Finding Courage From Within

Image of Set Stories Free - 2018
Image of Short Story
My mother would tell me that each freckle around my nose resembled spots where whiskers would grow and that my wild red-orange hair reminded her of a lion’s mane. She also made sure to tell me to stay strong in this world because there was no place here for people like us. As a child I never understood what she meant and I was always too afraid to ask her to explain it to me. I believed that asking questions made me look weak and went against the image a lion portrays. I had no one else to ask so I always felt alone. Some nights I would stay up and think about my father with tears in my eyes. I never met him but I knew that I must have looked like him because my reflection in the mirror never resembled my mother’s. Over the years my mother’s face began to remind me of a run-down stream; pretty to look at for a second but nothing extraordinary. I pitied her as I grew up.

I never loved my mother as much as I should have. I always wanted more than what she could give me. I wanted to be spoiled but not by material things. I wanted more when it came to emotions and love because I’ve always felt empty. Even now, at 22 years old, I feel hollow. Every day I look at my mother and know that I’m going to lose her. She still mentions that I remind her of a lion but deep down I’ve never felt courage in my life. I’ve been too afraid of everything but guys. They’re the only ones who make me feel any type of love but at the end it’s always temporary. I seem to feed happily on it as I’ve neglected the only soul who actually ever loved me.

Working two jobs has made it harder to focus on any love at all so I’m always left with my own thoughts and my dying mother on the other side of the wall. The stage 4 cancer from her left breast has ruined everything about my mother. It has broken me down in ways that I wasn’t prepared for. I once heard someone mention that a Mother is God in the eyes of a child and this has stuck with me as I grew older. But I always questioned how something so horrible could happen to someone so strong?

Each pamphlet on our table is a reminder to get checked for breast cancer. I usually toss each one out since it’s too late for my mother and too soon for me but my friends tell me that I should go for an exam anyway. I’ve never told them that my paranoia has me afraid of the little lump in my left breast. I mentally tell myself that it’s all in my head but every day I feel it when I run my hand over the same spot. It doesn’t help that my mother also waited too soon to get checked out. I never knew how important it was to make her go to the doctors and I always felt as if I failed her as a daughter.

I spend at least twenty minutes with my mother before I leave for work. She usually isn’t energetic when I’m in her room but today is different. She looks like the mother I remember from my childhood. I cannot control the tears that escape imprisonment from within me. “Mom, I felt a lump in my breast and I’m completely scared to get it looked at. I know you kept putting it off as well but I can’t do it mom. I can’t be the strong courageous lion you say I remind you of.”

She turned to me and said “I’ve seen your courage the moment I held you in the hospital. There is a light inside of you that will never die and I’ve prayed every night that you would one day see it. I know I haven’t been the best role model but I need you to find that strength inside of yourself. I want you to continue your path in this world and make it past my last footsteps.” I opened my eyes to look at her after a moment of silence filled the room and noticed she was no longer breathing. The cancer won against my mother.

It has been a month since my mother passed and a week since I found out that the lump in my breast was a benign lymph node. I had come face to face with my courage inside the sadness of losing my mother. I wish I had found it under different circumstances but it is something I will forever hold dearly. Thank you Mom.