Single mom, Shannon, starves herself and works two jobs to provide her son with an excellent education. All she wants is for Billy to become a lawyer, but Billy has different plans for his life.
Shannon entered her tiny apartment and collapsed on the couch. She was exhausted and only had an hour before she needed to be at her second job.
“Mommy, look what I did today!”
Shannon’s young son, Billy, rushed towards her. He presented her with a guitar made from strings and an old cereal box.
“That’s wonderful.” Shannon smiled at Billy.
Billy beamed back at her. “One day, I’ll be a famous musician.”
Shannon shook her head.
“Music is a great hobby, Billy, but it doesn’t pay the bills. You’re going to be a lawyer. That’s a far better profession.”
Billy frowned. Shannon reached over to wrap him up in a hug.
“You’re a bit young to understand these things right now, sweetie, but it’s important to get a job where you earn a good living.”
She ruffled Billy’s hair. “Let’s get you dinner.”
Shannon made Billy a grilled cheese and sat at the table with him while he ate. Although Shannon was also hungry, they didn’t have enough food for two.
Since Billy’s dad left, Shannon had worked hard to ensure Billy would one day go to college and become a lawyer. She saved as much money as possible, even if it meant she went hungry some days.
“I’m sorry too, Mom. I love you, and I’ve missed you very much, but I had to do what was right for me.”
Shannon was determined to ensure Billy did well in life. It wasn’t easy, but she felt all her suffering was worth it when the finest college in the state offered him a scholarship. She was so proud of Billy until the first time he came home to visit.
Billy came through the door carrying two guitar cases. His hair had grown too long for a law student, and he gave her a sheepish smile.
“What’s all this?” Shannon gestured to the guitar cases. “You should be spending your money on haircuts, not frivolous hobbies.”
“It’s not a hobby.” Billy rubbed the back of his head. “I’ve been meaning to tell you… law wasn’t a good fit for me, mom. I’m studying music now.”
“That better be a joke, William Michael Mathews. I didn’t work my fingers to the bone and starve myself so you could be some bum musician.”
Billy’s expression turned stern. “It’s not a joke. Music is my passion and I know I’ll be successful because it’s something I love doing with all my heart.”
“Are you kidding me?” Shannon shouted.
“Do you think busking on street corners will make you a millionaire? I can’t believe you, Billy! You’re going back to law school as soon as you return to college.”
“No, I won’t. This is what I’m supposed to be doing, mom. I feel it with every fiber of my being.”
“What a load of bull. I sacrificed so much for you, and this is how you repay me.” She pointed at the door. “Get out! You aren’t welcome here until you come to your senses. You’re just as lazy as your no-good father, and you’ll meet the same bad end if you don’t pull yourself together.”
“I’m not like him! And I’ll prove it to you.” Billy shouldered his luggage and stormed out the door.
Shannon was sure Billy would return eventually and apologize. He’d go back to law school, and they could forget about this mess.
Billy didn’t return that evening, however, or the next day. Shannon tried calling him, but he hung up on her. As the days turned to weeks, Shannon became more desperate to find him.
She turned to his old school friends and discovered that Billy had transferred to a college in a different state. He still hung up every time Shannon tried to call him.
Anger and disbelief boiled in Shannon’s veins. How could Billy do this to her? She’d thought she did an excellent job of raising him despite all the challenges she had to face.
These feelings faded after a few months. Shannon began to worry about how Billy was doing. She tried to call him again as Thanksgiving drew nearer but got a message that the number didn’t exist anymore.
Shannon panicked. She returned to Billy’s friend, who had helped her before, and soon found her son’s new number. She dialed it immediately.
“Oh, Billy! Please don’t hang up. I’ve been so worried about you.”
“Yes, it’s me.” Shannon was overcome with emotion and felt she might start crying.
“I’m so sorry for fighting with you, sweetie.”
“I’m sorry too, Mom. I love you, and I’ve missed you very much, but I had to do what was right for me.” Billy cleared his throat. “I’m glad you called, actually because I have important news to share.”
“What is it?” Shannon straightened up. Could Billy have returned to law school?
“I’m getting married. Her name is Trisha.”
“That’s wonderful! Did you meet her at college?”
“Not exactly. Trisha was a barista at a coffee shop near campus. That’s how we met, but she doesn’t work there anymore.”
A barista? Shannon was confident Billy could do better than that, but maybe she was being too quick to judge.
“What work does Trisha do now?” Shannon asked.
“She’s dedicating her time to her art. Her work is amazing.”
Shannon’s heart dropped. “Art? Is she a painter?”
“Trisha is a digital artist, actually.”
“Dear lord! Billy, how on earth is this going to work? Artists and musicians don’t make money. What are you going to live on?”
“And here we go again,” Billy grumbled.
“Why is it so difficult for you to believe I can be successful doing something I love?”
“Because I know what it’s like out in the real world, Billy. Right now, your head is full of dreams. You think you can make anything happen, but life is not like that. All I’ve ever done is try to spare you the suffering of living in poverty.”
“I wish you could just be happy for me. Good-bye, Mom.”
And that was that. Shannon regretted that her son insisted on making such rash and careless decisions with his life but knew there was nothing she could do to stop him.
Several years passed without a word from Billy. One day, Shannon stopped at the store to buy milk and heard some kids playing an upbeat song in their car. She listened to the same catchy tune the next day from her neighbors.
Wherever Shannon went, she heard the same song playing everywhere. It stuck in her mind. She’d stopped listening to the radio years ago because it reminded her of Billy, but now she turned it on again to hear that song.
Shannon bobbed her head when the familiar tune played through the speaker. She was doing the dishes, and when the radio presenter announced the singer’s name, she dropped the plate she was washing.
Billy had become successful after all. Shannon dried her hands and rushed to call him.
“This is Officer Connor,” a brisk woman answered the phone. “To whom am I speaking?”
“I’m Billy’s mom. Why are you answering his phone?”
“My apologies, ma’am. I’m very sorry to inform you your son was involved in a serious motorbike accident. He didn’t make it.”
The officer continued speaking, but Shannon heard nothing more than a humming in her ear. Billy was gone. She’d never see her son again and would never have the opportunity to apologize to him.
Shannon found out that Billy was going to be buried in his hometown. She wasn’t invited but went to the funeral anyway. She went through his childhood possessions and decided to take the cereal box guitar he’d made to place on the coffin for him.
When she reached the casket to pay her respects, Shannon broke down. After all the years of fighting, it seemed so unfair that her child would be in his coffin the next time she’d see him. He’d grown a beard. It suited him, but she’d never be able to tell him that.
Her sobs turned to wails. Someone took her by the elbow, but Shannon pulled away. She screamed at the person to leave her alone and pleaded with Billy to forgive her for being so rigid and judgemental.
The more she cried, the more the world spun around Shannon. She placed her hand on the casket to help her balance. Black dots sprinkled across her vision; the last thing Shannon was aware of was falling toward her dead son.
Shannon woke up to the sound of a baby gurgling. She opened her eyes and thought she must be in heaven. The child strapped into the car seat beside her had the same brown eyes as Billy!
“Who are you, little baby?” Shannon asked. The baby smiled at her and waved his hands around. He even had Billy’s dimples!
“That would be your grandson.”
Shannon sat up straight. A woman dressed in black with neatly arranged hair sat behind the wheel.
“My grandson? Does that mean you’re Trisha?”
The woman met her gaze through the rearview mirror. “Seems you’re more up-to-date than I am. Billy told me both his parents were dead. Imagine my surprise when the paramedics found your ID and told me the crazy woman who fainted into my husband’s casket was his mother.”
Shannon frowned. “Billy was real mad at me for the past few years. We didn’t speak, so I guess it was easier for him to tell everyone I was dead.”
Trisha sighed. “Well, we can’t change the past, but we can rise to meet the future. The paramedics said you should rest in a calm environment. I don’t know where you live, so we’re headed for the hotel where little Shane and I are staying.”
Shannon looked over at the baby. This was her grandson, Shane.
Shannon was surprised that Trisha and the baby were staying in an upmarket hotel. Guilt spiked through her as she realized Billy had been right about being successful in doing something he loved.
Shannon resolved then to correct the mistakes she’d made in the past. She and Trisha spent most of the night talking, and Shannon explained how she and Billy had become estranged.
“I see now that I was wrong to doubt him, and wrong to judge you.”
Trisha shook her head. “I get it, Shannon. From one mom to another, I understand that you were just trying to look out for Billy. He always was stubborn and a little insecure about his talent, which is probably why he was also so reluctant to reach out to you.”
“But I heard his song on the radio. Everyone is playing it.”
Trisha smiled. “It’s been number one across the country for two weeks.” Her smile dropped. “He was on his way to meet some friends to celebrate when he crashed. A drunk driver skipped an intersection.”
Trisha sniffed, and Shannon moved closer to comfort her. As Trisha started crying, she did too, and the two women sat together in their shared grief.
Trisha and Shannon became friends after that. A few years later, Trisha invited Shannon to move in with her and Shane. Trisha was getting a lot of commissions for her digital art, and instead of hiring a nanny to help care for Shane, she thought it best he spent more time with his granny.
Shannon immediately accepted the offer. She doted on Shane and ensured she didn’t repeat the same mistakes she’d made with Billy. When Shane asked her to get him a guitar for his twelfth birthday, she agreed without a second thought.
Pride filled Shannon’s heart as she and Trisha watched Shane perform at his school concert. He had inherited his daddy’s talent, and Shannon encouraged him to practice every day.
Shane grew up to become a famous musician. Whenever an interviewer asked him about his path to success, he always credited his grandmother’s unfailing encouragement and support.
What can we learn from this story?
Respect your children’s life decisions. Shannon’s fixation on Billy becoming a lawyer caused a lot of harm to their relationship, and it all could’ve been avoided if she’d trusted him to make his own choices.
You can’t change the past, but you can learn from it. Everyone makes mistakes, but so long as we’re willing to learn from them and forgive each other, there will always be a way forward.
Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.