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Rock Street, San Francisco

The doctors said it was too late. Cancer treatment would be useless and there was nothing that even surgery could do to cure me.
I had always believed this pain was nothing but now I think the time has come. It’s too late.
As I lie on the hospital bed, I see my husband looking at me, worry reflecting in his eyes. We both know this was serious and this might be the end.
Still, I say to him, “I’m fine.” I didn’t want him to worry too much.
And as I say those words, I see, from the corner of my eyes, our son looking at us. Is he worried about me as well?
But I know that’s impossible and I know, from the dead look in his eyes, that he doesn’t want to be here.
I turn to him saying, “I know you have to go back to school. Go. Don’t worry about me. This is not a big deal. Just do well in school.” It hurts to say those words because I realize how grave my condition is but I know I must say them for Jack.
He reaches for my hand, and my heart beats out in joy. Son, are you not angry with me anymore? Am I forgiven? Can you now talk to me?
With those thoughts in mind, I ask my husband to give us a few minutes alone. If Jack is willing to listen, it’s important for me to talk to him and tell him all the words that could be our last memory together.
“Jack, if,” I pause and cough uncontrollably, making it hard for me to talk. No, I must tell him.
Forcing myself, I say the words, “If I don’t make it, don’t be too sad and hurt your health. Focus on your life.” Even if I’m not going to be here anymore, please live your life well, Jack.
“Just keep that box you have in the attic with you, and every year, at Qingming, just take it out and think about me. I’ll be with you always,” I say to Jack.
“I don’t know anything about the Chinese calendar,” he tells me. “Just rest, Mom.”
No, Jack, please. I know you don’t like anything related to where I came from, China, but please, just this once. Even if you hate my culture, please don’t despise me till the end. Words get stuck in my head, and my mouth doesn’t speak them out, knowing that it’s difficult to do so.
“Just keep the box with you and open it once in a while. Just open,” I try saying before I cough without stopping again. I want to make Jack understand, to talk to him but my illness is not letting me. Why is it so difficult? Why is it so painful to talk? I just want to talk to my son. I need more time with him. I need to tell him.
“It’s okay, Mom,” he says to me as he tries to comfort me by striking my arm. My tears threaten to spill over and I hold it back knowing that he’ll hate it.
“Haizi, mama ai ni,” I start saying before being interrupted by my cough once more. Jack, please, I love you and I know I won’t be able to tell you again. Please, listen.
“Alright, Mom. Stop talking,” Jack tells me and he stops trying to listen to what I have to say. Son, please, I still have a lot to tell you. The letters in the box, Lao Hu, my past. I still have a lot more to say. I still have to tell you I love you, son.
I try opening my mouth and formulate words but my heart doesn’t cooperate and instead starts feeling heavy, being fully aware that Jack doesn’t want to talk anymore.
Time pass by between us in silence and as my husband returns to the room, Jack tells his dad that he must take his leave because he still has to catch his flight early tomorrow. And as Jack goes through the door, I look at his back for one last time, knowing full well, that it’s going to be the last time I see him. Jack, as you leave today, please know that Mama loves you no matter who you are. It doesn’t matter what you think of me, but please remember me as someone who loved you a lot despite me not being to understand you the way I should have.
With my husband and I alone in the room, I cry my heart out.

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