“I should be there,” my mama placed heavy emphasis on every single syllable intonating in the way only a mother is capable of. I scoffed, replying, “No, I should be there,” placing emphasis on the word there. I’ll never forget the complete sincerity in her voice as she continued to comfort me with her words. This particular day, August 19th, exactly three years ago has gone down in history as one of the most memorable and not for its utter joy or willful nostalgia but for its difficult firsts and lasts, its incomprehensible emotional toll which leaves me continually and deeply reflecting on life.
As I made my way reluctantly solo through the lonely New York City streets that late afternoon in the summer of 2011, speaking with my mother on the telephone, I will always recall and cherish this particular conversation as the last coherent, prolonged one I would ever have with her. I often wonder what we would have done or said differently, if anything, if we had known that eleven days later, she would take her last breath.
My mother and I, however, did not know this though even in the midst of her rapidly dwindling health and alongside her own anxiety and depression, she wanted to be there for me, she felt she should be there for me. If nothing I have written up until this very moment has conveyed my dear mother’s absolute selflessness, compassion and extreme caring, I do hope this act of hers brings my point home. I wasn’t dying, I didn’t have cancer and my health was fairly intact aside from my own bouts of anxiety and increasing depression but I was alone on this particularly difficult day and my mama wanted to be there for me.
At the time, I couldn’t help but discount whatever hardships I was facing as they paled in comparison to my mother apparently losing her life at the tender age of fifty-six years young. I had also become quite the robot during this time in my life, complete “ya gotta do what ya gotta do” attitude sans any emotional hesitation. I knew my mama’s days were numbered and nothing was more important or direr than this – nothing. I should have been there for her. I never should have left for New York City when I did. Alas, what’s done is done and I shall live with this guilt and regret for the rest of my breaths.