Students will soon gather at the Robert “Pete” Griffin Track at Florida A&M, and I will be there too — to remember my mom during Relay for Life.
I will never forget the night my Aunt Brynn’s car horn woke me. She came to drive my mom to the doctor. I soon learned this visit was unusual. In August 2000, my mom was diagnosed with cancer.
Aunt Brynn is a cosmetologist. Every Sunday after church mom would go to her house to get her hair done. My mom always had long straight hair. Aunt Brynn would experiment with new styles on my mom before introducing the looks to her clients.
As I sat and watched, more of mom’s hair fell to the floor with every stroke of the comb. I quickly realized cancer had no simple, overnight cure.
I became accustomed to seeing her without hair. Although it was quite an adjustment for a 10-year-old, I was optimistic.
Two months after the hair loss, mom stopped working. It wasn’t bad because I was a momma’s boy. Her not working meant that we could spend more time together.
Autumn became winter. Her birthday followed New Year’s, and I noticed her failing health. She was unable to make my mac and cheese or do my laundry, so I felt it was my responsibility to help.
“Mom, are you going to die?” I finally asked. I was the type of kid to say exactly what was on my mind, so asking didn’t shock her.
She replied, “Baby, I’m going to be around to see my grandchildren.”
Her answer reassured me.
By May, it was difficult for mom to walk alone. But things were getting better. I remember the morning of my fifth-grade field trip; she got up by herself and helped me get ready. I was so happy. It meant the world to me to see her doing better.
That afternoon, when I returned home, things took a significant turn. She was breathing through an oxygen tank, and my entire family had gathered at my house. Dad told me I was going to spend the night with my aunt.
As I said bye, I kissed her and she said, “I love my sweet baby boy. Always say your prayers and know that God has a plan for you.”
I smiled at her. She gave me the biggest hug as she lay in her bed. I felt so loved.
That night I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned in pain. Around 5 a.m., the pain went away and I fell asleep.
The next day we returned home and I jumped out of the car, ready to see my mom. My dad stopped me.
“Son, mom is not in there this morning. She left us last night and went to heaven,” he said.
I cried for the person who tucked me in at night, the person who kissed my wounds to make them better. My best friend was gone. I knew I would never be the same.
Years after my mom’s death, I struggled with depression and abandonment. I realized in high school my mom would hate to see me that way, and I began living my life in her honor.
I am 21 now. I look back at the events surrounding my mom’s death, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Losing my mom to cancer was traumatic, but it helped shape me into the man I am today. It may sound crazy, but cancer didn’t win because I consider myself a survivor.