GRIEF. How do we actually define grief? When is it the right time to grieve? And how many stages are we supposed to go through in order to overcome sadness? Recently, when I was chatting with probably one of the bravest people I have ever met, I asked her to tell me about her family and she said that her parents passed away when she was three years old. I did not know what else to tell her. I looked into her eyes, she had the most amazing smile. And life was meant to be just like that. I asked her, ‘How do you survive, how do you live, knowing you have never really known your parents?’ I asked her if she does not miss them. She smiled again then she said, ‘I learn to live the present.’ Later on my way home, I could not stop thinking about it. I had many thoughts crossing my mind.

So many people have lost their loved ones. And being Rwandan, I know what it means. Most of my close friends do not even know their parents. Why shall I cry every day when I only lost my mother after living good memories with her? After learning a lot from her, after knowing who she is, what she likes, and what she wanted me to do? One side of my heart tells me they have the right to cry and I should not have any. I should only be grateful and thank God for all the time we had together and shared all the good moments. But I have learnt that grief does work like that. No matter how and when you lose a person you love, you can’t compare your situation to anyone else’s.

There is no easy way to move on. Whether you had time to enjoy with your beloved one or didn’t, you always cry for them. Every morning I wake up regretting all the things I didn’t do for my mother, all the things I wanted to tell her and I never did. In each step of my life, I wish she was here with me. Here to see me as I keep growing. I wish she was still here for my siblings. But most of all, I regret to never have spent more time with her. As we grow, we become selfish and think about ourselves and tend to do what just make us happy and forget to give time and love to people who are precious in our lives.

Mum, I wish I knew you would go this soon. There are so many things I would have done differently. This should have never been a way to learn this, but thanks for leaving me a lesson – to sacrifice myself to what is precious to me and give time and love to those whom I love, those who remain here with us in this life. You taught me the hard way, and I have to adapt. Because that is life, right? Because we can learn from life by observing what is happening around us or learn the hard way when we have to make an important decision.

Sometimes I wonder, ‘If God had asked me to choose when to take my mother, what choice could I have made?’ Would I have chosen to go when I was younger? But then I would have so many questions about her when I grow up? Would I have chosen for her to leave the same time she left and leave so many regrets of what I should have done and never did? But then all of this sounds too selfish: Why shouldn’t I have chosen to die before? Would it have been better? Or she’d have suffered more?

Mum, I miss you. And all I’m sure of is that I’ll never get all the answers right. The least I should do is to keep learning and do what I know you would have loved to see me doing.

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