There is pain, yet there is emptiness. A paradox that I can't quite understand, but know all too well. Those of you who have lost a loved one, especially a parent, know what I'm talking about.

It was in 1997, when I was 17, that my mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I, at the time, was sure that nothing could happen to her, that the doctors would take care of everything. I didn't even want to face up to the possibility of... I just couldn't.

She had an operation, and the doctor gave her a clean bill of health, so I didn't think twice of the amazing battle that my mother had won. However, the war was not over, as she had a recurrence of the cancer in 1998. The doctor, despite his claims, did not remove all the cancer cells, and they came back with a vengeance. My mother underwent more surgeries, but the cancer had become too wide-spread. She did chemotherapy, and all her hair fell out. This was crushing to my mother. Despite her hard exterior and emphasis to me about not caring about what others think of me, she hated being bald. Of course, so would we, if we were to lose our hair in a period of 3 weeks.

She was there for my high school graduation, wearing a wig and sitting in a wheelchair. I believe she was the most proud of me when I walked onto the stage and received my diploma.

Her condition worsened, however, to the dismay and in direct defiance best of the abilities of many different doctors and specialists.

Through our desperation, we decided to try alternative medicine in the People's Republic of China. We went there in July 1998. Her parents and grandmother were there, and feeling more comfortable with their only daughter in the care of the doctors that they know. I had to leave in the end of August to start college at the Stern School of Business at NYU. My father stayed with her in China.

I kept in contact with all of them by phone, but I must say that the first couple months at school were miserable. I kept hearing from family friends that my mother's condition was worsening and that I should go back to China, SOON. I, to my great guilt, refused to accept what they told me. It took an email from one of my childhood friends, the daughter of my mother's best friend, to open my eyes. She had just lost her grandmother, and she knew that denial of a loved one's worsening condition is always a problem, but you have to face this. I finally did, and booked a flight to China for the entire Thanksgiving week.

I went back, and my mother was in the hospital as an inpatient. She had lost so much weight, and it hurt me to see her like this. When we first saw each other, I went to her and I hugged her. There were tears streaming down both our faces, as she muttered into my ear, "I waited for you... I waited for you..." I know that she did, fighting for some more time with me, her only son. So I had a short week in China, sitting by my mother's side, talking about the inevitable, all the time, knowing that... that... I still couldn't accept it. The doctors told me that this was the healthiest she has been in a long while. This gives me some false hope, which was shattered as soon as I remembered the old adage, "The candle burns brightest at the end of its life." I pushed this from my mind as my mother and I spent time together. However, it came time for me to leave for the US, one day after Thanksgiving. At 7AM, local time, I went to see my mother. This time, there was no denying it. I knew that she would die, and that this was the very last time that I would see her. I hugged her, and we fought back tears as we said our farewells. As I turned from her bed, tears were pouring down my face and I walked out of the room, never turning to look back. Two hours after I got home, the call came. It was my father. We cried.

Mom, I will always love you. I'm sorry we didn't have more time. I'm sorry I didn't make more time.