I have her sense of humor, her witty attitude, and as many love to tease me about, I have her large forehead. However, something that I wish I didn’t have is this empty feeling she left me, my four siblings, and my dad with. My mom was the foundation of the family being that my dad was imprisoned most of my life. Although we never knew exactly where our next meal was coming from, she always made it work. She died when I was eleven and left behind five children forced to be separated: one who miraculously survived Leukemia who’s now in care of my retired grandmother (who cannot enjoy her retirement because she now has to care for two of her grandchildren), one who had to be adopted by members of the family because my mom couldn’t afford to feed another mouth, and three children who are trying to excel academically and make her proud regardless of our financial burdens.
I never thought I’d be in college. I knew my family couldn’t afford it, so I shattered that dream. When my mother died, college was far from my mind. I had no idea how much her death would affect my education. I was forced to stay in-state and take out over eleven thousand dollars a year in loans, just to afford college. I was also forced to emancipate myself to receive more state aid to help pay for college, reclaiming my independent status each year. Going through this process reminded me each year how she is not here. Yet, despite all of this, here I am a senior in Rutgers University, and studying abroad is my new dream.
My mom had to be buried by the government in the same plot as four strangers with no headstone, because she had no life insurance and our family could not afford to bury her with her parents. If my mom had life insurance, maybe my brother’s hospital bills wouldn’t feel like eviction notices. Maybe I wouldn’t owe over forty-five thousand dollars in loans. Maybe my older brother could have finished college instead of having to drop out, because he could no longer afford it. Maybe I wouldn’t have had to work two jobs in high school and hand both checks directly to my dad, because work for a convicted felon is hard to find. My mom was the foundation of the family. One cannot build anything without a foundation, however; I have taken on the responsibility of becoming the new foundation for my younger siblings. I want to show them that after tragedy comes triumph and provide them with alternatives so that their children will not have to go through what we did. Graduating from college and making something of myself will show them that it is possible to do the unexpected.
I’m sure that’s what she would have wanted.