If my mom was never diagnosed, I would have never learned to carry her love with me in my heart.

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon. The sun was shining and my mom, my sister and I were on our way to get ice cream to fight off the summer heat. My sister and I were running up ahead – playing, laughing, having fun as sisters do. And then it happened. I don’t quite remember what made me turn around, but I do remember the chaos. I remember the blur of people running, the sirens of the ambulance, the nauseating smell of the hospital, and the sinking, inevitable feeling of change. While my mother’s fall itself and her injured knee was a minor issue, it was because of that hospital visit that she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. And it was because of the MS, that her body was never able to heal from the fall.

When I was younger, I used to think, what if I had just held my mother’s hand that day? Maybe she wouldn’t have fallen. Maybe life would have continued on as it should have. I would’ve eaten my ice cream. I would’ve learned how to ride my bike. I would’ve learned how to swim. I would’ve been able to live out my childhood like all the other Park Slope children. But alas, that was not the case.

Since that day I had to learn to keep my mother’s love in my heart and mind because she was no longer physically able to be with me outside of our home. She wasn’t able to see me walk in any of my graduations – elementary, middle, or high school. She had to undergo surgery on the day of my college graduation. But despite that, I was able to cope because I had my father and my grandmother by my side. There was only one moment in my life when I felt her absence so intensely that even though it happened 15 years ago, I still carry the emotional impact of it with me to this day.

It was my middle school award ceremony, and I was going to receive an award for my math fair project. While I knew at the time that my mom wouldn’t be able to go, my dad said he would be there. Unfortunately, he ended up having to work late. This was before cellphones so he wasn’t able to tell me that he couldn’t make it. The students were lined up backstage and friends and family filled the auditorium. As each name was called, there was a loud cheer and a round of applause from their loved ones. When it was my turn, I walked onstage expecting my dad to be in the audience. He wasn’t. I didn’t have anyone in the audience. I still remember that deafening silence after my name was called. It was so quiet. In a room full of people, I had never felt more alone. After the ceremony, my usual 25 minute walk home was cut in half because I ran. I ran and fell into my mother’s bed and cried. Because I knew that if she were able to walk, she would have been there for me. She would have been my biggest cheerleader. She would’ve hollered and clapped as I walked proudly across the stage. She would’ve waited for me outside of the auditorium after the ceremony, beaming with pride, and she would have patted my head, and praised me for my hard work.

That event crushed my self-esteem, but it also made me stronger. Throughout my childhood, there were many facets of my mom’s sickness that I had to learn to adapt to. If my mom didn’t have MS, I would be a different me.

I don’t know what that other me would be like, but I would love to meet her. I would have so many questions for her.

What is mom doing now since she is still healthy and able to pursue her dreams? Did she ever go to nursing school like she planned? Does she still braid your hair every Sunday? Are you a good daughter to her? Do you appreciate her health? Are you loving her as deeply as I love her in this life? You should. She deserves it.