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A Bittersweet Mother's Day

Finding Strength After a Parent's Death

By Uche A. Blackstock

In two days, I will celebrate my first Mother's Day without my mother. For the past 10 months, even thinking about this day has evoked pain and sadness in me. My past Mother's Days were always filled with laughter and love. Sunday brunch at our favorite restaurant was first on our packed schedule. An art museum, of course my mother's choice, was usually next on the list. Our schedule of Mother's Day activities was practically endless. It didn't matter what we did, as long as we were together.

Throughout my mothers valiant eight-month long battle with leukemia, I prayed faithfully that I would never be subjected to life without her. The possibility was much too painful to even imagine. My mother was my role model, my advisor and my best friend. I thought I wouldn't be able survive without her.

When my mother was diagnosed with leukemia a year and a half ago, it was a dreadful shock to our family. At 46, she was a remarkably energetic and athletic woman. In addition to running 20 miles a week, she also spent considerable time using the vast array of exercise machines in our home. My mother had started running in medical school in order to cool her frazzled nerves, and she had never stopped. She even won two marathons in her early years.

As a physician at a severely understaffed New York City hospital, her days consisted of seeing patients, patients and more patients. She loved her work and her patients loved her.

Yet despite her busy days, she always found time to spend with my sister and me. On our countless mother-daughter ventures throughout the city, she introduced us to the world. She gave us our first sip of capuccino, our first exposure to foreign films, and, most importantly, unconditional love.

At the beginning of her hospital stay, with a grin on her face and a clenched fist in the air, she told me that she would beat the disease. Despite harsh chemotherapy side effects, opportunistic infections and pure discomfort, my mother was always the fighter.

But as months passed, the treatments became more intense. My mother, once a healthy woman, became weak and frail. Her frame, always petite, became even smaller in the hospital bed. Her lustrous black hair fell out in clumps, revealing her smooth brown head. Even though she tried to remain optimistic, her eyes became long and sad.

Beyond these physical changes, she was still my mother and I admired her strength and courage. At the same time, I felt angry, frustrated and helpless as I watched her slip away from me. We would spend hours talking on the phone, never knowing if the conversation was our last.

On my weekend visits to my mother's hospital bed, we talked about classes, silly television shows, and, yes, even death. We both knew what the future would bring. At times, we were open and honest with each other about the brutal reality of our situation.

At other times, it was too agonizing even to discuss. As much as we tried to share our feelings, I can only imagine how she felt as she faced death. She had lived through a few painful experience before, but nothing nearly as serious as this. I wish that I could have taken away her fear and her pain, but now I am left with my own. I miss my mother too intensely even to describe. I miss her essence. I miss hearing her gentle voice. I miss her warm hugs and kisses. Today I am dealing with what I had at times refused to discuss--life without my mother.

My mother once told me that she wasn't afraid to die, that she had accomplished everything as planned. My mother was not only a physican, but also a writer, pianist, runner and singer. What she achieved in her life exceeded most people's dreams.

For that reason, on this Mother's Day, which also happens to be her 48th birthday, I will celebrate my mother's life, her dreams and accomplishments. My sister and I will do something that brought my mother joy. We plan to take a trip to one of my mother's favorite havens, the Museum of Fine Arts, and maybe even sip capuccinos outside of a quaint cafe.

Uche A. Blackstock '99, a Crimson editor, is a biology concentrator in Leverett House.

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