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I grew up as a silent child and did my best to follow my mother’s footsteps. She was feisty and full of life, not the soccer mom who drove a minivan. I pictured her always being there - coming to my first pep rally and meeting my first boyfriend. Now I sometimes think about how I took my comfortable existence for granted.
I remember being snuggled in my bed that one rainy morning. For some reason, it took me longer than usual to find my way to the living room where I found my mother cocooned in her afghan watching a Lifetime movie. Her cigarette burned beside her, creating a spiral toward the cathedral ceiling. She smiled as I sat down and rested my small head near hers.
After a few moments, she turned off the television. Looking at me with emptiness, she dryly said, “Honey, we have to talk.”
Oh, great, I thought. Here comes the sex talk. She must have found her missing Cosmo in my room. Just start apologizing before ...
“Mommy’s sick,” she finally said - just like that.
“Do you have the flu?” I said, thinking, Great timing, Mom, right when I was getting into the movie.
“I have cancer,” she said. Like it was nothing.
Then her eyes started to swell, and a tear tracked down her cheek. It hit me: my mother wasn’t strong enough to handle this herself.
A week later, my mother and I took our dog Oliver for a walk. Since she had to use a cane now, I was holding the leash. I could hear Oliver’s toenails clicking on the asphalt. He wasn’t used to going so slowly.
“What am I going to do without you?” I whispered.
She gave me a pained look and winced slightly.
“Who’s going to be there to help me get ready for my first day of high school? Who is going to help me with, you know, girl things?”
“Catie, you know I’m not going anywhere. It will be me. Don’t worry yourself like this.”
Even though we both knew her reassurance wasn’t true, I nodded and took her hand.
Three months later, I started my last year of middle school. This would be the last year of my normal life.
My beautiful 145-pound mother had dwindled down to a breakable 88 and was unable to walk. We bought her a recliner, where she spent 95 percent of her never-ending days.
I was gone most of the time; I couldn’t take watching her suffer. Then again, she couldn’t even tell if I was there or not.
One night, I awoke to the sounds of my mother crying. Knowing my brother was out, I quickly got out of my bed to see what was wrong. My brittle mother was lying on the floor next to her recliner. Rushing over, I realized I couldn’t do anything to help her.
I looked at the clock. 3:30 a.m. Where in the world was my brother?
I called his phone.
“Hello?” he answered.
“Cheyne! Mom fell out of her recliner. I can’t pick her up or I’ll hurt her.”
“I’ll be home in two minutes,” he said.
My mother, still crying hysterically and confused from her pain medicine, looked up at me.
“Why can’t you help me?” she cried.
That’s when I realized my mother was gone.
Cheyne bolted through the door and into the living room. We both suddenly understood we couldn’t do this on our own. So he dialed 911, and moments later, three strong EMTs were lifting my moaning mother back into her recliner.
I was heartbroken, seeing her in so much pain.
The next day I walked home from school to find more ambulances outside my house. My mother had slipped into a coma.
As they wheeled her out, I whispered that I loved her. I know that she heard me.
A week later my mother died.
Although my indestructible mother was gone, she had done her job here on earth: raised two strong children who were now capable of raising themselves.
Now, I see my body transforming into one just like hers, and I’m proud. I am feisty and full of life. I will follow my dreams and stay strong. I know that is what she wants.