Cam Lam and Colton Barber Interview Transcriptions
Parker: How and when did your mother die?
Colton: March 27, I was in 7th grade, so I think it was in 2014. It was from pancreatic cancer after two months of hospice.
Parker: How long had she been diagnosed?
Colton: She was diagnosed the December two years before, so 2012, and it was over Christmas break.
Parker: When she passed away, what did her death mean to you?
Colton: I was more of a momma’s boy than a dad’s boy, so it was kind of hard for a while. I had to get to know my dad a little bit more. I immediately thought about how I had lost my motherly figure because my sister wasn’t really much of a mother. The house became a lot quieter because now there are only two people with my sister off at college.
Parker: Did your sister ever try to step into that role at all (a motherly role)?
Colton: Yeah, I think so, but I kind of turned her down pretty hard. And I still am.
Parker: Did it ever hit you hard again that your mother was gone?
Colton: It kind of hit me before because she was constantly on pain meds and almost unconscious, so it was like, “Wow. This is happening.” That was probably a month before she died.
Parker: What was the emotional toll it really took on you?
Colton: I didn’t really start crying until she told me there was nothing the doctors could do and at the funeral, afterwards, I saw all my friends were there, and it just all hit me.
Parker: How long did it take for you to adjust back to daily life?
Colton: It probably took a year because my dad had to rebuild his business. He hadn’t been working for a year to take care of her, and he also had to work different hours, so he could drive me to and from school every day. It really took getting into high school because I get out later. He had to hire a new secretary, so that caused a big problem when he was trying to rebuild his business, and we kind of lived off of savings he had accumulated since he was 20.
Parker: Did everybody try to step in and fill the roles your mom had done?
Colton: Yeah, my dad kind of filled both roles for a while, but now we’re kind of evening out. My dad did almost everything for a long time.
Parker: Now, with your sister away at college, what are the changes?
Colton: She didn’t really do that much, so her leaving didn’t really affect that much.
Parker: Since it was during the school year, how did your academic life suffer?
Colton: Since it was seventh grade, my academics didn’t suffer that badly because the workload wasn’t that much. I definitely did not study, and I did very minimal homework at home. Almost none
Parker: Even if it was seventh grade, did you notice your grades dropping?
Colton: I think I got a C that year on top of all B’s, so it wasn’t that great.
Parker: Did you seek help from anybody?
Colton: I was offered a lot of help from the counselor. Father (Michael) Dangelo helped a lot. I kind of went to him, but then he left that year, which was really sad for me.
Parker: Was he the closest person outside the family, at least to you?
Colton: Yeah. He was definitely the closest person.
Parker: How do you remember your mom?
Colton: I remember she was always happy. And I also heard she was short, but I was short back then, so I don’t know. I remember her being very easygoing. She was really nice, but overall, I just know of memories I’m told because I don’t remember very much.
Parker: Do you remember anything that you haven’t been told?
Colton: Mostly just that she kind of went along with whatever happened. She was always a glass half full type of person. I never saw her in a negative light because she was happy to be wherever she was.
Parker: How do you hope to continue her memory into your own life and maybe even that of your kids?
Colton: If my kids were as positive as her I’d be pretty happy. Some kids just are really negative, not glass is half full. My dad is kind of that way, which is why he married her. He was a positive influence in her life, and if my kids were just nice and really cared about their future…she really cared about her kids’ futures… so I really want them to care about the future and the present, just whatever’s happening in the moment.
Parker: Did your family help you, or how did you see that?
Colton: I don’t remember that much help, but that’s probably just because I turned it down. I kind of isolated myself a lot. And I only really talked to my friends at school.
Parker: Do you wish you hadn’t turned it down?
Colton: It probably would have made it easier, but I don’t really regret any choices I made, except not talking to her more when she was sick because I isolated myself from everybody, including her. She was still able to talk, and she was still conscious until the last few months.
Parker: Were those last two months hard for you? Was it like she was gone?
Colton: It was weird because she was basically gone. It was like she was there, but she wasn’t really there. We were just waiting for her to pass naturally since the doctors told us there was nothing left that could happen. She had been under cancer treatment for a year, so at that point she was never awake. I would sometimes go in there and say stuff, but I never got a reaction, so I was not sure she was still really with us. It’s kind of like she was just there in body.
Parker: What moments do you think about her now?
Colton: We took a pretty nice trip to California one year. We went to Santa Barbara, so that’s basically how I remember her. We were in a very pretty, scenic part of Santa Barbara, which was really pretty, so I just remember basically…all of the images of her face I remember are from that trip.
Parker: When you’re sitting around, does your mind ever wander off to her?
Colton: Yeah, sometimes. I’ll be doing whatever, and I have a few pictures on my desk of her, and I’ll see those, which makes me stop to think for a second. But usually if I think to long it gets really sad, so I try not to.
Parker: When you have a big moment in your life, do you think it will hit you again?
Colton: Yeah. Every once in a while, I will just think about it, and everything around me stops. And it all really makes sense for a second. I kind of think, “Wow. That happened.” It will go away after a day, but I am faced with that thought a lot, that she did pass away, and I didn’t really understand it until then.
Parker Davis: How and when did your father pass away?
Cam Lam: He was diagnosed with cancer the winter of my sophomore, so that was two years ago, roughly. He was going through treatment for most of the first year, then the beginning of this summer, kind of took a turn, and then he passed late June.
Parker: When he died, what did his death mean to you, just then?
Cam: He was actually in hospice care, which is basically we set up a bed in our house, one of those big medical beds, and there were nurses at our house. It was really just a part of life, so we were there with him when he passed, and it was just pretty tragic at the time. That’s about it. At that point, we knew it was all about quality of life. However long he had left was really just how long he had left. I just kind of mentally prepared myself, but it was still hard.
Parker: Was there any moment that it hit you, that he was gone?
Cam: I guess when he actually did because we were all there with him, so it actually was when he did go. What had happened was the process of dying was that he slowly started breathing less and less and less, then he had these short, very quick, gaspy breaths, and he kind of just faded away.
Parker: What emotional toll did it take on you in the period right after?
Cam: All the stuff after that happens very quickly. Just the ceremony, family coming in from everywhere, stuff like that. My brother and sister and I all took a big part in getting everything organized and planning everything, so it wasn’t until after all the ceremony that goes along with it passes, when you get into the day to day stuff. Even going to Homecoming. Normally what we would always do for Homecoming was me and my mom and dad would take a picture and stuff like that, so when you start noticing those differences, and you realize that this thing you have always had by your side is just not there anymore. That’s when you really realize it.
Parker: How long did it take you to adjust to normal daily life in the summer?
Cam: I wasn’t really doing much this past summer, so I wanted to try to start doing more after that. I was planning not really to do much because I knew my dad would be at home and that I would have to help take care of him and stuff like that, so after he passed, I started volunteering every day, and I guess that having something to do helps out a lot, and just keeping yourself busy.
Parker: When you got back to school, did you notice your academics suffering?
Cam: Not really, I kind of viewed it as it is still my job to get good grades and get into the best college I can, and it’s even more important now that he was gone because he had given me the opportunity to make the most of what I had. So I owed it to him to try to find success.
Parker: When you go to college, do you think it’s ever going to hit you again that he will not be able to be there to send you off.
Cam: Probably. That’s just something I have to deal with in any event in my life now.
Parker: When you got back, were you helped by anybody, the school, the counselor, anybody?
Cam: Well, Father Arbogast, since he was new this year, actually the first time I met him was when he came to my dad’s memorial service at our church. There were just a lot of kind wishes and nice words from a lot of people, and that was really helpful.
Parker: How did Father Arbogast help you?
Cam: He was just there supporting me. I mentioned him because, while there were quite a few teachers there, I don’t remember exactly who, I didn’t feel like I really needed to talk to anyone about anything. They were there more just saying, “We’re here for you,” and stuff like that. Stuff like that is really helpful.
Parker: How do you remember him today?
Cam: I remember more of… Well, there were a lot of stories that everyone would tell, which is natural when someone passes, so all the family members would just tell stories, and at first I would say, “Oh, I don’t remember that.” Then, as they would tell it more, I would think, “Oh, yeah! I remember that.” I have a lot more childhood stories that I could tell now and stuff like that. He wasn’t infallible or perfect, by any means, like no one is, obviously. But I remember all of the positives way more than any of the negatives.
Parker: Are there moments when you just can’t help but think about him?
Cam: For me, at least, if I’m just sitting there. It was an important part for me of just being able to take time to myself and just think about everything and be self-reflective. So those moments, when you’re just thinking about things, thinking about life. It’s kind of natural in the college process. I mean, you’re trying to think about where you’re going to be in the future, and thinking about those kind of things, it was natural for me to think about what would Dad want me to do, and what would he think. What should I do that would make him proud?
Parker: How do hope to continue his memory into the future?
Cam: Just taking advantage of every opportunity that I have because I have obviously changed the way I live, but I’m not going to change the dreams I have or my aspirations because I think he would want me to. I’m going to do what I think is right, and do it to the best of my ability.
Parker: You mentioned those opportunities you have to remember him; when do you notice those coming about?
Cam: It’s really just any moment. There are those more special moments where something’s going on that’s really important – for example, a couple months ago, I won an award from the Young Arts Foundation for Photography, and it’s a pretty big deal, but I think before I would have said, “Well, it’s only merit.” I mean, I didn’t get anything. All you get is a medal and a little certificate, but when I got it, I was really proud, and I realized it was something that is really special. I see more things more like that.
Parker: Is there anything else you want to add that I didn’t ask about?
Cam: I know it’s cliché to say at this point, but you truly don’t cherish things enough until they are gone. That’s a big thing. Especially kids, kids don’t realize it. We tend to take things for granted, and I know that I still do to this day, even though this happened to me. I would just tell all kids, “Be thankful for what you have and make the most of what you have.”