What My Mother’s Life & Her Loss Taught Me
A mother is someone who teaches and guides and she doesn’t stop doing so, even after she’s left us. These are the stories of three children who have had to say goodbye to their mothers; sharing their stories, their love for their mothers and the lessons we should take to heart every day, not just on Mothers Day.
“My name is Preet Bains. I am 21 years old and 3 years ago, I lost my mother.”
I was in high school when my mum first felt discomfort in her bladder. Being a medicinal practitioner herself, she thought that it could have been gall bladder stones and got herself a check-up. Before I knew what was happening, she was wheeled in for surgery. Believing it to be what she initially suspected it to be, gall bladder stones, I couldn’t understand why everyone was as worried as they were – after all, they told me that it would be a “minor operation”. Worried, I looked up the risk of the operation using my mum’s phone. However, while doing that, I remember thinking – knowing my Maa, she would have done a similar search before making any decisions. So I checked her search history.
And her most recent searches revolved around the words “ovarian cancer”.
My family wouldn’t tell me anything. When I tried to ask what this meant, they simply looked at me as if I were speaking an alien language. Relatives came and went and the morning turned into night, yet, my Maa hadn’t come out of the operation theatre. When I finally managed to catch my brother alone, I asked if she had ovarian cancer. His one, quiet “yes” was lost to the sound of my world crashing down around me. I wanted to scream but all I could do was cry silent tears.
My last memory of her was, unfortunately, the minute she passed away. She was having difficulty breathing and she was gasping for air. I called for my dad. I was at the door waiting for papa to return when I turned back to look at her. And, at that very moment, we knew that we were going to lose her. In a second, she was gone.
I wish I could spend more time with her, doing the things she enjoyed doing. My Maa was always ready to party. She was dramatic, she had a love for any form of art, she always spoke the truth and she was a dreamer. She dreamed about the future while always making sure we knew that she believed in our dreams. She was the mother that would get bottomless drinks, fill up her bottle and then giggle at the triumph of it all while she watched others pay for their overpriced drinks. She was tough and she brought us up that way too. ‘I don’t know’ was never an acceptable answer and neither did she let us pass up any opportunity to dance. She was the no-nonsense, tea and chill mother. A lot of the times, I didn’t understand her ways of bringing us up. It makes me wish that I cherished her more, spent less time arguing with her.
All I can say now is to just live. But, live your life WITH your mother. Take them out, watch their favourite movies with them, have their favourite ice cream, find games from their childhood, songs they liked in their teenage-hood, listen to their love stories – just be there for them the way they have been there for you.
“My name is Chan Teik Quan, I am 24 years old and 2 years ago, I lost my mother.”
It was 3AM. I’d just gotten off the phone with a friend and I’d gone to the kitchen to get a drink. My father walked out of his room and, in a shaky voice, told us to get dressed. My mother was dying.
On the way to the hospital, we were all very quiet. It was my father, my aunt and I in the car. I remember that night as being particularly calm, and I wondered to myself, “What is mum thinking about right now?”
The last few months of my mother’s life, I managed to take some photographs of her, documenting her sickness. She wasn’t willing to at first – she was worried that I would end up capturing what was left of her soul (she became superstitious, all of a sudden), but I insisted. Maybe I already knew what was going to happen.
After finding out she was not going to survive, she never once cried but she became very quiet. Often, when I visited, I would stare at her as she stared off at an empty spot in front of her. The last time I saw her was no different; she didn’t talk to me but she looked like she was deep in thought. Before I left, I told her that I loved her and that I would see her again but her expression was blank. No happiness, no sadness. And just like that, without a word, she was gone. What was left in front of us was the body of a woman who used to be a mother, a wife, and a sister.
My mother had always been the light and life of the family. She was a bubbly, talkative and lively person. She was also my personal counsellor. Thanks to her love of storytelling, I learned a lot about her history, her childhood, how she met my father and more.
Looking back at the photographs now, they really don’t mean anything. I realised that no matter how many photographs I took of her or how many films I make for her, a mother’s warmth can never be captured. They only make me miss her even more. Dealing with her loss was a strange process for us. We weren’t depressed per se, we simply… forgot how to emote. I remember going to Hong Kong with them after her loss, for a trip that was meant to mend our hearts, but it didn’t work. This is the kind of grief that will follow us until the end of our time.
I couldn’t bear to see her change. I wish I was more patient and had been through it with her until the end. I wish she would forgive me, for not knowing better.
Listen to their stories. Learn about their origin, and their struggles. The thick and thin that they have gone through. I believe that’s how you truly “immortalize” someone, by remembering their stories and passing them on.
“My name is Yin Hui, I am 25 years old and 13 years ago, I lost my mother.”
My mom was ill for a very long time. And on the first of July 2007, she fought her last battle.
If I could relive one moment with her, I would take one more walk with her through the forest reserve (FRIM). We used to walk through it in the mornings, back when I was a kid. It was just the two of us – a quiet moment between my mother and I. It was a rare moment as well, what with us being a family of 10. When we’d walk, we’d talk about anything and everything. Those were the days where she was at her healthiest, those were the days with the most laughter.
My mom had the biggest heart and she did everything with love. She was a friend to everyone – she was the most popular person at the morning market and she was the only one who would check in with every one of our relatives. Whenever I found myself in conflict with anyone else in the family, she would be the unwavering pillar of support. It was not that she would back me up even if I was wrong, no. She would always be patient and gentle, giving more perspective to the issue and guiding me towards understanding. She rarely punished me, using her heart to reach out to me where my dad would have used a rotan. She was my safe place and I felt loved whenever I was with her.
I can remember learning the ins and outs of her care – her schedule for her medication, the steps needed for her dialysis treatment and what she should and shouldn’t be eating. But, I never got to put my lessons to practice. I woke up one morning and walked into the living room to find my sister, who said nothing more than “Go and see mom”. And that was it. My heart stopped and time stopped but my mind was racing a mile a minute. I knew what I was going to face but my mind did not prepare my heart enough. Seeing my mom lying there, it looked like she was sleeping – but she was not going to wake up no matter how much I called out to her.
I am afraid that I will one day forget my mom’s face and my memory of her will fade. I regret that I did not spend enough time telling her how much I love her; how fortunate I was to have her as my mom. So while I used to feel sad and envious of those that could celebrate Mother’s Day with their moms, I now use it as a day for me to remember the beautiful soul that she was.
All that your parents want is, actually, really simple. It’s for you to spend more time with them, for you to talk to them. Make your memories with them while you can – and make these memories good ones. Appreciate them and you’ve given them the best gift of all.
*Cover image credits: Background: Masaaki Komori on Unsplash