I was 14. My mother was very sick, with constant medical issues with mobility. Oh, she was not obese, but at that point she lost the capacity to balance herself.
I thought that she was invincible and would just get over it, because I was 14 and did not understand how bodies work. I did not understand that she was literally riddled with cancer, and her time in this world perched ever so precariously.
However, my mother was a fighter, and thanks to living in Australia we benefited from amazing healthcare. She fought this horrible illness for two whole years, and the whole time, never stopped being my mother.
In her condition, she would still move around the house, make me lunches, help me with my homework, and do so many other things. I always tried to be nice to her because she was sick. However, what you don’t hear from folks like us, what we don’t want to admit to, is the anger and resentment we feel. Sometimes it takes its toll, and I get mad. Eventually, we get someone to look after her as she loses her faculties and abilities to take care of herself.
Before I know it, she is bedridden. Every day I can hear the medical equipment, pinging and wheezing from her room, all the way to mine.
I wake up one night to hear her gasping. As I walked into her room with a glass of water, I find her on the floor, gasping for air. As I call 911 she shouts at me that she thinks she’s broken her vertebrae. In fact, two of them are broken. She has to stay in the hospital completely for two months.
Fast forward 3 months, and she is well enough to go to the park with her best friend and me. We laugh, and she even made us some sandwiches. She makes egg salad and lettuce, my favorite kind, and I tell her I already know how to make it like she does but she says she wants to make them. For me.
She does not get better. The sicker she gets, the more she insists on making my school lunches. At this point, she can barely get out of her bed, and I feel guilty about it, but she insists she wants to make them. For me.
One day, I get called out of class and sent to the principal’s office. While I wonder what I did wrong, I find that the superintendent and principal are there, and they’re not angry. There’s sadness in their eyes, even.
There is a cab waiting for me. The principal tells me “the school is here for you” but I am still baffled as he ushers me in, to accompany me.
When I get to the hospital, I am sent directly to the emergency ward. In those precious last minutes, my mother catches a glimpse of me in the window. I watch my mother smile at me and take her last breath, and I don’t get to her in time.
It’s the following morning. The principal tells me I’m excused from school, but I’m up early because I’m too hungry after crying all night. They tell me she knew her time was coming. They tell me she was doing something when they picked her up. I wonder what my mother’s last deliberate actions are.
I open the fridge with some leftover casserole in mind. When the door opens, I find laid out within are my school lunches for the next 3 days.
I stand there in front of the refrigerator door for a few minutes, before I break down again.
I still remember that breakfast, you know? I’m a four star chef now, with my own Michelin three star restaurant, but nothing I can make will ever be as delicious, as filled with love, as those sandwiches my mother made for me, when I was too young to understand. Every dish I make I think of the love she sprinkled in my life freely, and it’s made me who I am.
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