Listen: Missing Mom

As part of MPR's Youth Radio Series, Youth Radio reporter Antonio Gonzalez examines how his family is doing seven months after the sudden and mysterious death of his mother, Judy Ojeda.

Report is third in the six-part award winning material within Youth Radio series.

Click links below for other reports:

part 1:

part 2:

part 4:

part 5:

part 6:


2011 Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism, first place in Audio category


text | pdf |

ANTONIO GONZALEZ JR: My mom was the breadwinner of our family of eight. There are moments every day I think about her, but I try to keep myself occupied. We all do.

Our house is a busy place. I'm the second oldest. We three older kids try to help out our dad with the babies, as we call them.

Noah is six. He's the youngest. There is no such thing as a normal day in my house, huh, Noah?


ANTONIO GONZALEZ JR: My dad's always stayed home to take care of us. Well, that didn't change.

ANTONIO GONZALEZ SR: Well, they did get lucky, because I've always been the chef of the house. So they did get lucky in that way.

ANTONIO GONZALEZ JR: My dad's name is Antonio, too. He's Big Tony, I'm Little Tony. Before my mom died, our life wasn't perfect, but we always stuck together as a family, even when our house went into foreclosure and we had to move from St. Paul to Bloomington, and now to Brooklyn Park.


Music is my thing. I already have my own label and perform around town. My mama always supported me in that. She was a singer, too, when she was younger.


It'd be cool just to kick back

Lay back

And get it situated

She was the one who encouraged me not to just rap about fighting and bad stuff. She said, that's not all of who you are.

(SINGING) Take some time converse

Because things can get worse

And dreams can slip away

Then come back the next day

Then move on

My dad's doing the best he can to take care of us, but he's kind of lost without my mom. They fell in love as teenagers. My mom was 15 when she had my sister, Tacita. We don't always know how to talk about our mom, even though we're always thinking about her.

OK, so I'm sitting here with my dad, otherwise known as Judith's husband. So what exactly happened, your side of the story? What happened to our mom?

ANTONIO GONZALEZ SR: Let's get a better question than that.


ANTONIO GONZALEZ SR: You just asked me to explain the whole entire thing.


ANTONIO GONZALEZ SR: I can't do that. I really can't. I'm not going through-- over that whole thing. Ain't no pause button on there?

ANTONIO GONZALEZ JR: There is a pause button on here.


ANTONIO GONZALEZ JR: In September of last year, my mom thought she was coming down with the flu. My dad took her to the emergency room three times, and each time, she got sent home. Oh, it's nothing.

Finally, she couldn't walk, couldn't move her jaw, couldn't talk. The fourth time, they admitted her. They found 18 spots in her brain. She was fading fast.

She flatlined for 20 minutes. They managed to revive her. She hung on for about two weeks, but she didn't make it. She died October 19. We were in shock, and in some ways, we still are. How do you feel about everything that happened?

ANTONIO GONZALEZ SR: Well, I'm not really satisfied with it. A lot of unanswered questions, as far as I'm concerned. Just the most messed up thing that you could ever think of happened.

REPORTER: Our families tried to find a way to keep moving forward. Judy Ojeda was just 32 years old when she suddenly got sick. FOX9's Karen Scullin joins us with her story.

KAREN SCULLIN: Well, Jeff and Robin--

ANTONIO GONZALEZ JR: After my mom died, they did a story about her on the TV news. People knew her because she worked in public health. She taught HIV and AIDS prevention at Neighborhood House in Saint Paul and worked with pregnant teens.

KAREN SCULLIN: She was a woman who spent her life trying to make other lives better, starting with her own six children, ages five to 17. Judy Ojeda was a devoted mother and friend to all of them.

ANTONIO GONZALEZ JR: How do you think the family's doing?

ANTONIO GONZALEZ SR: I don't think the family's doing anything. I know exactly what it's doing, because I'm here every day with you guys. We could be doing worse, but everybody in the house is pretty strong. Of course, we're not going to be normal anytime soon, but the world will never know, because we're good at hiding our feelings.

ANTONIO GONZALEZ JR: Like my little brother, Jesus. He's 10.

JESUS GONZALEZ: Because I don't want to talk.

ANTONIO GONZALEZ JR: Why don't you want to talk?

JESUS GONZALEZ: Because I don't want to.

ANTONIO GONZALEZ JR: Don't you want people to know about you feel about your mom? Whiz.


ANTONIO GONZALEZ JR: I'll leave you alone.

LITA GONZALEZ: I'm Lita Gonzalez. I'm Tony's little sister. Repeat the question.

ANTONIO GONZALEZ JR: How was your feelings towards what happened?

LITA GONZALEZ: Could you be more specific?

ANTONIO GONZALEZ JR: What happened, the whole situation with our mom passing.

LITA GONZALEZ: No, but I mean--

ANTONIO GONZALEZ JR: What are your feelings?

LITA GONZALEZ: In general?


LITA GONZALEZ: Well, what else am I supposed to feel? How else would you expect a 14-year-old girl to feel that lost her mom? It's not something you can explain.

ANTONIO GONZALEZ JR: Explain? No, maybe not. My family doesn't like to talk about our feelings, but I do on my songs. I wrote this song for my mom when she was sick in the hospital.


My day, it seems good

But every time I see you

The rain's falling down

I try so hard to stay strong

But every time I see you

My walls keep falling down

When I wrote that, I was hoping and praying she'd make it. The song was halfway done when she died. I finished writing it after she passed.

Be up writing, it'll be OK. I imagine you were right here next to me. I'm trying to stay positive, but I've got to find a way to deal with the pain.

Didn't have the best relationship, or so I think, but you was always right next to me. I look at the sky, but I can't, because I try to dream, but all I see is memories.

I'm starting to break down mentally. I feel like it's the end, so rest in peace. God, let me breathe, let me breathe. Come on, just let me breathe. Wish she could just speak to me, yeah. Just speak to me.

I moved into my mom's room because my dad didn't want to stay in there. I write my music there and recorded this audio diary. Just got done taking off my sister's-- my little sister's training wheels on her bike. Just thinking how my mom wasn't here to see it.

You know, I was just talking to him. I had a long, long speech about our culture, a little bit of our history. Normally, my mom was teaching us that, but she's not here. So I figured I had to teach the little kids about it eventually.

It came up then, so I sat her down. It's weird having shows, going on stage and performing when the person who went to all my shows is gone. I'm used to her being up right by the stage. When I get off stage, I'm used to her being there. Different now that she's gone.

I want to reach out to people and be a storyteller through my music. My mom taught me to write about what was going on around me and what we've been through. She told me, you got to be vulnerable. You got to show your weaknesses. Your weaknesses are things you're scared of and you don't want other people to know.

What's left to be scared of if everyone knows your weaknesses? It only makes you stronger. My mom was a fighter and so am I. Every day, I'm learning to live with the pain that she's gone. For Minnesota Public Radio News, I'm Antonio Gonzalez.


Mama used to kiss me on my head

It'll be OK

Mama used to kiss me on my head

It'll be OK

Mama used to kiss you me my head

It'll be OK

Mama used to kiss me on my head

It'll be OK.

Mama used to kiss me on my head

It'll be OK

Mama used to kiss me on my head

It'll be OK

Mama used to kiss me on my head

It'll be OK

It'll be OK

Got to find a way to deal with the pain

I feel in the heart and feel in the brain

I'm feeling strange

Losing you made it hard to maintain

Thought I was losing it before

I'm insane.

So Lord, tell me who's to blame

I'm looking in the sky, praying for the change

They say she's in a better place

But ain't a better place than here with your family, yeah

Mama used to kiss me on my head

It'll be OK

Mama used to kiss you on my head

It'll be OK

Mama used to kiss me on my

It'll be OK

Mama used to kiss me on my head

It'll be OK

Mama used to kiss me on my head

It'll be OK

Mama used to kiss me on my head

It'll be OK

Mama used to kiss me on my head

It'll be OK

It'll be OK


Materials created/edited/published by Archive team as an assigned project during remote work period and in office during fiscal 2021-2022 period.

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