I was driving to the hospital on a mild autumn eve. The sun was dipping to eye level in my rear-view mirror; and on the CD player, the sultry sounds of Cat Power's just-about-perfect 2003 album 'You Are Free'.
I felt filled with infinite possibility. The windows fully wound down, the air itself seemed replete with optimism. Everything would be fine. My mother would live. Cancer would not win this day.
Nonetheless, as soon as I parked and cranked up the handbrake, I rushed to her side. My sister was there. She looked at me with a heavy heart.
We didn't need medical charts or a doctor's wisdom to tell us that our mother was not in great shape. We knew this simply because of her silence. You see, our mother could talk herself through the three-foot walls of Fort Knox. She could talk through full sedation and a surgeon's knife. She could talk through the speed of light; through April, May and June; through the Sahara and back.
Lying as she was, feeble in her hospital bed, she was awake yet totally quiet. Panicking, we decided to call the doctors. Something's wrong, we said, she needs urgent attention.
The specialists arrived and assured us she was fine. But no, we insisted, look at her mouth: it's not moving!
And all through those moments those Cat Power songs rang through my head as clear as if Chan Marshall were in the room, playing in the corner on her sweet guitar.
Throughout the coming weeks, as my mother slowly recovered, I thrashed that CD over and over. It became the theme-tune of her hospitalisation.
One warm afternoon, I came in and from fifty metres from her hospital room I could hear her talking the head off a nurse. I cried with joy. My mother, my nutty mother, the great survivor.
But, as much as she could gossip, lecture, advise, ask, pontificate, naval-gaze, chat, yack, spat and converse, she couldn't win a fight with Cat Power.
Sadly, every time after her recovery that I played that album, I could heard nothing but my mother's silent voice. I couldn't hear the songs without that sinking, now irrational, feeling that my own mother might pass away.
That experience, those 14 songs, were glued together within neurons and synapses in my brain that could never be untangled. They were fused together in a 1400-degree oven of memory.
However, the last word, as on every occasion bar none, was to be my mother's. Years later, sitting here typing up this journal note, I now see how in that early Spring my mother lived and Cat Power died.
You see, three years after that cancer struggle, the next Cat Power album took far off in the solar system. To a beautiful, deeply human science-fiction novel called 'Titan', about a man and women on a daredevil one-way trip to Saturn's largest moon in search of extraterrestrial life.
And there, on that Earth-like rock of purple skies and rivers of methane, Chan Marshall sits and plays her sweet guitar. Whilst my mother, standing atop a dune of loose rocky regolith, chatters away to Saturn's beautiful rings of dust.
There is life on other planets. My mother, she told me so.