I Will Always be Her Niña

I recently heard someone say that there are extraordinary people who live in an ordinary world. That quote rings true for my mom. At just 19 years old, my mom left everything she knew behind in Colombia to move to the US and give her child a better life. With a three-year-old on her hip, and a huge language barrier, she carved her own nook in the state of Illinois. She worked two jobs to maintain a household, all while showing her two daughters that hard work and determination would take them to places she would never have been able to go. She’s what held our home together: the warmth in a cold Chicago winter, always making sure she took time to go on our school trips and attend concerts we were in. She taught us to swim and ride a bike without ever having learned herself. Her strength was that of none other. Her embraces made you feel like there was nothing wrong in the world. I crave them, now, all too often.

I was lucky to have had an amazing relationship with my mother. She was my mother, best friend, and confidant. I remember the first time we went dancing together, and thinking that at that moment, I wouldn’t have wanted to be with anyone else. I could talk to her about anything and everything. She taught me that although we didn’t agree on everything, there was always a sense of respect and understanding behind all subjects. She held my hand on my first piercing, and the following day she got one done as well. If I wanted to cut all my hair off, she wouldn’t be happy about it, but would be there to hold my hand. She was the mother I hope my children see in me.

The Mothers’ Day after she died, I didn’t do anything or go anywhere. I tried my best not to look around much leading up to the holiday, so I wouldn’t have to see the cards of daughters and their mothers smiling. Everything hurt, every part of me felt broken. I remember not looking at her picture that day. I just didn’t want to be engulfed in the memories.

Everything changed in April 2009. Suddenly, I was a mother, and Mothers’ Day was a bittersweet day full of love. Mothers’ Day cards were now being given to me, and yet my own mom always lingered around with me on those days. No dinners with Abuelita for me and the kids. However, I know that now I’m able to give my children that same sense, that nothing is wrong in the world, when I embrace them. I’m able to make these beautiful memories, and keep her memory alive with every story I tell of our time together.

I’ll always be her “niña” and she’ll always be “mi mami.” She lives through me, my children, and the work I do in my community.

Clarena pic 2

Many people have complicated personal responses to Mothers’ Day, and those who have been affected by suicide are no exception. Read other people’s experiences around this upcoming holiday here. We also have a resource for coping with difficult occasions. 


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