To my wise, strong, beautiful Angelique:
It seems, these days, that you and I can’t speak to each other for longer than a minute before one of us says something to upset the other. Everything between us is out of sorts. You won’t admit it to me, not in so many words, but I know you’re angry. Why shouldn’t you be? Your friends, your cousins, your classmates are all moving on. They’re earning degrees and finding jobs and starting careers and you’re stuck babysitting your mother — watching her disappear a little bit more every day. I know that this is something I say more than you want to hear, but it’s an agony to me to watch you suffer. I want — I want so much to take your pain away. I want to say something to make you feel better. I want to jump up out of this damn hospital bed and be cancer free — and be your mother again. “Did you water those plants on the front porch?”, “Have you cleaned up the living room?”, “Did you write thank you notes for your birthday presents?”
I want so much for things to be back like they were — but my wanting it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.
I can’t take away your pain. I can’t say anything to make it better. I can’t get better myself. I just can’t.
You know, sweetie, there’s nothing I can do to bring back the things you’ve lost, or safeguard the things you’re going to lose; but I can remind you of what you have — what you’ve always had. Liqa, I want you to realize you’re surrounded by love and friendship. If you learn that now you’ll be way ahead of your mother. I didn’t realize how much other people cared about me until I got brain cancer. I can promise you, beautiful girl, that people genuinely want to be there for you — they want to be there for you now and for the rest of your life. You don’t have to make the mistakes I made when I was in my twenties, and thirties, and forties and fifties. There’s no reason at all to try and take care of everything on your own.
You know, of course, that I understand what it’s like not to have a mother. I lost your Nonni to Alzheimer’s when I was twenty-seven. I know how much it hurts not to be able to share your accomplishments and heartaches with your mother. You have so much to look forward to — you’ll wow people with your intelligence and successes, you’ll fall in love, you’ll fall out of love, you’ll find places to live and wonderful work to do and at every stage of life you’ll find a surprising new way to be the magnificent woman you are. I won’t be around to share in it with you — except to say that I know what it’s like.
I’ll let you in on a little secret — it isn’t all bad. It’s just different. Life has a way of surprising you. You never know where you might meet up with me again.
I was thinking, just last night, “Liqa won’t have a mother to help her pick out flowers for her wedding.” You won’t — but maybe you will. I remember the day I picked out my bridal bouquet. The florist wanted to know sort of flower I wanted. I was stumped … stumped until Nonni arrived. She didn’t arrive in the store, of course, she arrived in my thoughts. I remembered how, every May, she would pick Lily of the Valley from our side garden. Always in May, of course, because that’s the only time they bloom.
So it was that every May my Mom placed a vase of freshly picked Lily of the Valley by my bed. My room would come alive with the most lovely scent! It’s a fragrance that always makes me think of her. Those flowers, every year, were just a little thing — but they made me happy. They also made it easy to decide what to carry up that aisle on my way to meet your father. I carried Lily of the Valley that May morning; but I wasn’t carrying those flowers by myself — Nonni was carrying them with me.
It wasn’t long after that when we found out that you were joining our family. I remember, on one of my “pregnancy walks” around Lexington Center, running into an older couple who told me how thrilled they were with the birth of their first grandchild. I felt happy for them, but I felt bad for you. I had no grandmother to give you; but, you know, what you think is a loss is sometimes a lucky break. You have only one grandmother; but, oh what a grandmother you have!
Did you know that within minutes of your arrival your Nana Bradford was driving into the city to meet you. I was barely out of labor when she walked into our hospital room. She was the happiest, proudest woman in the world. That was the day I became your mother and, in an way that’s hard to explain, that was also the day Nana became my mother.
For every loss there is a gain — but you have to look for it. You were the most wonderful blessing God ever gave me. Nothing in the universe could be better than being your mother. You’re a gift that keeps on giving. God had a loving reason to bring us together when He did and he has a loving reason to put a little distance between us now. You’re angry; but that’s just the way it is today. I’m sure that — someday — you’ll see how everything is a blessing. You are my sunrise and my sunset and I can’t describe how grateful, and how proud, I am that you are my daughter.
Thank you my precious child!