Waking up today before the alarm sounded and reaching for my smartphone, I realized that it is March 15, 2024.

Students of Roman history and of Shakespeare know March 15 as the “Ides” (or middle) of March – the day in 44 BCE when Brutus, Cassius and several senators assassinated Julius Caesar.

As he lay dying, Caesar recalled the soothsayer’s earlier warning: “Beware the Ides of March.”

Shakespeare describes it this way in Act 3, Scene 1:

CAESAR: The ides of March are come.

SOOTHSAYER: Ay, Caesar; but not gone.

Tradition says that this is also the day in the ancient Roman calendar when debts must be repaid, and slates wiped clean.

For me, March 15 has a poignant meaning for it is the anniversary of my mother’s death. Rose Lopetrone Paparelli (whose mother’s family name, ironically, was Romano) would have been 102 years old today.

My indebtedness to Mom, however, can never be repaid, only paid forward.

Mom instilled in me a love of history and literature. Indeed, she recounted to me that she dropped her then-boyfriend in favor of my father because the rejected beau spoke so poorly, and my dad (though not a history buff) had the gift of gab.

More than these gifts, however, Mom taught me that everyone deserves respect, and that disrespect must be challenged. Although many examples could be cited, one vignette stands out in my memory.

As kids growing up in the inner city of 1950s Detroit, my sister, brother and I only rarely had the chance to witness Michigan’s namesake aquatic feature (derived from the Chippewa word “Michigama,” meaning “great water” or “large lake”). Thus, we were overjoyed when we learned that our parents would drive us to a lakeside cottage “up north” for a week’s family vacation.

Before reaching the cottage, my dad stopped for gas. In the days before self-service, every gas station featured an attendant who filled up the tank. My dad (the one with the gift of gab), sitting in the driver’s seat, struck up a conversation with the attendant, while Mom rode “shotgun” and the three kids sat in the back.

Dad asked the fellow, a muscular white man in his 20s, how he liked living in rural Michigan. The man smiled and replied, “I love it,” but then made a racist remark.

Without a moment’s hesitation, Mom said: “now mister, that’s not nice. We are all God’s children.” The man fell silent; then he apologized.

In just a few words, Mom spoke truth to power, and taught me to stand up for the disenfranchised. In no small part, she is why I became a lawyer, and chose immigration law as my specialty.

Because of her, I will forever be aware of the Ides of March. For me, the Ides of March “are come . . . but [never] gone.”