Three weeks ago, I told my mother I loved her for the last time.
Two days later, I was living my greatest fear – she was gone.
Now, I am one of those daughters, without a mother.
Our relationship was far from perfect.
She was a worrier. Worrying about where I was, who I was with, all the dangers lurking about.
As her only child, all her fears, along with all her love were projected on me. When you’re a young woman who just wants to see the world, it’s a blessing and a curse.
Knowing there’s someone you can call home when the world away gets too hard, while carrying the guilt of leaving them behind.
Some days I would avoid her calls, because I couldn’t bear her quietly pleading “when are you coming home?”.
There were arguments and playful fights about this my need to wander.
“I’m never going to meet this boyfriend you keep asking about if I’m home with you every Friday night now am I?” I would tease.
“I’m not asking you for permission, I’m just informing you”, I said the first time I paid for a solo trip all by myself.
Often, it made me sad, how hard she made it for me to leave.
In her last moments, I’m glad I was with her. I’m glad I went home.
I always thought she didn’t understand. But as I look through all our memories, I realize it was her who gave me all my first adventures.
My father worked abroad, and we moved a lot for him – but it was with her, I got to experience the world through a thousand different lenses.
My first flight, to Kano. All the future flights, where she would let me sit by the window, so I could stare at the clouds and the stars. Where she’d order beef if I ordered chicken, just so I could see what was in the other meal.
When I got my first passport, somewhere between 3 and 4, I remember her showing me where to put my childhood signature.
It was through her, I learned the art of getting lost in a new city, in an era without Google Maps.
Armed with only basic French (enough to say hello and haggle), destination unknown. Her charm always left a mark, because if we returned a year later, the shopkeepers we met would greet her with excitement.
While my dad was off working, she found a way to make even the most mundane cities exciting; inventing her own game of Dominoes (because I would learn later that the rules were completely different), watching local cartoons with me, and indulging my curious little projects. Whether I wanted to be a baker who put smarties in muffins or a fashion designer who made paper clothes for my dolls,
She showed me that it was possible to hit pause, or start over completely – every time she had to take a long sabbatical when we needed to move to a new city long term.
In my travels, I find myself boarding trains with no plan in particular – just looking out the window and taking in the city.
Though I hated when she dragged me to markets in my childhood, I still find myself strolling through isles of spices and leather shoes; smells that remind me of her.
It turns out, all her worry wasn’t from a place of misunderstanding – she herself gave me this desire to experience.
It was love, knowing she and my father were the only ones I had looking out for me.
I am sad, truly. I feel lost, directionless, and I cannot for the life of me answer the question “What next?”
I’m on my own now. I could go to the Amazon for a month, and my pragmatic father wouldn’t flinch (as long as he has my exact location and way to reach me, of course). I already miss her worrying.
The last few months for me have been tumultuous; trying to figure out what to do next, how to be as close to her as possible. But life, as they say, happens while you’re making other plans.
My greatest fear in the world has come true. And somehow, my heart is still beating.
Now, the one thing she dreaded me doing alone, will help me stay close to her. Visiting the places she used to take me, making concrete plans for the places she wanted to take me.
I miss you mummy. But now, you can go everywhere with me. In fact, you are everywhere.
By the lake where we had our picnics, on the beach where I complained about all the sand, even on the swinging pirate ship where I’d close my eyes and grip your hand for dear life.
In this bittersweet chapter; I feel for the first time in my life, completely untethered.