Over the past couple of years, I feel like my relationship with my mom has gotten much richer and deeper. It's not that we ever didn't get along (well, aside from a few moments when I was between the ages of twelve to eighteen), but I think the older I get, the more I relate to her as a person and a friend and not just as a daughter. We've been so fortunate that we've been able to spend time together on multiple vacations over the past year, and we've had so much fun exploring the world. From our time in Europe last winter to her visit to Charleston this spring to our family vacation in Disney World in the summer, I've treasured every minute that we can spend in the same place.
It is a terrible feeling to have a parent seem to be slipping away, whether emotionally or physically. When mama was sick, there were absolutely times where I thought we were going to lose her--and I think my sister and I were actually sheltered from the worst of it. Even once the cancer was gone, she was still so weak and had to recover from neurological and physical damage that left her an echo of her former self for quite some time. That year of cancer diagnosis, treatment, and their repercussions changed us all.
Breast cancer has gained a reputation of being something of a cupcake cancer. It is fantastic that so many women catch it early--as was the case with my mom--and that it is very treatable, so subsequently, the survival rate is much higher than many other cancers. But the heartbreaking fact is that many women, and men, do not survive and their diagnosis is a death sentence. I always remember that, and never, ever take for granted the fact that we still have our Annie with us.
Each day I see things in myself that remind me of her. I say things that, in turn, make me smile because it was such a "Mom" thing to say. She taught me to laugh at myself and find the humor in any situation. She taught me the importance of being thoughtful and considerate. She taught me to always, always be exactly who I am instead of who other people want me to be. She taught me to finish my dinner before I eat dessert--but to always eat dessert! Those little pieces of her will always be with me.
I look forward to spending many more years with her in my life, and hope to someday soon learn from her in a new way as I embark on my own journey of motherhood. I got incredibly lucky in this life when they were doling out parents. I can say with certainty that without the guidance, wisdom, support and love of my mom and dad, I wouldn't be who I am today.