We knew she had Melanoma cancer since I was in 9th grade. My father passed out when the doctor told them. She asked if she would live to see my brother graduate that fall. They didn't think she would, but she was healthy for 3 more years. Enough time to forget she didn't have time. Not enough time to get to know her as a woman. She had always been my best friend.

I was close to death myself when the cancer overwhelmed her body. I got better. She got worse. There was no pill or surgery that could erase the disease from her now frail body. She fought like a warrior poet, but the morphine, radiation and chemotherapy took her sensibility. That morning the brain tumor stole my name from her. I was up early and was preening for my senior pictures. She would not live to see my graduation. We knew she would die that day. The yellow of her eyes told us she did not have long. There was also fluid in her lungs. What little voice she had gargled in pain. She could barely breathe. We panicked and drove her to the hospital.

We didn't want her to die in a cold hospital emergency room. They were doing nothing for her, yet refused to let her go. So we brought her family there to say goodbye. I walked in to the florescent-lighted room where my mother lay waiting to die. I had been hysterically sobbing, but cleared my throat enough to tell her I love her. She smiled for the first time in days. A smile I had missed so much and still long to see. Her will caught me off guard as she started to weakly rip at her IV as if to say, "Come on Daney, let's get out of here. I haven't seen Barbados yet." To this day I regret stopping her. That IV was not going to save her life. Nor would my picking her up and carrying her off to an ocean, but I wish I had tried. Instead I sang for her. She had asked me to sing "The Rose" for her, when she became ill in a hospital someday. I barely made it through the first few lines. The lump in my throat constricted the music in my heart. I couldn't eat my own sorrow so I had to finish the song I promised her at the funeral. I asked if she wanted to talk to dad. I sent him in after me. I will never know what they said to each other in those moments. He never speaks of her.

Meanwhile, I found myself outside the hospital. The sky was the most magnificent blue. For the first time in years I spoke to god. I prayed. I prayed earnestly that day. I prayed to a god that only a very small part of me believes exists. I asked god to show her mercy. I asked god to stop her pain. I asked god to take my mother. This was the only time god ever listened.

I heard a nurse page the McNabb family just then. My grandmother who was in there with my brother came through the doors. She said, "She's gone." Over and over "she's gone." I argued with her for a second before I was somehow transported to the room where my father and brother were weeping over her dead body. So much for denial.

Death is not pretty, like the actors have us believe. She looked horrified. Her eyes and mouth were wide open and her body seemed contorted. That tableau still haunts me in my dreams even though I only looked for a second. My dad kept saying, "She's so beautiful." All I could do was keep my eyes closed and hold onto her tattered shoes. A nurse stepped in and asked me to keep my wailing down. I don't know exactly what I was screaming, but apparently my howling was annoying other living patients.

I wanted to hold her. My brother led me to the bed. I held her hand, and for a second I swear she squeezed back. That was all the denial my mind ever afforded me. I knew she was dead. I knew she was not going to cheer for me at my graduation, or watch me get married. I knew she wasn't going to bring me groceries at my first apartment, or answer the phone when I called for advice. I didn't know how I could live life without her.

I crawled into her hospital bed at home that day and thought I would never find the strength to get up. Funny how life just seems to press on. Some think I am strong for being able to live through such trauma. I am simply what she left behind.
It has been almost a decade since I watched my mother die. I somehow found the strength to get out of her bed. I earned a degree from university she will never know about. I have loved and lost and loved again. I'm living my life. The life she gave me. From time to time I lie awake wishing she knew the woman I have become. In the dark of those nights I find myself singing for her again.

The Rose

Some say love, it is a river that drowns the tender reed.
Some say love it is a razor that leaves your soul to bleed.
Some say love, it is a hunger an endless aching need.
I say love, it is a flower, and you it's only seed.

It's the heart afraid of breaking that never learns to dance
It's the dream afraid of waking that never takes the chance
It's the one who won't be taken who can not seem to give
And the soul afraid of dying that never learns to live.

When the night has been too lonely, and the road has been too long,
and you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong
Just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed that with the suns love in the spring becomes the rose.
-Bette Midler