Learning to Grow Up Whether You’re Ready or Not

Yolanda Dooley killin’ it like always!

I’ve spent every summer with my grandma who lives right outside of Chicago for as long as I’ve been alive. My older sister and I would fly from Texas to Illinois to hang out with the matriarch of my family, and no matter how old we turned, we made sure to spend some time with Granny.

Summer 2011 was no different for me. I was scheduled to go visit my grandma, like always, right before my parents were to take me to college. Nearly a week into my trip, we got a call from my step-dad that my mother had fallen and was complaining of a severe headache. My mom, a nurse, had Lupus, but aside from that, swasn’t sick. She took pretty good care of herself and had celebrated her 47th birthday 10 days before. My grandma and I talked to my step-dad who warned us that my mother had a brain aneurysm and was being flown to another hospital in downtown Houston.

A brain aneurysm.

I had no idea what it was, but after searching the internet I realized that a few things could happen to my mother when this ordeal was all said and done: 1. She could walk away just fine, 2. She would be in a vegetative state for the rest of her life, 3. She would die. The latter was, of course, the most extreme, and would only occur if she slipped into a coma.

Shortly after we received the call that she fell, we got a call that she slipped into a coma. Around midnight on July 15, 2011, we got the news that my mother’s brain had lost its function. Technically, her brain died before her heart did. My grandma and I flew to Houston the next morning and met our family at the hospital. That is the day my life changed.

Looking back, I didn’t realize how much my life would change from that moment on. I was my mom’s youngest child and my older sister lived in Arkansas with a family of her own. Aside from my grandma and my mom’s sister, my aunt, my mom was all I that I considered as my immediate family. Though she remarried, my relationship with my step-dad wasn’t ideal, and my biological father never played a huge role in my life.

So the next month, I put on my big girl panties. My grandma, sister, cousin, and step-dad all moved me into Howard. It was a fresh start. I was able to look past the trauma that happened not even a month earlier and begin a new life.

What my mom’s death taught me is that life is inevitable. Life is unexpected. Life can be really good, and life can be really bad. Life is daunting. Life is aggravating. Life is amazing. Life is beautiful. After she passed I accepted a new outlook on life. I chose happiness. My mom’s ringtone was “Live Your Life” by T.I. and Rihanna, and I adapted that mantra to everyday life. I chose to live my life without barriers and restrictions, chase things that made me happy and smile unapologetically through it all. Life is not easy at times, and sometimes you’re thrown curve balls, but the important part is that you will get through it.

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