My mother was diagnosed with cancer when I was 7 years old. She was a single mom. She was my everything. My sun, my shelter, my subsistence, my best friend. She was young, filled with light and every time I saw her I would think she was the most beautiful woman in the world.
When she told me she had cancer it was as if she told me she had a cold. Though the doctor told her she wouldn’t live past a year, she did not share that with me. She would go to the hospital, she would come home and need to recover. She would heal as far as I was concerned. I busied myself mimicking the maternal behaviors my mother always modeled with me. I brought her water, I reminded her to take her pills, I pulled covers up and around her frail frame while she shivered under chemotherapy’s fallout, and held her hair back as the poison emptied from her stomach.
Watching her suffer through such a senseless disease taught me that human connection and respect are the most important things this life has to offer. They might even be the meaning of life. It taught me that God exists no matter what you call him or her. And, it taught me that I have to say everything to everyone in case I don’t get the chance again.
Now that I am a mother myself, I am constantly reminded of my children’s extraordinary ability to understand heavy issues we often label as “adult.” As I have another birthday past the year my mother was diagnosed with cancer and as my children near the age I was at that time, I thank the universe for my continued health and for my children’s health. I am prompted to reflect on how my mother must have felt contemplating leaving a young child behind without her care, and as a mother, it devastates me to think of losing one of my children. Above all the intricacies of the human spirit and attachments, I have come to realize how reciprocal parent-child relationships are and, when faced with struggles, we become what we most need and what is needed from us. We are all the child, the parent, the patient, the healer, at one time, or another.