I have my days where I complain, thinking how horrible this life has been. I have had a lot of blessings that I can’t ignore, though I don’t always make those my focus. What is at the forefront of my mind is “Just Keep Sailing.” I have had to push through many stormy seas within a short span of my life, including the loss of my mother at the age of eight. In fact, I had just turned eight when she finally passed from stomach cancer. As she was battling the illness, I didn’t see her much; maybe once or twice. She didn’t want us to see her so sick, which I completely understand. We were little. I remember the last time I saw her; well, the last time I can remember. My grandma (Her mom) was taking care of her in a small one bedroom apartment. I walked into the room, and my mom was hooked up to a machine. As I followed the tubes, there was a large one that ran into the left side of her stomach. I noticed the hole in her side as it swallowed the feeding tube. She was in such pain. Oxygen ran through her nose, an IV in her hand. She sat in a chair in my grandmother’s room and looked at me. My mom cried knowing that there was nothing she could do to care for me. I looked back in such confusion and thought, “Mommy, why are you crying?” I didn’t get it.
My mother finally passed that November. I was in my second grade class with Mrs. Abby (Yes, it’s a fake name) when I got the news. One of our neighbors pulled me out of class, and I thought “Wow! I get to go home early!” She took me, my siblings, and her kids to one of our favorite pizza places and we sure felt special. I remember not knowing what was happening and why I was eating my favorite pizza during school hours, but man I enjoyed it!
After we were all finished, our neighbor dropped us kids off at home where we met up with our dad. He took us into the house and sat us down. He said, “Your mother died.” My brother and sister immediately started to cry. I still had no idea what was happening or what that meant, so I started to fake cry with them! I hate feeling left out. I fake cried and cried as all of them huddled together and really cried. My dad was really sweet, though. When we were all crying our eyes out (fake crying my eyes out too) he took us to the nearest store that had a toy aisle. He said “Get anything you want. From this day forward, I will buy you anything you want.” And that promise he kept. To this day, he still buys us anything we want.
The day of the funeral was an interesting time. The church Cultural Hall was empty as I approached my mother’s casket. Still confused, I looked at her and touched her face. Wow, hard as a rock. I quickly took my hand from her after I felt her cold hard skin. The beautiful part was that she had a smile on her face. I looked at her smile and it comforted me. The service was really nice too. I sat on the second or third row in the chapel and waited for my mom to pop out of her casket and start dancing. While she was sick, she always said “When I am in heaven, I will be dancing.” So, I pictured her popping out of her casket and dancing in her beautiful white dress that she was being buried in.
As I watched my first grade teacher sing in the choir (Her voice was magnificent), all of it slapped me across the face. My mom was gone and she wasn’t coming back. The tears finally started to flow like a fast waterfall and I just couldn’t contain it. My first grade teacher watched me as I let loose. When everything was over and my mother finally buried, we made it home and the coldness of her absence set in. Days, weeks, and finally months went by as we plugged along. I can’t tell you how many sleepovers I had, parties, and mornings when I had pure sugar for breakfast. One day at school, a boy looked at me and said “You have Oreo cookie around your mouth.” He looked as if he was embarrassed for me. But, I knew I had one up on him that morning; my breakfast was a plate of Oreos!
My father did everything he could to make us happy during that bleak time; he even found us a new mother that loved us with her whole heart. In spite of his valiant efforts, the scars of my mothers passing are profound and still ache to this day. Sometimes I wonder why life has to be a constant storm and if it’s worth all of the fuss. I guess I am still figuring that part out. What I have learned, however, is that we all have our moments. No one is exempt from pain. People die, loved ones leave, and experiences come and go. I no longer can say “It’s only me that’s hurting.” Instead of continuing my own pity parties, I begin to notice that every heart suffers from this nasty storm we call “Life.” We have all been ship wrecked a time or two and we have the choice to stay ship wrecked or pick up the pieces and keep sailing.
I say, just keep sailing.
Featured Photo by Missi Photographie