Kevin Cody

Remembering a mother taken too soon

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Rebecca Nolan reads her prize winning essay about losing her mother to cancer. Photo by Kevin Cody

A 12-year-old reflects on loss

by Rebecca Nolan

I’m 12 years old and my mom died two years ago from a cancer that spread all over her body. The time at the hospital was the hardest part of this experience for me. Dozens of cars rounded up in the parking lot. This large building loomed in front of me. Many people rushed into the hospital anxiously waiting to see how their loved ones were doing, which included my family. We were not promised we would see her tomorrow. We were not promised to see her in a minute. We only had now. For a few seconds, none of this seemed real. The shock, the pain, the reality, never hit me. Until now. It all felt like a dream. In the end I knew it wasn’t, but at the moment it was nice thinking this wasn’t real. Thinking all of this would go away tomorrow. Thinking it would all be better soon. I didn’t cry, I wouldn’t. I kept my emotions bottled up in this container which held a lot of feelings inside. Every so often I would explode in tears. I tried not to cry around people, maybe because I didn’t want them to see my soft spots or maybe because this was something I wanted to keep to myself.

My mom was a beautiful woman. She had brown curly hair that dangled a few inches below her shoulders. Her face had many freckles. She had sparkling teeth with a perfect smile that made everyone feel happy. She always wore her sunglasses.

Memory changes over time. My memory of this experience may not be spot on. But the emotion, the feeling, the pain will always be there, no matter how many years pass. We didn’t find out she had cancer until my mom was at the cancer stage 4B. She had cancer way before we knew and the doctors didn’t see it. We just lived our lives normally for the past few years. Living this life thinking everything was fine on the outside, but on the inside everything was wrong. I was living this fairytale that I thought would end with a happy ending.

When my mom finally told me she had cancer, I was in disbelief. I didn’t know how much harm it could do at the moment. I sat there staring at my parents from the back seat of the car. Dumbfounded by the words that didn’t seem to be true. We continued on our same routine. Little did I know it was all about to change.

Days went on with no results, only wishing things would get better. Person after person tried to make her better, but it was of no use. We had religious people, doctors, nurses, remedies. Nothing happened. Soon, my mom was too weak to take me to school. Too weak to walk very much.  My brother Joshua started picking me up at school because my mom couldn’t. I would always ask him: “Why can’t my mom pick me up?” He said, “She doesn’t feel well.” I began to get really sad, but I kept on with this battle. Even though my mom was the one with cancer, the one fighting to stay alive, we kept fighting with her. We were battling the pain with her.

We kept thinking she was going to get better. My mom had been doing chemotherapy to try to kill the cancer, but it wasn’t working. We heard it was like poison in her body. Her immune system got weaker and weaker. But we had to get rid of the cancer. She started to lose her hair, so she decided to cut it neck length.

My brother and I both trimmed her hair. Just when we thought the tumor was getting smaller and going away we found out it had spread from her thymus gland to her liver. The tumor was the size of a baseball, wrapped around her heart. That is why they couldn’t do surgery to remove it. The cancer made her feet numb and swollen and made her eyes have yellow bubbles. And, finally, it spread to her brain. Which killed her.

Like I said earlier, this all felt like a dream. But then again, dreams only exist in your mind. Everything felt so wrong that I thought it was a dream. I feel really bad that I didn’t appreciate my mom enough. I didn’t get to say goodbye. I personally don’t like hospitals no matter who is in them. In the first few weeks of her hospitalization I wanted to leave the minute I arrived. The hospital room wasn’t very spacious. Large machines were planted in the ground while some were on wheels. She had an IV stuck in her arm. She gently laid in her bed with the sheets covering her body.

The day before she died, I wanted to go shopping because I really didn’t like the hospital, so I left the hospital and on that day I never saw my mom again. I know I shouldn’t feel bad for what I have done because it already happened. There are always those what-ifs. What if I stayed the last day of her life? What if I slept at the hospital with my aunt next to my mom? What if I got to say goodbye? I think my mom meant to die before my dad so my dad and I could bond more. They say everything happens for a reason, right? There are so many questions that linger in my brain. Mostly: why, why, why? My mom was only 47 years old and I was 10 years old.

This experience has taught me to treasure the ones I love the most because you only have today. Losing my mom was like losing a big piece of my heart. I always wonder what life would be like if she was here. How it would be different, how I would be different? My mom played a big role in my life from being my mom, to being my mentor, defender, and encourager. She was everything to me. She encouraged me, was always proud of me and always stuck to my side no matter what the circumstances. We had our secrets that have died with my mom which no one knows.

Now that my mom is no longer here I have to take on a different role in my life. My mom would always do my hair, make my bed, wash my clothes, pick out my clothes, take me shopping, bring me special lunches to school, and always pick me up from school on time. She treated me like a princess. Since she is gone I have to do a lot of these things on my own. I have taken on more responsibility and maturity. At night she would lay down with me in bed and we would talk about my day. That was one of my favorite parts when I spent time with her. I always felt so secure knowing she was right next to me. She was my best friend. Since she’s gone I don’t have my childhood anymore. I’ve lost it and can’t get it back because I am so used to this new life which was forced on me. With no choice, I have taken on this role as my own mentor, my own helper, my own believer and fighter.

My dad and I have had to take on this challenge, sometimes with each other, sometimes against. It’s been a rough road for us both because now my dad has to be the mother and father of the family. My dad does some of the things my mom did but he can never replace her.

I think my mom died for a reason. I think God wanted my dad and I to get along better. As our life carries on my dad and I have built a life together that works for both of us. Together my dad and I take on the world with my mom always with us in our heart. B


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