To my mother
Someone once asked me how long it took to get over my mother’s death, and I told them, “you never really do.” That person didn’t accept my answer, and eventually, we started talking about something else.
Today, June 8th, is the eleventh anniversary of my mother’s death. Every year on this day, I take off work. I usually do nothing and never really have a plan. I guess I want the day to be open in case any hidden emotions arise. Sometimes I look at old photographs. Sometimes I imagine an alternate universe where she’s still here — perhaps living with me, perhaps retired in the Dominican Republic. I imagine her meeting my significant other and my new friends and criticizing my messy apartment. I imagine her being proud of me for “making it” and having a job that pays multiple times over what she made as a single mother living in the hood. I imagine being able to just pick up the phone and call her, maybe via FaceTime, and seeing her smiling face and snow-white hair. I imagine hearing her voice. The voice I held onto when I refused to upgrade my phone for years because I had a saved voicemail. I don’t have many videos of her. The time before she got sick was the era of the digital camera — it wasn’t a time where we recorded and posted everything, no matter how mundane. I wish I had, though.
What I would give to see her one more time. Not like the last time I saw her, swollen in her hospice bed and so heavily medicated she couldn’t speak. I wish I could see her before. Before cancer took over her life. Before my summer breaks were filled with chemotherapy appointments. Before she lost all her hair. Before it was too late.
I was a junior in college when I found out. I remember googling “pancreatic cancer” and reading that only like 10% of people made it past five years. It is the deadliest form of cancer. I wish I had taken it more seriously and gone back home. But she wouldn’t have allowed it. My mother came to this country and worked tirelessly so that I wouldn’t have to. So that I could use all my free time to focus on school. Her goal in life was for me to get a good education and land a job to get us out of poverty, which I eventually did, just too late for her to see. I wish she could see me now.
I’ve come to terms with all of the losses I’ve suffered through in my relatively short life. But every now and then, especially on a day like today, I like to take some time to imagine an alternate version of my life. One where she’s still here. And I remember all the good feelings she used to evoke: love, nurture, kindness, laughter. And I cry. And as I write this, I remind myself that although she is no longer in this world physically, she will forever be cherished in my memory.
Mami, te quiero muchisimo y te extraño tanto. Espero que donde quiera que estes, la estes pasando de maravilla. Nunca te voy a olvidar.