Last night, my Mum snuck into my bed at midnight to wish me happy birthday. Yesterday, I turned 24 years old. As she held me in her arms, she told me how she was proud of the person I had become. It was only a few years ago that we lay curled up beside each other in that very bed, talking about first kisses and bad dates. About goals and aspirations. About upcoming tests and interesting things I had learned in school that day. About which University I should go to. 10 years of stories, laughs, tears and lessons have been shared in this bed.
We thought of the memories we will create together over the next 10 years. I imagine my Mum being there to drop me to the airport when I return to East Africa – she is a strong woman, but cries every time she hugs me at the security gate. Every time. I imagine calling my Mum from abroad telling her about all the inspiring mamas I met in the field that day, and to help me process the inequities and challenges of working in the development sector. I can imagine us figuring out which school I should go to for my Masters degree, over a plate of nachos and chicken wings – and be there to decorate the Christmas tree together when I return home for the holidays each year. Ever since I was a little girl, my Mum has told me that the biggest decision I will ever make is deciding who I want to marry. On my wedding day, I imagine her being present every step of the way. To make sure I made the right decision. To dance with my Dad at the reception. To continue to show me how love grows stronger even after 30 years of marriage. I imagine my Mum holding my hand in the delivery room as I become a mother – and introducing her grandchildren to the enchanting words of Roald Dahl and the magic of Harry Potter.
We are a family of immense faith and positivity, but we are also a family of honest communication. As we visualized the memories we’ll create over the next ten years, we talked about our fears. For an instantaneous moment, the thought crossed our minds that maybe my Mum would not be here for convocations, Christmases and carriages. She is battling advanced stages of two types of blood cancer, and there are a number of things that must align perfectly for her to get through this. Stable blood levels. No more antibodies, in the case of a transfusion. Chemotherapy for the lymphoma. Chemotherapy for the multiple myeloma. Stem cell transplant. And hopefully, sometime soon, a cure for myeloma so she can live well beyond the 5-6 years typical of people with this type of cancer.
And then we realized, the beauty of life lays in its unpredictability and constant change. I don’t know what the next ten years has in store for my Mum, or for any of us. But what I do know, is that when my Mum and I get lost as we generally do, we always seem to stumble across a Fairweathers outlet store. And when a new Twilight movie comes out, we are at the front of the line on opening day. And when the Canadian National Exhibition opens each year, we are the happiest people in the world. These are what memories are made of. It’s not necessarily the amount of time you have with someone that matters; it’s about what you make of that time. It’s about being present in every conversation, in every moment. That’s what really counts.