She was only forty. I was only seven. The last time that I saw my mother at home was the day that she was carried out , barely able to move or speak from the sickness that had overtaken her body over several years.
That was on a Thanksgiving day.
I took my big brother's hand, ran upstairs to his bedroom, and prayed-- I prayed that my mommy would be able to speak to us again.
I got to visit her in the hospital a day or so later, but not long after that, she passed away.
Over the years, I held on to the burden of that prayer. Somewhere inside of my heart, I blamed myself for praying the wrong prayer.
I couldn't help but continuously think that I should have prayed for my mother not to die.
For as long as I could remember, my mother had been sick. In fact, I had never known her to ever be well. Because of this, I began to blame myself-my birth-for both her sickness and her death.
I was seven. In fact, I had only been seven for twenty-three days before my mother died. These were the pieces that my young mind put together and held on to.
The day of my mother's funeral I couldn't help but notice that life kept going. The sun came out--even though it was cold out. Cars still traveled up and down the highway. Time didn't stand still. Life continued--a confusing concept for me because it was probably the first time that I had to accept the fact that the world didn't revolve around me and my little family.
A few days later, I was back in school. No one, not even teachers, really knew what to say to me when I marched in and turned in my homework that I had done while I had been gone. All I knew to do was continue business as usual, and in response, so did everyone else.
The problem, though is that as time separated itself from that November day when my mother died, I was unable to move beyond that moment that changed my life forever.
Over time, the introduction to my personal narrative always began with "my mom died when I was seven years old". My position as a girl with a deceased mother became my primary identity.
That identity followed me into early adulthood and I found myself still searching for a way to process the fact that the very person who gave me life had missed every important event in it.
Not having the necessary outlets to process my mother's death in a way, caused me, to remain a seven-year-old Cynae. While I had great success in several areas of my life, time had not been taken to heal the little girl that clung to her mommy for everything.
Over the years, I can honestly say that I searched and searched for books and magazines that could help me cope. I always felt like something was wrong with me-I was different than others, and I saw life differently. I read not only to escape my reality, but to try to "fix myself" and attempt to adjust my actions and words to the likes of others my age. Beside the fact that this simply didn't work, there seemed to be no books that anyone could give me at the time that would allow me to see a young person actually living through and moving beyond a parent's death.
I decided early on that there needed to be something to help kids "like me"--kids who had to say goodbye to their mom or dad too early due to a terminal illness. Around the age of fourteen, I knew I needed to write a book so that other kids and their families could take the steps necessary to move them beyond the day that their parent died.
Times have definitely changed, and more resources are available to kids who have experienced grief and loss. However, that's not my reason for finally writing Pineapple Sugar. I wrote the book for the children of the many folks who believe that their child will "be okay" on their own. I wrote Pineapple Sugar to help begin a conversation about grief and loss that doesn't end. My goal is to make sure that no child ever, again, feels like they are alone in their experience of losing a parent or a loved one.
Over the course of this year's book "tour" for Pineapple Sugar, this space will be an open book of emotions, feelings, and points of growth for anyone who has gone through grief and loss. At times, it may read like the pages of a diary. At times, honestly, it will be my open journal for the simple fact that I've found that people are most helped when we share our true selves-- exposing both our good and bad experiences so that others may identify and come to see that .
As a survivor of loss with a mission to maintain hope in the hearts of the bereaved, there was simply no way I could write and publish a book on the subject of death and grief without sharing pieces of my own story. Somewhere, in between the fictitious pages of Pineapple Sugar and my own details shared on this page, I hope you grow to believe that if a Texas girl-turned-woman name Cynae can struggle through grief and survive, then so can you.
If you know of anyone who could benefit from this labor of love of mine, please feel free to share any message that you see fit.
This is my story. Thank you for allowing me to take this journey with you.