My mother was so loving. She was also my best friend and my rock.
I had a great childhood. My mom was the educational director at the local nature center, and I spent a lot of time with her and all the great animals. And that included at home. We had a cat called Precious and a dog named Peaches, and a pet not many other kids can say they had: a bull python.
Everything changed, though, when my mom was diagnosed with liver cancer on my fifth birthday. I started spending a lot of time in hospitals. That was OK because I was still with her.
But on October 26, 2004, I gave my beautiful mother one last hug and she whispered to me, “I will always be proud of you.” I was 6 at the time, and she was just 44.
For a long time I didn’t understand the finality of death. I remember telling my sisters that I wanted to see my mom. They explained that she was in a better place now, but I didn’t understand what that really meant. I thought she had gone away or was hiding from me.
During that difficult time—when your only anchor is your family—mine was being pulled apart by financial hardship. My mother didn’t have life insurance, which meant my dad, who was 73 at the time, ended up working more than 50 hours a week. And my sisters, who were in high school, had to find work to help put food on the table. We hardly saw each other, which made things even worse.
It would have saved us not only from financial hardship, but from the heartbreak of not having our family together in our time of greatest need.
When I was 16, I got two jobs in order to help out, but it compromised my sleep, my studies and the little time I did have with my family. Our ritual of a family dinner each night became obsolete. At this point, I’d not only lost my mother, but my sisters and father too, because they were always working.
My mother never got life insurance because she thought it was too expensive, but I know now that life insurance is priceless. It would have saved us not only from the financial hardship that we faced after her death, but from the heartbreak of not having our family together in our time of greatest need.
My sisters weren’t able to go to college, but nothing is going to stop me from getting my college degree. That’s why I am so thankful for the scholarship I’ve received through the Life Lessons Scholarship Program. It’s making my dream of a college education come true.
I’m now a freshman at the University of South Florida in Tampa. I’m majoring in bio medical sciences and my dream is to go on to medical school. And this coming summer I’m looking forward to giving back as well by joining the non-profit organization MedLIfe on a trip to Thailand to help at a local hospital in an impoverished area.
I know I have a lot of hard work ahead of me, but I’m looking forward to the day when I get my college degree, something my mom wasn’t able to do. I know she will be smiling down on me when I can finally say, “Mama, I made it.”