My oldest memory is praying for my mama while a man beat my brother so badly he vomited. So young and scared, all I could do was watch hoping that by some stroke of luck she’d come back home. It all fades from there and I don’t really remember how it ended, though I never forgot the feeling: helpless, knowing that only one person could save the day, make it all better.

When she later returned, I remember us jumping into her open arms, elated. Her presence was the one thing I prayed for that day, and when she walked through that door she made my world whole again. My first real feeling of safety, she became my hero.

Throughout my life my mama has been the one source of comfort I can count on when the world is against me. Frantic and sometimes too headstrong, yes. But she’s always been the light at the end of the tunnel.

I’m not too proud to say that I’ve shed tears for the simple fact that I’ve missed her at times. I’m not ashamed to tell you that I am a mama’s boy. I’m proud of those things. People lose their parents everyday. Many never stopped to tell them how important they really are. I’ve hugged and kissed my mother everyday for as long as I can remember, fearing that when the inevitable happens nothing is left unsaid.

My world stopped on it axis a few weeks ago with what was a routine procedure, apparently quite common for women her age. But, due to years of negligence and certain complications, her condition had become more severe than normal, hindering her physical state, and even raising concern of cancer. Though she’s doing well now - the worst-case-scenarios having been avoided - just the glimpse at the fragility of life led me to do some self reflection.

We held hands and made the final walk to the operating room, me realizing that my hero needed me, rather than I, her. For the first time in my life she needed me to make her world whole again, to tell her everything was going to be alright. She seemed so small, as if the moment was too much for her to handle.

Seeing fear in the eyes of my hero will always stay with me; a reminder that her unconditional love gave her an air of invincibility, but in reality she’s just a woman.

Sitting there in the waiting room with my aunts - where “she’ll be alright” became a common refrain when, what was supposed to be a two-hour procedure, became three, then four, almost five - I thought of the time I sat her down, looked her in the eye, and told her I was going to make it so she would be able to finally enjoy the sweeter things in life. I told her I hadn’t forgotten the dreams she’d surrendered and the sacrifices she’d made. Yet there I sat, reflecting on what I’ve promised and what I’ve accomplished. Praying for more time and the strength to make her proud. It’s the least I can do, because she did the same.