanted to live the last chapter of her life, how she wanted to die, and even what music she wanted playing when people gathered for her memorial service (which, we were instructed, was also to be a celebration of her life). These conversations guided us in the past months and are among my most cherished memories with my mom. This Five on Friday is about the mental health benefits – for aging parents and their kids – of having these necessary, but often difficult, conversations.

There is so much going on in the world. Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Another mass shooting occurred – this time in Monterey, California. Tens of thousands of workers have been laid off from big tech companies. Sunday, January 22nd, would have been the fiftieth anniversary of Roe v. Wade. All these events have real mental health implications, but for me, for now, it’s my mom that’s on my mind.

Picture of Kathleen M. Pike, PhD

Kathleen M. Pike, PhD

Kathleen M. Pike, PhD is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Global Mental Health WHO Collaborating Centre at Columbia University.

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