When I was a young girl, I was, in a way, my mother's doll. I was an extension of herself–an extension of all of her hopes and dreams; it wasn't always easy for many reasons, for the choices she made in life long before I was born and had to live with, for the anger she held inside and acted out on. I think she felt trapped; in many ways, I became the only thing that made her feel free, so all of her time went into me, even if it was haphazard at times.
When I search and search for words...I don't remember heart-to-hearts, except once in the conveyance of a smile from her being at her most uncomfortable hour awaiting her exit from this world. I remember going to her sickbed at my grandmother's home, two houses up. She could no longer care for herself; the pain was worsening, life was escaping her.
I had just shaved my legs for the first time ever. I was 13. The other girls were doing it. I showed my older brother; proud I was. He was 33. He yelled at me as if I had committed a crime, trying to stuff my womanhood back down into a black box. It was too much for him to bear seeing his baby sister grow up too fast.
I ran out of the house and up to my grandmother's house to my mother's side and told her what I had done and explained about my brother's reaction.
All I remember is the loving smile that spread upon her face and made it glow, as she lay in bed, reaching her hand out to bring me closer. This moment seemed to make the pain go away. I had never seen her look as radiant and peaceful as in that hour.
It wasn't until my adult-self had the opportunity to look back. I imagined that she somehow knew her girl would be all right without her mother; that in a way, she was at peace knowing she would not be here to watch her girl blossom into a woman.
That look–the love and tenderness in her eyes–is one of my fondest memories of mother and daughter communicating, not through words, but pure emotion, through the windows of our souls, as she lay on her deathbed.
I cannot be certain of the exact timing, but her cancer did worsen; she had given in to it. I believe she was ready to take leave, to end her pain and suffering.
She had to be taken to the hospital soon after that day. I had seen her in the days after with an unfamiliar and painful look in her eyes, and I don't think she wanted me to see her–but this other peaceful look, it brought balance and far outshines the pain in my memory.
I remember being in my brother's room, watching television late at night while he was talking to someone in the other room. When the phone rang, right as I heard my brother pick it up, I knew. She had died.
I know she continues to smile down upon me; and she was right–that look in her eyes, the way I read it now–she knew her girl would be fine.