I had a feeling something was wrong when I talked to may mom on the phone and she had this persistent cough throughout our conversation so I took a week off and flew home. I was a chief surgical resident, 3 months away from graduation. When I arrived in San Diego, my dad was alone to pick me up. That alone was a HUGE red flag. You see, for the whole time I have been away from home, every time I flew in, my parents would both come to pick me up and they both dropped me off at the airport; without fail. I scheduled my flights in such a way that they would both be available. It was our thing. So on this particular March morning, I knew just from that one little thing that my life was going to change drastically.
When I got home my mom was dressed in her purple scrubs and ready for work. I gave her a hug and kiss and I stepped back for a moment. She looked the same but different. She had a dry cough and was sucking on a cough drop. She was already running late so I kissed her goodbye and she went to work. As soon as she left I called my sister and told her to come home because I knew in my heart that mom was dying. I called my dad who thought I was being an alarmist…. My dad and I have a very close relationship and we talk about everything. He asked me if I had examined her and if she had said anything to me and I said, “you should know your wife by now.” I could hear the pain in his voice. Here I was telling him that his best friend of 46 years was dying even though at that time I had no concrete proof. As a physician, it was very difficult for me to switch to daughter mode. When mom came back from work that night, she said, “I have my own doctors, I need you to be my daughter.”
One thing I have been trained very well in is spotting death from afar in order to prevent it. From that night on, every time I was with my mom I would cry. She would often say, “Iwe mwana iwe, kana uchida zvekuchema buda muno (child, if you want to cry get out).” Mom knew that I knew that her days were numbered. The oncologists were telling her she had time, maybe a year or more; but I knew she had weeks, maybe a month at best. I felt guilty for knowing too much. I just wanted to be a daughter but I couldn’t stop myself from thinking like a doctor.
Watching my mom die was the most difficult and most painful experience in my life to date. Because I truly believe that God does not make mistakes, I never questioned why he would allow this to happen. I just remember one day kneeling by my bed crying and telling Jesus that my heart was broken. I wanted my mom to be comfortable and in no pain. The cancer had disseminated her whole body but God answered my prayer and she never had pain. This song was my battle song during that time. For anyone going through the pain of watching a loved one die, know that God is there and He cares and he will take care of you!