Right Here

Rachel Li

I took a sip of my Sprite and placed it back on the table. I looked around, and everyone was sleeping. I never understood how people could sleep on a plane, sitting straight up. The little girl sitting next to me put her armrest up and lay on her mother’s lap. A slight smile came across my face as tears filled my eyes. It made me miss my mom even more.

I felt that empty pit in my chest returning. Knowing that I will never see her face, or laugh with her again made it all seem more real. My father left us when I was three, and I haven’t seen him since. My mom was everything to me. I don’t really remember my father, except for that my mom cried night after night about him for a year. But I never felt like he was missing, I didn’t mind whether he came back or not. Everything seemed perfect until Mom fell ill.

When I was eight, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. However, she didn’t allow it to overtake her. She fought hard, and I stuck by her side through it all. My grandparents flew in from Japan to help take care of us. During their time with us, Mom eventually entered remission. I loved having them around—our family felt more complete.

When I turned seventeen, my family started talking about moving to Japan. My mom was telling me about all the fun things we could do and all the places we could go together. As my high school senior year arrived, I sent out college applications for Japanese universities. In February I got my results, and so did Mom; her cancer came back. This time was worse than the first, she wasn’t going to get better.

On May 28th, it was senior’s day at school and there was a BBQ held on the field at night. I refused to leave the hospital room, but Mom told me I had to go, that I couldn’t miss it. I didn’t want to argue with her because she looked exhausted. She even told me that she wouldn’t sleep until I left. So, I caved and went to school.

“Have fun tonight. Don’t worry about me. I’ll see you in the morning,” she said, as I packed my bag.

I walked over to her bed and went in for a hug.

“I’m so proud of you my darling. I love you so much. Go and have fun, you deserve it.”

“I love you, Mom. I’ll see you in the morning. Are you sure you don’t want me to stay?”

“I’m sure. I got the TV to keep me company. Now go! I love you.”

“I love you,” and I kissed her on the cheek.

As I hesitated to walk out the door, I looked back at Mom.

“Go. You need those memories with your friends. I’ll be fine. I want you to know you don’t ever have to worry about me.”

The next morning, Grandpa came into my room. I couldn’t remember the exact words, but I knew I shouldn’t have left her the night before. She was gone. My mom was gone. Although things went by slowly, I had a hard time remembering anything. It was all faded and blurry. One moment I was at the funeral, then my graduation, and by the end of it, my room was all packed up.

I sat on the plane, looking outside the window. I don’t know what it was, but being on a plane and staring out into the night was calming. I looked down at the seat pocket before me and pulled out a letter that Mom had left for me. I read the letter and felt her presence. She was still here, watching over me.

Four hours later, the plane made its safe landing. As the “fasten seatbelt” sign turned off, I grabbed my bags and lined up in the aisle. Grandma and Grandpa were a few seats in front of me, so they would get off first. The line began to move and I met my grandparents outside the arrival gate.

We went up an escalator and walked to immigration then baggage claim. The little girl and her mother who sat next to me on the plane walked past us, holding hands. The mother looked down to her daughter who skipped alongside her. This was my new start. Mom was with me, watching. She was beside me. I knew that this was the beginning of our adventure.

“Live, my sweet baby girl. I’m right here—Love, Mom.”