The Worst Day of my Life

By
The worst day of my life happened on March 17th, 2008.
I lost my mother.
And a piece of myself.
A part of my family.
How could this happen?

My mom was having frequent cramps early on this year. After much urgency, we took her to the doctor. What my family and I thought were early signs of menopause turned out to be a tumor in her uterus. When my mother was diagnosed with uterine cancer, we were frightened, but because the doctor said that it was possible to remove the cancer with her uterus, we were also hopeful.


On the day of the operation, my dad and I went to visit her at Hackensack Hospital straight after school. She had a room in the new cancer center building. I remember every detail about the inside of my mom's room, the polished hallway outside it with the candy ball machine painting. I pulled back the curtain designed to give my mom privacy, and I saw her look up and smile as she said, "Hi, anak." It was a nickname she called me by. It means "child," in Tagalog. My mom looked weaker than I had ever seen her.
That morning one of my friends told the student body president to mention my mom's operation in the morning prayer, and I smiled as I told this to her. My mom spoke little, still feeling sore from her fresh stitches, as the TV on the wall reflected off her glasses in the dark room. She couldn't eat yet, but she had a Styrofoam cup filled with soft ice cubes for her to chew on. My dad and I laughed a bit when my mom groaned in annoyance at an Olive Garden commercial, so we promised her that when she made a full recovery we'd take her there. Then a co-worker of mom's came and brought flowers, and the visitor was so chatty that I fell asleep on the chair. Time passed and soon enough I had to go back home because the next day I had school, but my dad drove back after he dropped me off and spent the night with her; he would continue to do so, sleepless night after sleepless night, but he stayed without complaint because he knew she didn't like to be left alone.


That weekend I spent the night and the next day with my mom in the hospital, keeping her company as my dad was busy delivering Filipino Express newspapers to widespread Filipino Restaurants. I'd go down the hall to refill her ice cup throughout the day, and found I couldn't do much else but stay by her side. I kept myself busy by making an intricate "Get Well Soon" card at the desk by the window. When her face got a bit sweaty, I wiped her down with a paper towel soaked in cool water. Tito Lito, Tita Marissa, and the kids came to visit mom in the afternoon. I left with them later because dad was on his way.


Several days later mom got released from the hospital, and dad took care of her every moment of everyday. Because I live at my aunt's house, I usually came to drop by after church on Sundays. The last Sunday I was there, mom was sitting on the couch with pillows supporting her back. She wouldn't allow for the lights or the computer to be on, because of the brightness. As I sat by her on a chair, I realized she hadn't made much progression, and I might've scolded her a bit for not eating or walking around enough. She wasn't even using the breathing gadget anymore, which I was told was necessary for expanding the lungs. With my mom's eyes fixed on the TV screen, I got up to water her plants when I remembered something. "Oh, mom. I keep forgetting to bring you the seashells I got on my retreat! Shoot! Oh, yeah, do you want to see pictures?" I asked.
Mom shook her head slowly, "Later." I slipped a movie into the VCR, and time passed, and the day left.
Eventually I had to get back to my aunt's house. Before I left I hugged her and, kissing her forehead I said, "Bye, Mom. I'll see you this week. I love you."
"Okay. I Love you." She said.

The next morning, March 17th, 6:30am, my mom passed away. I will never forget the scene when I arrived there with my aunts and cousins. I walked up the stairs past police filling out papers and saw my dad hysterical on the couch. My mom lay on the floor in my parent's room, like she was asleep. But I had entered into a nightmare. Numb and dizzy, I got down on the floor to stroke her cheek.
"…Mom?"
No response. Of the talk behind me, one of the policemen said, "We're sorry for your loss." My eyes grew wide and I looked up at them, and then back at mom with her peaceful and painless expression.
And that's when it hit. Like a wrecking-ball through a wall of bricks.

My dad told me too late that the cancer had advanced to her abdomen and then her lungs. That morning, she had passed with a pulmonary embolism. She was forty-two.
Many times over I catch myself slipping into short-lived, internal panic attacks, when I realize that I'll never see her again; the sensation is shocking enough to freeze me in place. Is this how my mom felt when the doctor told her that her cancer had advanced? That it was only a matter of time? My dad told me she couldn't even speak. I hate myself sometimes for taking the time I had with my mom for granted. I remember how I used to roll my eyes at her, thinking she was exaggerating her pain as she did everything else, or so I thought. I was stupid, self-centered, and unapologetically abrasive. I wanted more from my mom, and I was getting frustrated with her unorthodox way of being a mother. Even now I can find ways to complain about her, even now when I know it's no use at all. But, she isn't suffering anymore, and she's in heaven, watching over and guiding me. I cling to this comfort with my life, my only peace of mind.
Now, as I sit and laugh with friends, trying to return to my life as it was, everything feels warped and unreal, yet familiar enough to continue on with.
This is how cancer changed my life, and I'll never recover from it.

My mom and me went throught many rough spots, especially with the coming of my teen years. We'd disagree about almost everything. But those little arguments weren't enough to end our shopping sprees, or our mother/daughter days, or the hugs we gave each other. I think, no matter how different we were from each other, we got through them to see the bigger picture: we are a family, along with dad. She was my mom, and I was her daughter. A bond stronger than any of us knew.

My mom was Sherri Linette Nason Larrazabal. She was born May 21st, 1965, and she was a Gemini. She raved for classic rock bands, especially Def Leppard, Pink Floyd, The Eagles, and The Police, only to skim the top. She loved the characters Eeyore, Tweety Bird, Taz, and Ralph from The Simpsons. Some of the other things she loved include claw machines(she was a pro!), the zodiac and astrology, reading(her favorite authors were James Patterson and Stephen King), jewelry(she praised sterling silver), decorative chinese good luck charms, nail polish(purples and oranges), and her car, The Nissan Maxima, which has a sun roof, and sleek leather seats. Right now my dad, my uncles and I are trying to make the payments for it.

This will certify that the above work is completely original.
Samantha Larrazabal





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