By Assunta Ng
Outsiders knew the late Cheryl Chow as intense, tough, and intimidating. One former student, now a successful entrepreneur, told me that he was scared of her when she was a principal with the Seattle Public Schools.
Chow, 66, died of cancer in March.
However, the cold-faced, tough-love Chow disappeared a long time ago, I told him. Love had transformed her.
“I love you” was not a simple thing for Chow to say — especially to her mother, Ruby, the late King County Councilmember, partly due to family and cultural norms. Her wife, Sarah Morningstar, helped Chow break that barrier before her mother passed away. (Chow had openly announced her sexual orientation when she was diagnosed with cancer. She married her long-time partner Morningstar a month ago after the equal marriage law took effect.)
Chow was finally able to say “I love you” to her mother, who responded with just an “Okay.”
Getting Ruby to say it back was a challenge. Inspired by Morningstar, Chow was undeterred and told her mother each night, “I love you, mom.” Nothing changed for a while.
Then one night, Ruby reciprocated. “I love you, Cheryl,” she said. This powerful story brought Chow to tears when she shared it at the City Council meeting last September, when she was honored by the city council. Although she knew that her mother loved her very much, Chow said she waited over 60 years to hear an “I love you” from her mother. That was a triumphant moment. Through Morningstar, love not only transformed Chow, but also her mother-daughter relationship.
“I encouraged Cheryl to say absolutely everything she needed to say to her mother before her mother died,”
Morningstar Said. “Cheryl knew what true love was. And knew how to love and she was aware of how good it felt to say it and hear it.”
If you love a person, make sure they know. Tell them loudly and often — especially if they’re a stubborn soul. (end)