Death Was On Her Face

by Ismael Alverez

They say there are two things in life you cannot hide from, death and taxes. Well, I learned that death is a very real thing at a very early age. I grew up in Astoria, Queens, New York. I lived in the Queens Bridge and Ravenswood projects. To me it seemed like I was the only light skin Hispanic kid in an all black community. Like many kids I knew, I grew up without a father. Mommy was also dad. We were very poor. I lived with my mom and my two older sisters. When I was about six years old, my mother found out she had breast cancer. Through some time and with the proper treatment, the doctors removed the cancer and she was cured.

My mother, Noemi Colon was a fighter. She always did things just to make my sisters and I happy. She worked crazy hours to put food on the table and put my sisters and I through private school. When I was about ten years old, my mom called a big family meeting. All my uncles, aunts, and cousins were there. My mother announced that she got cancer again. I was young, so I really didn’t’t know what was going on at the time. I just knew that mommy had to go away to the hospital again.

My mother fought the disease, in and out of the hospital for many years. At thirteen, I knew what was happening to my mother. By this time, she was very sick. She had been in the hospital for a year straight. Death was on her face, but in my mind mommy would never die. She would always be there for me. I din’t’t go to the hospital to see her for some time. I could not bear to see my mom with tubes up her nose, not being able to talk. My older sister would go everyday. They would tell me that mom was asking for me and I would always say, “ I’ll go tomorrow.”

This one day I remember like it was yesterday. I was going to pick up my friend from school and on my way there I saw my sister Marina heading towards the train station. She told me “Izzy, I’m going to see mommy. She has been asking about you. You should come with me now to see her, plus it’s your turn to watch her.” Something inside me told me I should go, but instead, I told my sister I already had plans and that I promise I’d go the next day. That day I went out with my friends and got home late. As soon as I got home I went straight o bed. Around three or four in the morning my other sister Christina woke me up. 

When I woke up I saw Christina and a friend of the family in the living room where I always slept. Christina had tears in her eyes. He then said, “We have to go to the hospital. Mommy is dead.” I was half asleep, so I was like OK let’s go. I didn’t’t realize what was going on at that moment.

When I got to the hospital, we went straight to room 401. I walked in and I saw my family there around the bed. When they saw me, they all cleared away from the bed so I can see her. When I saw my mom motionless, that’s when it hit me. “Oh my God. My mom was dead.” 

They said I passed out, but I don’t remember that. I just remember going to the bed, kissing her, trying to wake her up, holding her, and touching her. Her body was warm, I remember, I cried and didn’t’t want to leave her.

The funeral was the next day. We had an open casket for two days. I didn’t’t cry at all at that time. The third day after her death, we buried her. I remember standing there at the ceremony not hearing a word the pastor was saying, just focusing on the casket and thinking of how things were going to be different. When they started to lower her body into the hole, that’s when I broke down. It was like my heart was being lowered with her. It was the worse feeling I ever had. My knees were weak,, I was tired and had my adrenaline rushing at the same time. Tears left my eyes like never before. I got a headache from so much crying. I should have gone that night to see mommy. I could have said good-bye, but I was selfish and didn’t.

After that day I grew emotionless to death. Nothing else mattered to me anymore. I saw people I loved die, but it did not affect me. My attitude now is that people come and people go. You just have to do what you have to do in order to make your time on Earth pleasant. 

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