THE TRUE LEGACY
How learning to fly a kite helped me gain clarity after the loss of my mother
“Okay, let the string go a little bit”
“Some more, just a little more”, she smiled
“You got it! You got it!”
“Roosevelt, she’s got it!” she yelled to my Dad.
My mother had been tirelessly trying to teach me how to fly a kite, and at the age of ten… I finally got it.
Now, things had changed. I was twenty-nine years old standing outside of my mother’s hospital room. I’d had her flown from a local hospital to the University of Chicago. There she resided as a patient in the ICU for two weeks.
Three years earlier, she was hospitalized and informed that she had kidney failure. Curious, a physician ran a multitude of tests, which revealed the primary illness was HIV/AIDS. Transmitted from her ex-fiancé, (we later discovered he was a functioning heroin addict) her body began to suffer tremendously. Her twin sister was approved to be a donor, but due to the lack of communication between her medical team and insurance…. she fell through the cracks. No transplant.
She was attentive.
“Mom, we are about go home.” I said
She looked happy.
“Do you know what that means?”
A confused look appeared across her face.
“It means that they can not do anything else for you here.
“It means if we go home….” I struggled to suppress the quiver in my voice.
“It means… you will die.”
As steadily as a sink filling with water, her eyes filled with tears.
I hugged her tight, trying to be strong.
“If you don’t want me to bring this up again, I won’t.”
She shook her head, realizing that dying at the age of 51 was something she would never want to discuss.
I understood and we left the hospital.
On the way back from Chicago, thoughts of our moments together rained upon my mind. Remembering our Saturday afternoon rituals of going to museums, plays, libraries, ice cream socials, and cultural gatherings brought peace into the sadness. She spent other days taking me to the park and teaching me the wonderful world of words through books and spelling tests. She was able to live her life to the fullest.
“In a few weeks, death will come for her.”
That sobering thought met me at the door as we arrived home.
And in a few weeks it came.
Loss. Something that was once tangible no longer appears. It remains in a place that is inaccessible. But legacy is different. I can replay over and over again her laughter, her sassiness, her encouragement, her actions through my actions. In the end, it is not about what was lost when she passed away, but what was gained through her legacy – through her life. Once I realized that, it was like that day I learned how to fly a kite.
I got it.
Yes, I finally got it!
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