I remember her.
Standing in the kitchen making the batter to bake a vanilla cake. While I (a tiny, curious pumpkin) was standing in the kitchen watching her, I noticed her flip her straight blonde hair back, and there it was—her bright eyes and kind smile.
She looked happy—and it was a moment that has stayed with me throughout the years.
I was almost six years old when my mom passed away and left this physical world.
To be honest, I didn’t really know at the time how to process it. But, as I grew up, I started feeling how much a daughter needs her mama.
As time had passed, this hole or emptiness followed me around—and a necessity to please others developed because I was feeling incomplete…maybe even unloved. My family thought that talking about my mother or having pictures of her would only make it worse.
Just because me and my brothers didn’t hear her name didn’t mean we didn’t miss her or think about her all the time. Her name was Liliana Margarita—they called her Lili.
Growing up, seeing my friends’ mothers caring for them felt like a punch in the stomach—a big, stinging punch that literally made me want to throw up.
I would picture my mom caring for me this way, and I would sprint to the bathroom and breathe deeply, holding back my tears. I would not cry, I thought to myself, because wherever she was, she was surely loving me.
We all deal with loss in different ways. In some cases, we just get used to it and learn how to live without the people we have lost. I know it sounds simplistic, but it is.
Some people ask me how my life felt without having my mother around. Honestly, I missed her, but I didn’t know what having her in my life felt like—I grew up without her, and to me, that was a normal life.
It took me time to understand that beauty can come even from ugly things.
Her absence created inside me deep pain, but also priceless lessons. Much of who I am today or wish to become comes from honoring her:
1. Just because she is not physically here, it does not mean she vanished into thin air. Her love has followed me around everywhere.
2. So many people still have their mothers and fathers with them but might feel like they’re not present. Many more people than I thought miss their own mother who’s still alive.
3. Because she left this earth so young at 36, I know she didn’t get the chance to do more things while she was alive, so I want to honor her by making the best of the life I have.
4. We are not alone just because someone is no longer here. There is family, there are friends, relationships, god, and most of all, we have ourselves. We are not incomplete, and the love someone had given us does not disappear. We cannot see it, but it is here with us.
5. Feeling lonely can sometimes be good. It makes me realize that I have me, and there is strength in that. I believe we feel determined to live our life and learn as we go. There is no waiting for someone to show us the way—we create the way, alone or not.
6. We remain alive through all the memories of how we have loved others.
7. I learned that family is not necessarily just our relatives, but all the friends we meet as we go through life—communities that support, encourage, and welcome us with open arms.
8. She taught me faith. I had to accept that misfortunes happen and embrace life as it comes. Her death was not a punishment to my brothers and me—her time on Earth simply ended. Life goes on; the feeling of missing her might never go away, and that is okay.
9. Empathy is gained from pain and suffering. When our hearts carry sadness and know hurting, we try to understand other people the same way we wish people could understand us. When we miss something in our life—whether it is love, company, or family—we value it even more when we have it.
To a lonely heart, companionship and kindness can be the biggest feast.
She gifted me the best gift of all: she gave me life.
She chose to have me, to love me inside her belly for nine months. I can picture her touching her baby bump and saying, “My love will be with you forever.”
And she wasn’t wrong.