My mother passed away from breast cancer in 2003, and to say that I miss her would be an understatement. As I get older, I have begun to see the similarities between us. Despite the fact that you could put a wig on my head and I would look just like her, but much of my character comes directly from who she was. I find myself channeling her facial expressions and mannerisms especially when parenting my children.
I learned a lot from my mother; unfortunately it was not until I became an adult and a parent myself that I could really appreciate the sacrifices that she made for her children. Life was not easy for her in a post World War II era when she left Jamaica and headed to England in search of a better life. It took courage and determination to do that. It took even greater courage to come to the United States in the late 60’s during a time when the civil rights movement was in full swing and find acceptance in a culture that was unkind to Blacks and even more so to mixed raced blacks in an interracial relationship let alone a marriage.
I never really understood why I grew up in Jamaica away from my parents and as I grew older, I resented it and her. I felt that I had been given the short end of the stick; not knowing that my mother did what she knew was best for me. It’s hard to work three jobs and care for a child at the same time. I never wanted for anything; in fact I was better off than anyone else I knew because every summer and Christmas I was off to New York.
The things that I missed were the things that I think most children miss when they grow-up away from their parents. Not having her there when I was sick, birthdays, and school events.
As an adult, my mother became my best friend, our late night conversations about what was going on in her life and mine were comforting. Listening to her explain her life to me when she thought that I was old enough to understand was heart wrenching at times and motivating. Many parents who had the opportunity to leave Jamaica left children and family and did not look back. My mother chose to struggle to ensure that we had a better life.
I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2001 and my mother supported me through it all. Even though we lived in two different cities, she stayed connected and shared my experience with me and celebrated my remission. Who would have thought that just three years later I would lose her to cancer? It was a frightening experience for me, to see her lying there and trying to comfort her. I remember sitting there holding her hand after she had passed away. I felt guilty because a few days before that seeing her suffer had gotten to me and I had withdrew from the situation and the world. I stayed home locked up in my room for two days trying to make it go away. Now she was gone and while I had explained to her why I was not there, I still felt guilty at the time I had let slip away.
I carry my mother in my heart and in my spirit and as it would now seem, in my very character. The experience of losing her has made me stronger in many ways. I have found that I have her determination and belief in the impossible. I live everyday celebrating the life that I know she would have wanted me to have, and I have learned to care about what is most important, my family.
My mother was a very remarkable woman who sacrificed a great deal for her children, even when they did not deserve it or failed to reciprocate. I could say more, but I can see her now telling me to “SHUT UP”! My mother was also a very private person who did not believe in sharing her life with everyone, something that we both share to some degree.
My mother thought me a lot of things, but the most important thing that she taught me that I am most grateful for is to believe in myself. She was and still is my biggest cheerleader.