The Day That Changed My Life

Imilsis Velazquez

Nonfiction, Heard/Arlington County Detention Center writing contest, August 2019

            I didn’t know it then but at that exact time fifteen hundred miles away at her home in San Francisco, California, my mother would be fighting for her life. The cancer that had invaded her body had spread to her brain and had hijacked her blood cells.

It wasn’t a day but a night. The night that changed my life was the night cancer murdered my mother. It was 3:33 a.m. on Tuesday morning, May 3rd, 2003. I’ve heard it said that’s the devil’s witching hour. I was awakened suddenly from a deep slumber to find my heart pounding like a drum in rhythm against my chest. I awoke sweating profusely feeling like my head wanted to split open. Then I saw her at the foot of my bed, looking at me with the same loving kindness I’d known all my life. I began to cry silently as I looked into her eyes. I understood then and there that she was gone to me forever. Cancer reigned victorious once more.

“My child why do you cry for me?”

I couldn’t answer her. I knew if I opened my mouth I’d lose myself in a storm of tears. And so she continued, “I’ve come here to help you understand, baby girl, that instead of sadness it is joy that you should embrace because I have returned home. My body shall be buried but my spirit is eternal.”

“Please know that it is important for you to accept all experience in this life as part of God’s great plan. I have completed my mission, my purpose in this life and I will see you once more in heaven. Having you was part of my purpose but your life is your own. It is meant for you to learn and to grow in spirit. You need to take all the seemingly negative things/experiences that happen to you and try to overcome their effects. You need to not only forgive your enemies but love them, thereby nullifying any bad influence they may have on you. You must let go of the past, change your heart, forgive yourself and then move onward. You must never give up! If you fall a million times, you must get up a million and one. This is how you grow. This is your purpose, to love and to grow.”

By this time she’d moved closer to me and enveloped me in her embrace, in her light, in her love. Suddenly my body felt as though it had been shocked with a defibrillator: once, twice, then a third time. I opened my eyes and sat rigidly upright on my bed gasping for air. My cell phone was ringing on the night stand next to my bed. I picked it up and answered, “Hello?” It was my father.

“Hi, Lily, honey. I’m sorry to wake you at this time.” I knew before the words slipped from his tongue.

“Your mother passed away.”