Death thy success

A few years ago I visited my mother at the hospital when she got admitted. I did not know a lot of issues that happened in my family as my mother did not share much with us, I think it’s because she assumed I was too young to understand. I was 16 at the time and the eldest of my two brothers and sister. Growing up in the village things were difficult for all of us because my mother tried her best to ensure that we were all fed but it was tough for a single unemployed woman with four mouths to feed. Sometimes I would notice that she had no plan whatsoever as to how we will get through the night. At the hospital bed she appeared to be soulless, and I almost did not recognize her when I walked in. She said to me “Lerato is that you?” part of me wanted to run as fast as I could. Every time I saw her she seemed to be getting worse. I had mixed feelings, from wanting her to be better to hoping that she passes on. However, we had no one at home apart from her, she was the only person who knew how to keep the family together. I replied “yes mother, it is I” and she closed her eyes to what seemed like a sharp pain that just attacked her. I looked down and the nurse who was standing beside me squeezed my shoulders, and then she nodded to signal that it is okay to walk closer my mother’s bed. It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Getting there and seeing her like that. I could not look at my own mother, she suddenly became a stranger.
“Thank you… (coughs) thanks for coming to see me baby.” It was peculiar because my mother was the strongest person I knew, and seeing her like that seemed like a dream I could not wake up from. My mother would get through anything that life threw at her, she always told me that we are from a family of strong genes. She said that because her mother was 92 and still strong. She was really proud of that. When we suffered at home, I thanked God that we were healthy, and that no matter how hungry we may be, as long as it does not take our lives, it is okay. “Mom, are we losing you?” We teenagers don’t have the right things to say, it is honesty I loved about being a teenager and my mother always said I have a bright future ahead of me. Back then she would say it during supper and whenever she said that, somehow my stomach would growl of hunger because of the little food we had. Although the food was never enough I just appreciated all that I had and my mother always ensured that we are always happy despite our problems. “Remember that we are from a family of strong genes baby… I… (Coughs) I will be alright.” I wanted to believe her, I really did, but the nurses’ faces expressed worry and concern, and whenever I went to the hospital, on my way there I’d pray, just pray that she is still there.
My mother was suffering from cervical cancer. The painful thing about the disease is that earlier on it doesn’t have any symptoms whatsoever, she was just bleeding and she thought that it was menstrual cycles and certainly not thought it could be cancer. I mean let’s face it, we black people tend to believe that cancer isn’t a disease that affects us. I still remember the day that she found out she had cancer, she said to the doctor “no, there must be some sort of a mistake. I can’t have cancer. Where have you ever heard of a black person with cancer? Please doctor do more tests.” The doctors assured her that it was cancer and it had already spread, the only solution was chemotherapy.
Six months later she ended up being hospitalized. Something about life is that, when you find out about something it then becomes clear that it’s there, it becomes a part of you. Just like her cancer, she seemed okay before we found out about it but afterwards it was evident that she was dying. All of a sudden I noticed how skinny she had become, while the doctors were telling her about the disease all I could notice was her arms and legs. Her dress appeared to be too big for her, it was though she would collapse. Why did I miss something like this about my own mother? I asked myself. Here is a little history about my family. My mother like many women was a single mother, never married and she never told us who our father was. What she said was that he did not want to with us, in fact he chose to be with his “other” family than raise us with her. My mother moved out of her parents’ home after she had me at 16, she built her own home from ground up. Somehow her and our father made their way to each other and went on to have three more children. It was when she gave him and alternative that he never came back. I don’t even recall seeing him at our house or anything, but she says that he was in my life and he loves me a lot.
My mom worked as a domestic worker. She said that she never had the opportunity to go to school as they were poor at home. It’s apparent that poverty seems like it’s socialized. I mean, my mother’s parents were poor, her parents were poor and now we too live in poverty. But with how she was very protective of us it was clear that she wanted the best for us, she wanted us to be better than she was and be educated.
That day when I saw her at the hospital I felt like it was the end, like I will never see her again. “You know Lerato, there is something about the hospital. I think that everyone that ever slept her a night or two, even more, sort of hoped that God gives them a second chance so that they can better their lives. But ironically, I am actually thinking about you every day.” From believing in the family genes to a talk about her losing faith in living, I did not understand it at all. “Mom, why do you say that, don’t you think you will be better?” She looked at me and said “Baby, God know his plans with me. I could say I will be fine but be gone tomorrow. It is the ‘now’ that the hospital taught me about. I appreciate every moment I get to open my eyes and find myself here. I don’t know where I am going. Perhaps heaven is real, or not, but all I care about is to leave here having said goodbye to my children.” Suddenly the reality of her disease hit me, I sat there holding her hands that somehow felt like I was holding her skeleton. There were no muscles left in her. “Mama, the kids won’t make it here and you know it. We don’t have any money. I wish that they could but they can’t. I had to walk to the hospital today, luckily enough I got a lift from Mr. Mashaba in his taxi, and he said he will fetch me and sent his love.”
“Tell him that I said thank you.” She closed her eyes and I squeezed her hand. She looked at me and smiled “Oh Lerato, you watch too much television.” I laughed a little and then broke off into tears. Somehow my mother still maintained her sense of humor even after all the things that she went through. I didn’t understand how children could possibly live without their mothers. Mothers are the ones that hold the family together, somehow they know how to best deal with us children. I wanted her to stay alive, I wanted my mother to be given a second chance to raise us, and I had no idea how we were going to manage without her. “Don’t cry baby, all will be well you will see. Mommy will always be with her babies, you guys are the pillar of my strength. This disease should have taken me a long time ago but I held on for you guys. I wanted to see you become a woman, get married and have a family of your own. But I do believe that life has the best of things for you. Please Lerato, don’t ever lose focus. Be there for your siblings and ensure that they the best in life.” I wanted her to stop, the nurse just looked at me with sadness. Somehow I knew that I had to listen to her because if I did not I would have regretted it. She said a lot that day than she ever did all the years I knew her. My mother was not the talkative type but she was a good mother, she would tell me stories about how she grew up and that she hoped to be a doctor someday. I knew that she told me all these stories because she did not want be to turn out like her. The thing she feared the most was me falling pregnant as a teenager.
The following day I went back to the hospital to see my mother and I found that she was no more. After the conversation that I had with her I knew that I would never see her again. I didn’t shed a single tear, I just stood her looking at her bed all made up. I wondered about where she could be and how she is. It was hard to believe that someone would just cease to exist. Someone whom you shared a lot with, joked with and even shed tears with. My mother was the biggest part of my life. She told me not to worry about anything so I figured that she was there with me and will guide me with making decisions. There is a saying that “parents shouldn’t bury their children.” But to me I think that children should not bury their parents. It is as hard losing a parent just as it is with a parent losing a child. Walking into the person’s room hoping to see them sitting on their bed or the dresser. My siblings asked where mom was and I couldn’t tell them that their mother had passed away. Instead, I went to my uncle’s house and told him to come and tell them what had happened. It was a difficult day for all of us, but mom was in and out of hospital so they managed to handle it. I guess it was because they were young and did not know how to react. My aunts and uncles assured me that everything will be okay so I had hope for the future.
Today I am a medical doctor at one of the busiest hospitals in the province. After my mother’s death I developed love and passion for medicine. My uncles say that my mom’s death changed me. As hard as it is to think about but it’s true. The day that I sat down with my mother at the hospital she told me a lot about life that I knew the right thing to do when I walked out of there. One of the things I love doing is healing cancer patients. As much as it is a deadly disease I try by all means to raise awareness and encourage people to test so that they can be cleared of cancer. My brothers are currently in university and my little sister is still in high school. I am not yet married but I do hope that in the future, once my brothers have completed university I could meet someone who I would settle down with. I don’t want to rush it now because of the responsibilities I have at home. One of the lessons I learned from my mother is to never turn my back on family, not even for love. I hope that wherever my mother is, she is resting in peace. Her spirit guides us in all we do.

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