Halloween was over, but November 1 was haunting. For three years I slept with a skeleton, just down the hall, whose features were familiar yet cold. I remember when flesh and blood hinted at a femininity I would later discover in myself. I remember when her voice was soothing and not forced. That skeleton sat idly by where I last left her as I made my way to school. The sugar-hype was fresh in my peers’ systems, and I was just trying to survive the chaotic hallways and overdose of academia–then I saw him. He was short, awkward and lost. He was my brother.
“What are you doing here?” I asked.
“I’m stalking you,” he said with a glare; then my father turned and announced I was being checked-out early. What had I done?
“Your mother is in the hospital and I don’t think she’s going to make it,” my father said.
My brother immediately reacted as I expected. When she was stronger–when she was more than the immobile tribute to motherhood just down the hall–she was the comforting soul that held him from infancy to these last few moments of childhood he would ever experience. For me, she was a friend, a fan, a force to be reckoned with and the only one to whom I would ever call “Mamma.” I pleaded with God and squeezed my father’s hand.
We made it to the hospital, and I was more observant there than I ever wished to be. The hallways at school were a different atmosphere; in the hospital, comas were not sugar-induced. The doctor pulled my father aside. Grey’s Anatomy had prepared me for this. Her bones had ceased to lie as they once did. My younger brother–my sweet, innocent, baby brother–who screamed with delight 12 hours before–screamed at the top of his lungs when my father had to look us in the eye and tell us our mother was gone.
“Do you want to see her?” my aunt asked.
An odd question, I thought. Do I want to see my dead mother’s body? No. But she would not have been much different from the skeleton I once knew, had I chosen to look.
We spent many nights filling the void on the right side of the bed for my father, and I spent many mornings holding him while he cried on the bathroom floor. His faith was shaken, and he was more fragile and afraid than I had ever known him to be. My rock–my protector–had weathered beneath the waves.
Six years later, I still remember her voice and the way she laughed. She lost so much of herself when she was diagnosed. There’s a sense of pride and a terrible gut feeling I get whenever I am reminded of her. I love singing just as she did. I aspire to write full-time just as she had. And when I look in the mirror, my stomach churns. There she is, Mamma, staring back at me every day. She is a ghost that never leaves, and a haunting I’ll never mind.