'A Second Mother To Me'

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From left - Michael Tambone, Frances Schmitz, and Vincent Schmitz pose at the 2013 Mother/Son Mass. (Courtesy)
From left - Michael Tambone, Frances Schmitz, and Vincent Schmitz pose at the 2013 Mother/Son Mass. (Courtesy)

Michael Tambone had twice skipped the annual mother/son Mass and breakfast hosted at his Jesuit high school in St. Louis; his mom had passed away when he was in the eighth grade. Then, in his junior year, a friend's mother, Frances Schmitz, noticed his absence from the list of boys who would be attending.

Michael and Frances tell their story for WBUR's Kind World, celebrating acts of kindness.

MICHAEL TAMBONE: In the eighth grade, my mom passed away. My friends' moms tell me she liked to brag about me a lot. When she passed away, I had to move in with my dad. I love him to death, but sometimes he's kind of hard to talk to. He'd just, like, look at us, and start tearing up, and say, "I can't believe this happened." I was not always comfortable talking about it, so I would just kind of sit alone and think about it by myself.

FRANCES SCHMITZ: Michael is a friend of my son, Vincent. When you lose your mom — at what was the end of his eighth-grade year — you have to do a lot of growing up. Those are also the very years that, on one hand, kids are always angry at their parents, and on the other hand, they're constantly leaning on you and going to you. They need you. And Michael, like any other young man at that point in time, needs his mom.

TAMBONE: I went to an all-boys Jesuit high school. Every year, my school would hold a mother/son Mass and breakfast. We would go there early, dress up really nice, go do Mass, and then right afterwards we'd all meet in the lunch room for breakfast. Everyone else was going to that, and, if my mom was here, I would definitely go to that, too. So I just skipped it the first couple years.

SCHMITZ: The whole point with the mother/son breakfast: they make everything about the relationship of a mother and a son, and the kind of love and trust that goes with that. Junior year, my son and I were going once again. I had noticed that Michael hadn't been to any of them, and Vincent was giving me the list of all the people who were gonna be there. And I said, "Is Michael gonna be there?" And Vincent said, "No, mom. But he should be."

TAMBONE: I remember she called me, and she was saying, if it wouldn't be too strange, or too sad, she would love to take me to the mother/son Mass and breakfast. I jumped on the idea. I got ready, dressed in a coat and tie, and she picked me up from my house.

SCHMITZ: During the whole day — the mass and breakfast and the fun and games that came afterwards — there was never a moment where he looked around and felt sorry for himself for not having Tracy with him (his mom). He just held himself with a real dignity.

TAMBONE: They just talked about, in the homily, more about how much you should appreciate your mothers. Just how you should be grateful for them and what they do.

SCHMITZ: At the end, each of the boys was supposed to pull a rose out of the centerpieces and give them to their mother, and both Michael and Vincent handed me a rose. I then whispered to Vincent, "Go around and get me a bouquet of flowers and meet me in the kitchen." We headed into the kitchen while everyone was getting coats and bags and things, and we put together a bouquet, and just very quietly got in the car with it — I'm sure Michael just thought I liked roses. And as we were driving home, I said, "Let's go see your mom."

And so we drove to the cemetery. He was very quiet, kind of shocked. Vincent grabbed the bouquet of roses and handed them to Michael, and said, "This is for your mom." And we walked over to the grave, and we all spent time with her. And then Vincent and I stepped back to let Michael have some time with his mom. And that's it.

TAMBONE: People would always give their condolences and everything. But she took a proactive approach to basically be a second mother to me, and it just meant a lot to me. More than any other act that anyone has done before then.

SCHMITZ: I never met his mother, but I feel I know her. Because to know the child is to know the mother. And she must have been a very loving, caring woman, to raise the children that she did.

TAMBONE: I actually call her every Mother's Day. I would say, "thank you so much, I love you, you're amazing."

SCHMITZ: When someone feels comfortable joining in as part of your family, for me that is an honor and a privilege. And I will forever be grateful to Michael, for giving me that honor and being someone who will always be a part of my heart.

Kind World is a project of the WBUR iLab, celebrating stories of kindness and the profound effect that one act can have on our lives.

Kind World is produced by Zack Ezor, Lisa Tobin, and Nate Goldman. If you have a story of kindness to share, please send us a message or email us at

Zack Ezor Producer
Zack Ezor was formerly a producer for WBUR.



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