Baseball, in its unique and storied past, has dates that stand out above all others. Depending on our ages and personal history with the sport, we each have our own moments, memories, and places in time that will forever be etched in our hearts and minds. If we’re fortunate to have experienced these types of moments, we can recall with ease what was taking place on the field, who we were with, and even the sights and sounds of the stadium.
For Dodgers fans, June 18, 2014 will forever stand out as one of those memorable moments in time for their team, as that was the day our future Hall of Fame pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, treated us to one of the best pitching performances we may ever see, as he no-hit the Rockies at Dodger Stadium. For 33-year lifelong Dodgers fan Lauren Mora-Pyska and her family, the night will forever hold the most bittersweet of memories, as that was the night her father, Armando Jose Mora Jr. passed away at the age of 58 from stage 4 stomach cancer.
“My Dad was a hardworking man,” Lauren recalled recently. “He was fireman for the City of Santa Fe Springs for 30 years and also worked side landscaping jobs. Growing up in East LA, he was also a Dodger fan. My Mom was able to stay home with us when we were little. I realize now how lucky we were to have that luxury. My Dad lived and breathed for my brother and I. He was affectionate and a hands-on father, and he took us to baseball games. He was an amazing cook. We went to Zihuatanejo, Mexico twice a year. We went to concerts (he was a HUGE Morrissey fan and so am I). He was my best friend.”
We found out Dad was sick just after Labor Day in 2012. My world came crashing down.
“I will never forget the day he called and couldn’t tell me himself. He had to put his wife on the phone to relay the bad news. I remember my brother and a few other people and I were going to a Dodger game that night. I didn’t want to go. He told me to go and have a good time and that I would see him the next day. So I went to the game dazed and shocked.”
The next 2 years were challenging, depressing, sad, and surreal for Lauren and her family. Sprinkled with both false hope and realistic optimism. The family had mini plan tickets so they continued to attend Dodgers games when her Dad wasn’t too sick from chemotherapy and radiation, cherishing the time together.
“We grew closer than ever,” Lauren told me recently. “He knew he had very little time left.”
A Once in a Life-Time Game
On June 18, 2014, Mora Jr. was on Day 1 of home hospice care, after having stopped treatments voluntarily two months earlier and having his children’s promise they would be ok after he was gone. As Lauren and her brother lay in bed holding hands with their father, Kershaw threw his gem at Dodger Stadium as they watched MLB TV on their iPad. One last game together.
Lauren remembers the details of the evening well. “Dad was in and out of it but he was still with us. He had showered earlier that evening with some assistance so I wasn’t completely aware that he would pass so soon. After the no hitter was complete I allowed myself to feel happy, if just for a moment. What a game to watch.”
“After the game, my brother and I hung out with our family, and my aunts and uncles said we could go home and get some rest and that they would stay the night and take turns on night one of hospice. No more than 20 minutes after we left, my Dad passed away. I feel like he was waiting for my brother and to leave to spare us the heartache of witnessing it.
“The funeral was huge. More than a 1,000 people attended. Numerous fireman from across Southern California attended. We wore Dodger hats at the funeral reception. I got married to my husband one month later with my Dad’s little brother and best friend walking me down the aisle.”
Life can be unfair. It’s full of ups and downs. Never forget all the great times with loved ones who are gone too soon.
“I was very lucky to bond with my Dad at Dodgers games, and I will never forget those moments or that last game we watched together as a family.”
Thank you, Kershaw, for that night.