05/10/2013 05:25 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Kitt Shapiro Remembers Her Mom, Eartha Kitt, on Mother's Day... And Everyday

Courtesy of Kitt Shapiro

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Kitt Shapiro, only child of trailblazing entertainment legend, Eartha Kitt, who passed away from colon cancer on Christmas Day, 2008. With Mother's Day upon us, Kitt has allowed me to share with you personal memories and photos of her relationship with her iconic mom in her own words...

The first Mother's Day after my Mom passed was very hard, and surreal. I kept thinking 'I can't believe I'm never going to hear her speak to me again.' I just wanted to hear her speak to me again. With her ashes next to me in the living room, I sat there channel-surfing, and came across a movie from 2007, And Then Came Love -- not a good movie, but I remembered my mother appeared in it. The story is about a young girl looking for happiness and fame in show business. I had no idea what part of the film I was watching, or where my mother's part came in. I could've already missed her. The camera was in the point of view of this young girl going into a dressing room to get advice -- and suddenly, there was my mother looking and speaking at the lens -- and at me. I'm not sure if the young woman in the film got the answer she needed, but I do know that I asked and then received.


Eartha Kitt and Kitt Shapiro

More recently on an episode of CBS Sunday Morning, the singer Rufus Wainwright said, "A person is born twice. First, at birth, and then again, when his mother dies." These words rang so true for me that I had to pause the show and write it down. Every mother-daughter relationship is special, and has its own rhythms, but when your mother is an international celebrity, it can be even more complicated.


Eartha Kitt and Kitt Shapiro

Because my mother and I looked so different physically -- I inherited my father's German-Irish skin and blonde hair -- when we were in public, people would try to figure out who and what we were to each other. My mother would have named me Kitt whether I was a boy or a girl, and often introduced us to people, saying, "I'm Eartha and she's Kitt," as if I completed her. And, in some ways, I guess I did. Her mother had died when she was very young. She didn't know who her father was and was disconnected from any of her relatives, so I really was her only family. And she clung to me with an intensely deep, unconditional love. I, in turn, whether I knew it or not, gave her roots and grounded her. Mother's Day symbolized to her that there is nothing more important on this planet than being a good mother.


Eartha Kitt and Kitt Shapiro

My mother would say to me, "When I'm gone, do not throw anything away -- use it." In going through my mother's belongings, I unearthed a treasure trove of handwritten thoughts we affectionately refer to as "Kitt-isms." Colorful, wise, musings such as "What I do today is how I am interpreted tomorrow," "When life becomes confused, step aside and think," and "How some people can get bored bewilders me." I cherish these precious papers and in using her handwritten words in a new collection of eco-friendly products I've created called Simply Eartha, it really feels like she has a hand in it.

Eartha Kitt "I like to use the freedom of my own imagination."

It was the core of my mother's belief that we should be repurposing, avoiding waste and always considering the environment. My mother was organic way before it was chic. She had a vegetable garden, and a yard with chickens and roosters in Beverly Hills. She composted long before anyone knew what it was. She said any manure that was flung at her in life, whether verbal or otherwise would help her fertilize for the future.


Eartha Kitt and Baby Kitt

Because my mother ate so healthy and exercised every day, she never thought to go to a doctor to get her colon checked. Colon cancer is the number two cancer killer, but it doesn't have to be. If you get checked regularly, any problem caught early can be so easily fixed. My mother passed away from colon cancer on Christmas Day 2008. I donate to the Colon Cancer Alliance as a way to give back and also pay it forward.


Kitt Shapiro and Eartha Kitt

I was with my mother when she died. She wasn't going to go without a fight -- that's for sure. She left this world screaming at the top of her lungs -- even though she couldn't talk at that point, I knew she would have been screaming. I saw it in her eyes, which locked with mine. She was crying. Sad as I was, I felt blessed. There was nothing left unsaid or undone. There were no regrets. She may have come into this world belonging to nothing and no one, but that is not how she left it. Since my mother died, Mother's Day has been filled with mixed emotions, celebrating my life as a mother while longing for my own.


Eartha Kitt and Kitt Shapiro

The greatest gift my mother gave me was knowing that she always loved me. All the more remarkable, because as a child, love was something she never had. And as I continue to sort through the piles of her handwritten pages, I often stumble upon thoughts she wrote about and to me. Some are uncomfortable to read, but all are filled with her love. For this Mother's Day, I share one with you.

My daughter
Mirrors cannot hold the image of you I hold in my eyes
I will bring the skies down to earth for you
The feelings I have for you are etched upon my heart and soul.